By the time the eminences of the executive branch read this, it may already be too late. Many of the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins will have strolled down the appropriate porticos and entered the White House. They will have been received by President Barack Obama, after years of whining and preening and begging for an invitation. Their mythology will have grown; their egos will have swelled — and we could have stopped it all, if only we had acted sooner.
The Dolphins’ case to visit looks all right at first. It’s been a long time, 40 years. They were undefeated. They didn’t visit the White House then. Now they’re all old men with balky joints and bad prostates and terrifyingly small pensions. Can’t they just have this? After all, Obama honored the 1985 Bears, who never got to visit, in 2011.
But those ’85 Bears, who went 18-1, had a good case to visit the White House. They’re Obama’s team. It had been 25 years since their Super Bowl victory. (That’s a real milestone, one that fits evenly into 100, not just a number divisible by 10.) And most important of all: They haven’t spent the years since their Super Bowl victory bitterly hogging the spotlight to remind people of the old days.
The ’72 Dolphins, on the other hand, count among their roster a man — tight end Marv Fleming — who has been badgering the White House for years asking for a visit. Fleming told CNN: “Every year, I’d see another team, somebody else going to the White House and not us,” Fleming said. “Why not us?” Why not us? Perhaps because those champions won their championships in an era when championship teams can expect an invitation to the White House. No NFL team had been invited to visit before the ’79 Steelers, and, even then, the annual trips did not begin until Reagan hosted the Giants in 1986. John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams went undefeated in ’72 and ’73, and Nixon didn’t call them, either.
At least Fleming recognizes the significance in being honored by the president. Three of his teammates have refused to visit the White House, citing disappointment in the direction of the country under Obama. Because why not sulk and protest when the nation’s leader offers you an honor? And all of this is to say nothing of the rest of that squad, the folks who pop champagne each time the last undefeated NFL team loses its first game and appear in harrumphing commercials.
It’s hard to imagine that a building visited over the years by Robert Mugabe, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, and Roger Clinton could be tarnished any further, but here we are. Lock the doors while there’s still time.