August 20th, 2013
02:40 PM ET
8 years ago

No fu manchus, but undefeated '72 Dolphins honored by Obama

Washington (CNN) – Four decades after they became the only NFL team so far to cap a perfect season with a Super Bowl win, the 1972 Miami Dolphins headed to the White House for a public honor from President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

"I know this is a little bit unorthodox four decades after the fact, but these guys never got their White House visit after winning Super Bowl VII," Obama said in the East Room. "Some of them are a little harder to recognize these days. They don't have the afros, the mutton chops, the fu manchus."

Despite the ribbing, Obama said the team had inspired a generation of American fans, including himself.

"I did have to explain to my staff, who mostly are in their early 30s, what an incredible impact these guys had, including on me, when they were playing," he said. "These Dolphins made history back before Super Bowl champs started visiting the White House."

The event was the culmination of a 15-year effort from former Dolphins tight end Marv Fleming, who spent a decade and a half writing letters and talking to public officials trying to get some presidential attention for his old team.

"Every year, I'd see another team, somebody else going to the White House and not us," Fleming said. "Why not us?"

Don Shula, the coach of the 1972 team who spoke at Tuesday's event, also shared his former player's excitement.

"We feel honored," said Shula, who rose from his motorized wheelchair at the end of the event to pose for a photo with the former players and the president. "It's been 40 years, but, what the hell, we still feel honored."

During his remarks, Obama acknowledged that meeting teams that have won college and professional championships was one of the perks of being president – including an event in 2011 honoring the 1985 Chicago Bears, which he called at the time "the greatest team in NFL history."

"Take it with a grain of salt," Obama joked about his past remarks on Tuesday. "The Bears lost once in their nearly perfect season and it happened to be to the Dolphins."

Nearly thirty members of the 1972 Dolphins were present at the White House ceremony, though a few former players told author and columnist Dave Hyde they weren't attending for political reasons.

PHOTOS: Athletes who skipped White House invite

In a recent column for Florida's Sun Sentinel, Hyde, who's also written two books about the undefeated Dolphins, quotes three members of the team - center Jim Langer, Manny Fernandez, and left guard Bob Kuechenberg - saying they planned to skip the event.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. California Gary

    The thing I remember about that team was Larry Csonka running right at, over, and through guys whenever they gave him the ball. I don't think I ever saw him try to avoid contact.....he thrived on it! Anyone that tackled him ended up getting the worst of it. They don't make guys like him anymore........

    August 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Gunderson

    It just show you "Flippers" what hard work will do. Something you Putin Care Nanny Stater's will never stand. Better than talking about the poor economy and 17 Trillion Dollar Federal debt plus 50 million on Food Stamps. eh?

    August 20, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. just saying

    nice to see the celebrity-in-chief back in the whitehouse, refreshed from his monthly vacation, taking care of the real problems this country faces.... i'm sure had he had to rush off to a car wash opening to cut the ribbon after this event! bwahahahaha, obama is such a farce.

    August 20, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  4. Tampa Tim

    The '72 Dolphins are like Obama, undefeated. I am glad those who made very little contribution to the team stayed home.

    August 20, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Ginger

    Get over it Gunderson, if he can stick his nose into things he shouldn't, then he can damn well do something that is defiintely decades late.

    August 20, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Just saying – still bitter over the shellacking Mittens took last year, I see. Get over it!

    August 20, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. Fish

    What a football team, they were greatness in play and off the field. Shula is one of football's greatest but his team was perfection. Griese, Morris, were two that I can recall vividly because they bet my Colts and Johnny U.

    August 20, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. ksiner

    As a South Florida resident and lifelong Dolphin fan I'm sad to see several Dolphins put politics ahead of this honor. Apparently these guys feel they could only go if "their" guy was in the White House. Well, Langer, Fernandez and Kuech... FAHK EWE

    August 20, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. Freethinker702

    Obama is a joke! I wonder who's picking up the tab for this "ceremony"? Meanwhile schoolchildren can't even go on tour to see the White House. How many tours and lifelong childhood memories could have been made with the cost of this BS ceremony? I guess we will never know.

    August 20, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. T

    .......I started watching the D's in 1070, and saw all their playoff games and a few during the season. They were my team. Chickenman Little at right guard, Manny F on D,.......Zonk and Kickk, and the Merc.........Howard TWILLY, betcha not many remember the sidekick to one of the every best wide outs EVER.............Paul Warfield...and Bobby G.....who threw 15 passes a game, and gained 250 yards a game.............

    August 20, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. anonymous

    Why am I reminded of Roman and the games at the Colliseum while Rome burned? Eerily similar....

    August 20, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Donna

    I'm am sure the Obama administration has at least 100 people who's full time job is to concoct these inane events. What next? Are they going to start rolling in people from the 30's, 40's, 50' & 60's??? Sorry, but this is just way to bizarre for the Presidency.

    August 20, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    Here's another gem:

    -just saying

    gee, where was all this left wing hate for super rich caroline kennedy who never worked a day in her life for what she has? how many jobs did she ever create with her wealth? zero.

    And another:

    just saying

    nice to see the celebrity-in-chief back in the whitehouse, refreshed from his monthly vacation, taking care of the real problems this country faces.... i'm sure had he had to rush off to a car wash opening to cut the ribbon after this event! bwahahahaha, obama is such a farce.
    Interesting you made no note of the 5-week-vacation the House took, back to its role of doing nothing except investigate the President for breathing the same air as other carbon-based life forms. Interesting that you made no mention of the sleazy dealings that Issa has performed thorugh out his career, instead focussing your derision on a member of a family that actually believes in service: would you hold this level of contempt for the Bush family? Of course not, they don't get your reflexsive, mindless hate humming. By the way, wealth by itself does not create jobs, demand does, dimwit.

    August 20, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Chris

    Marie MD

    To those rethugs on the team. Who cares about you. Coach Shula is coming to the WH!!
    I hope another team, I don't care which one, takes your crowning moment away this coming season.
    You have to be the most ignorant, bitter, angry, and partisan person on here!!!! What because they have republicans on the team you don't like them? Get a life, you are sad liberal, at least the others can put aside their hate for a few minutes once in a while, you never can! What a sad life you must live.

    August 20, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  15. Chris

    Rudy NYC

    Hmm. I wonder which President started inviting champtionshiop sports teams to the White House, and when? How would you look that up? I dunno. Here's a wild guess. Ronald Reagan invited the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team?.
    An Olympic team is MUCH different than a professional sports team, they represent OUR country that makes sense for them to get to visit the WH!!! Professional sports teams (the ones that make billions) not so much.

    August 20, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. Amused

    Good for the President!
    I was a kid in 1972 and I loved football!

    Plus, this helps us forget that there still millions of Americans that need a job, the middle east and northern Africa are on fire, the threat of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism rises everyday, the national debt is so large that it WILL eventually bring us down, and the divisions between blacks and whites, gays and straights, males and females, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, the public sector and the private sector, rich and poor, native and immigrant (collectively known as the Obama Domestic Policy) is worse than ever.

    Given a choice:
    1 – Obama doing his job?
    2- Obama holding another A-list party at the White House (even the A list being used expired about 30 years ago)?

    The Answer:

    You decide!

    (We know that most people reading this voted for that! FOR THAT! Seriously/?)

    August 20, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. Recondo 6-76

    Being a kid in Dade county back then was something. Besides watching the 82nd Airborne deployed for the Democratic Convention, we saw the Dolphins reach a memorable milestone. While never forgotten, it's great that they got the red carpet treatment at the WH.

    August 20, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. Len

    just saying,

    As far as vacations go, President Bush and President Reagan had more vacations at this time during their presidency. I know Fox news would never report any thing that would hurt the magnificent GOP. Do some homework and you will see I am correct. Oh, forgot, the House of Representatives (GOP) since 2010 have taken more time off than any and have done nothing for the American people. How about those jobs they promised in 2010!!! Just saying!

    August 20, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. NC

    @just saying nothing the same hate everyday all day. Get a job and stay off the blogs. You have no idea what a great team the 72 Dolphins were or any idea about anything for that matter. You sound like a juvenile to me or someone with a warped mind.

    August 20, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. stormerF

    Stopped White House toure but affords a 40 year old winning year team to attend White House gala? Such a Narcissist we have as President.

    August 20, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  21. Marie MD

    @chris, three players didn't attend the ceremony because they do not agree with the politics in the present white house. Who are the the sad bitter people?
    You get a life if you can even try to figure out what it is. Just because your party is full of haters.

    August 20, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  22. Monomachos

    white House lately: New dogs – Cheers? Old football team – Cheers? New jobs? .... (crickets) .....

    August 20, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  23. Revolution

    Nobody has done more vacations then this clown! Nobody ever! Not bush not nobody. Lie all you want. Barry is as worthless as they come and deep down you know it! Bye sheep

    August 20, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  24. Alex

    Is it me or does Csonka look like Scotty from Star Trek

    August 20, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. James

    What an opportunist. Just reading an article about this guy is irritating.

    August 20, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
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