Larry Csonka turns 70 on Christmas Day, but the years haven’t changed his ability to spin a yarn — except maybe enhance it.
When the Dolphins’ all-time great traveled around Alaska to film his outdoors show, natives would often ask him about Miami.
“I tell them, ‘It’s a little town,’ ” Csonka deadpanned, with a perfect delivery. “[Now] I’ve got to call them back. They’re going to kick it up on the computer, and it’s not going to be what I’ve been telling them.”
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Yes, South Florida — and particular Miami — has changed dramatically since 1979, when Csonka last wore the aqua and orange.
But the star running back didn’t realize it until he took a recent tour of the city. It opened his eyes to all Miami has to offer. And with his trademark humor, Csonka plans to open the eyes of the league’s other 31 owners on Tuesday.
That’s when Csonka will make the closing pitch for the area’s Super Bowl bid. South Florida is a heavy favorite to win either the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowls when ownership votes Tuesday. Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tampa and New Orleans are also in the running; the 2021 game will also be awarded.
Miami has hosted the Super Bowl a record 10 times but not since 2010, primarily because of the condition of the Dolphins’ aging stadium. But that’s no longer an impediment, with owner Stephen Ross funding a half-billion dollar renovation project.
“I would be surprised [if Miami was passed over], but you know, I don’t know enough about the NFL owners and the workings of how they do all that stuff,” Csonka said. “But I know Miami, and I know the people who have been doing all this and when they came to me and started talking to me about it, I’m standing around going, ‘Damn! I didn’t know that! Wow!’ It rocked me back. I thought, ‘Well, it’s a thing that should be.’ ”
When Csonka first arrived in Miami in 1968, it wasn’t a world-class city. Not close. Interstate 95 didn’t nearly connect the whole way south. The Dolphins didn’t even have their own training facility; they practiced during the season at Bobby Maduro (baseball) Stadium, the spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles.
And Miami’s downtown skyline only climbed a handful of stories.
Csonka spent all but three years of his Hall of Fame career with the Dolphins and was an iconic member of the undefeated 1972 team.
He moved away after his career, splitting his time between Alaska, Ohio and Volusia County. And while he’d come back regularly for Dolphins alumni events, he never spent much time in Miami proper.
But when the South Florida Super Bowl bid committee asked Csonka to be the region’s ambassador during this week’s spring meeting — held at the posh Ballantyne hotel — he got a crash course in Miami’s recent history.
“We’re going to talk about the assets of Miami and the fact that we have the weather, we have the qualifications, we have the parks downtown, we’ve got the waterfront, we’ve got the designated areas of the NFL [that] they’re going to set aside for the NFL Experience,” Csonka said. “You’ve got a city that’s up to snuff — more than up to snuff — and is really cooperative, that’s already been down the road 10 times. So I feel pretty good about that.”
Csonka added: “If we don’t get it, I’ll be kind of — like, ‘Why not?’ ”
▪ The Dolphins will again wear their popular throwback uniforms during the 2016 season.
The team announced they will use their old-school alternate jerseys for their home games against the Bills (Oct. 23) and 49ers (Nov. 27).
The Dolphins will be in all-aqua against the Jets (Nov. 6) and Patriots (Jan. 1). They will wear their white uniforms for rest of the season.