'72 Dolphins get White House visit. Getty Images
Washington-- President Obama said there's a simple reason he decided to honor football champions from four decades ago.
wanted to be the young guy up here for once," Obama said, surrounded by
the gray-haired -- or balding -- members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
also said he wanted to honor the last professional football team to
finish the season and playoffs unbeaten, calling it a good way to ring
in the new college and pro football seasons that begin in the coming
Football champions did not get automatic invites to the
White House back when the Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in the
Super Bowl on Jan. 14, 1973.
Acknowledging it's a little
"unorthodox" to honor football players from the 1970s, Obama said: "I
know some of them are a little harder to recognize these days -- they
don't have the Afros or the mutton chops, the Fu Manchus."
Obama also offered the Dolphins his own apology of sorts. Two
years ago, the president held a ceremony for the 1985 Chicago Bears, a
team whose White House appearance had been canceled after the deadly
accident of the Challenger space shuttle.
During the 2011
event, Obama hailed the '85 Bears as the greatest team -- a statement
disputed by members of the '72 Dolphins, both then and at the White
House on Tuesday.
"I mean, take it with a grain of salt," Obama told the Dolphins, to general laughter.
Dolphins Coach Don Shula, in a wheelchair, gave Obama a jersey with the number 72 emblazoned with the word "undefeated."
he joked with members of the Dolphins, Obama noted that sports
champions didn't start coming to the White House until the 1980s.
"Let's face it," Obama said. "This is also just a fun thing to do."
The die-hard Bears fan even took a joking shot at a more recent champion and current rival: "I
even let the (Green Bay) Packers come a couple years ago, which was
hard to do. ... So I decided that it was high time to pay tribute to the
NFL's only perfect team."