Sometimes justice takes its time. Forty-one years is a long, long wait for anything, but it feels right that the 1972 Dolphins finally are getting their due with next weeks White House visit. It will be purely ceremonial, but for these men now all in their late 60s and older led by 83-year-old coach Don Shula the occasion will be symbolic, too.
It will represent the long-elusive perfect ending to the Perfect Season.
Puts the cherry on top of the cake, as former safety Dick Anderson put it Wednesday.
It also represents closure of sorts for a collection of proud men who perhaps never have quite gotten the full attention their unique claim to history merited.
Feels like its come full circle with this. It realty does, said Larry Little, the great old guard. Winning two Super Bowls in a row, that was great. Going into the Hall of Fame, that was great. But this honor is just as great. Its so special. The common man does not go to the White House.
Little mentioned how it was extra meaningful for him because Barack Obama is our first African-American president. Then he let loose a deep, rumbling laugh, and added, But Id have gone even if Nixon came back from the grave and invited us!
Richard Nixon was a football-loving president who called Shula more than once while staying at the Florida White House on Key Biscayne. He loved to suggest plays.
He became a Dolphins fan, and I remember once he suggested we throw a slant-in pass to [Paul] Warfield, Shula recalled Wednesday, from his California vacation home. Miami ran that play all the time, but Shula was polite, of course. He was the president! So I just said, Thats a good idea.
Nixon was preoccupied with a little thing called Watergate as 1972 swung into 73, as the Dolphins perfection was minted. Besides, the now-common practice of championship teams being honored at the White House did not begin until years later. The Dolphins belated visit wouldnt have happened at all if Marv Fleming hadnt mentioned it last year to someone who knew someone on the White House legal staff, who then helped cut through the red tape to make it happen.
Posing with Obama on Tuesday is likely to bring the Perfectos a level of attention that even 40-plus years of historic NFL distinction has not.
Everything was so different back when those Dolphins were going 17-0 to create the sports only perfect season, before or since. In sports, those were like prehistoric times compared to today. That team was frozen in a black-and-white Daguerreotype relative to the explosion of color and action that would soon come.
Sports operated in a vacuum next to now. Contrasted to the maniacal attention and celebrity attached to LeBron James and the champion Heat today, the 72 Dolphins were closer to a secret.
The boom was coming, but it was no there yet.
Nike, the phenomenon that paved the way for athletes to make as much or more money in endorsements as from their team, began in 1978.
ESPN, the network that changed everything, debuted on Sept.7, 1979.
Sports-talk radio would not begin to gain a national presence until the early 80s.
The word Internet was first used in 1982.
No cable TV, no talk radio, no 24-hour sports, Anderson said. Monday Night Football was the biggest deal in the world.