The Perfectos were given a private tour of the White House prior to the afternoon ceremony, and just before it enjoyed a brief meet-and-greet alone with the president, a big sports fan.
The demands on any president’s time are obvious, but a ready reminder came Tuesday in the juxtaposition of real life and the fun time of the Dolphins visit.
One minute, we media there for the Dolphins were in the crowded White House press briefing room as observers, listening to deputy press secretary Josh Earnest (fabulous name!) being grilled by Washington reporters on the day’s big news story: reports that the United States had cut off aid to Egypt.
The next minute, we were being escorted past a vintage grand piano into a room with a Super Bowl trophy in it.
The whole day had a strange, giddy feel. Half surreal, half time warp.
“Last time I came to Washington, D.C., I was 8 years old on a school outing,” said the old running back, Jim Kiick. “I didn’t get to meet the president that time.”
One ex-Dolphin, former receiver Otto Stowe, wore an Obama/Martin Luther King button on his lapel. Another noted a link between one sport’s only undefeated team and Obama being the country’s first African-American president.
“Unique team, unique president,” said Larry Csonka. “It fits.”
A few of the ’72 Dolphins did not attend for political reasons, but the loss was theirs. Current club owner Stephen Ross is a staunch Republican and was a major donor to Mitt Romney, but Ross attended, paid for the team’s trip and thanked the president.
This was a time to be bigger than one’s own politics. And to recognize the White House and what it symbolizes are bigger than the policies of any one current occupant.
I can admit to you on a personal level, as someone who is an American before he is a journalist, that this experience hit me and made me proud in a way that covering Super Bowls, Olympics, World Series and NBA Finals does not.
Every day, all day, you see dozens of people standing outside this place’s tall, wrought-iron gates, just quietly staring at the White House, some for hours. It can bring a tear to your eye, if you let it.
“We all had a smile on our face today,” said the team’s quarterback, Bob Griese, echoing the vast majority of players thrilled to attend. “We had a great day and the White House treated us greatly.”
Many members of that 17-0 team have let on over the years a sense that they lacked respect. Even Obama acknowledged that during the event, saying, “These Dolphins didn’t always get the credit they deserve.”
Tuesday, they did.
It took 41 years, but they got it.
“It’s a reward,” said Griese. “It’s the country officially receiving a team that accomplished something special.”
So there they stood, right in between a priceless oil painting of George Washington and the sitting president of the United States — the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
They were there because they were perfect, once.
They still are.