“My White House Trip”
By Jim DelGaizo
This past August 20 my team, the perfect-season 1972 Miami Dolphins, was honored at the White House (by President Obama) for having the only perfect season in NFL history. The fact that it happened over 40 years after-the-fact only added to the thrill of it. This thought was expressed (very correctly) by Larry Csonka, the pile-driving, 240 pound fullback (and leader of that offense). He flew over 20 hours in the air (from Alaska) to get there, and he said that “this honor meant much more to him as a 67-year-old than it ever would have as a 26-year-old.” That is so true.
That it happened at all was due to the dogged determination of another of my former teammates, Marv Fleming. He continued his many-year dialogue with the White House about this type of honor, and THIS president decided it was about time; the Dolphin organization was on board to pay for the trip, and with just two weeks notice it became reality. The Dolphin alumni staff needs to be commended for being able to arrange all of this—for about 50 people travelling from such diverse places—in such a short time. But they did, and to say it was a surreal experience is putting it mildly.
Driving to the White House (on the bus) almost felt like a game day; there was nervous anticipation! When we got there, passing through the cement-barriers that are in place for protection (in the post 9-11 world), it makes you feel sad to see what religious fanatics have forced upon us as a nation. But the crowds of tourists soon get you back into a festive mood, and the building itself is awe-inspiring (over 55,000 square feet, with 156 rooms) and so pristinely maintained. The best part was still to come. Meeting the president was special. We had about 10 minutes before the ceremony to meet him personally and he didn’t disappoint. His casual banter showed he had done his homework, and it was as if we were all old friends—how warmly he greeted us. I’ve never seen Don Shula appear tongue-tied (he was) before, but this was the effect of meeting a president “up close and personal.” The ceremony itself was another 10 minutes, and I couldn’t stop smiling! We were all “blown away” and political affiliation had nothing to do with it. We were being honored by the president of the United States at the White House; what else is needed to be said? This was a memory that I will take to the grave. Better late than never indeed!