Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Perfection (2012)

By Bob Griese and Dave Hyde

The mental image is advanced by the media every year. The members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins notice that the last undefeated team in professional football team has lost. So they pour themselves a glass of champagne and toast their team from yesteryear.

Sometimes it happens in November. Sometimes it happens after New Year's Day. But it always has happened, year after year, for 40 years.

Those Dolphins are the only team, still, to go through an entire season and playoffs without losing a single game. That makes them a contender for the mythical title of "greatest football team ever," simply because they met every challenge put in front of them.

It makes those Dolphins worth reading about, even today. Bob Griese and Dave Hyde have done a fine job of reviewing that season in their appropriately titled book, "Perfection."

The two men take an interesting approach to the writing of this book. Griese might be the most famous player on that team from a 2012 season. He had a Hall of Fame career, and he went on to become a television commentator after retirement. But ... the funny part is that Griese was hurt in the fifth game of the season, and didn't start again until the Super Bowl.

That sounds like a problem, but it really isn't here. It's easy to guess that Hyde did a lot of the heavy lifting that fills out much of the rest of the book in the chronological account of the season. The focus shifts away from Griese to his teammates. There are excellent profiles of the personalities on that team, from coach Don Shula, to the offensive linemen taken off the proverbial scrap heap, to the elegance of Paul Warfield, to the contrasting behavior of safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. Griese and Hyde make this team come alive.

The book also takes some interesting tangents along the way. The use of amphetamines back then was indeed heavy and unregulated. There's a story about how Mercury Morris took a pill from O.J. Simpson at the Pro Bowl, and Morris stayed awake from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday morning. Simpson used to take two of those pills before every game. The medical practices from those days come across as almost barbaric in hindsight. It's no wonder why so many players from that era are suffering from the after-effects of injuries, particularly concussions.

Griese also points out how those Dolphins were on the cutting edge of football strategy. For example, Miami pioneered the use of situation substitutions. Morris and Jim Kiick both saw plenty of action at halfback, depending on the situation. Common today, novel then.

There are a couple of typographical errors that jump out here. Don McCafferty and Steve Tensi get their names mangled. That's surprising in a book that otherwise is quite well researched.

Obviously, a book about a football team from 40 years ago isn't going after the youth audience. Still, it's good to have a first-hand account of such an important team in terms of history. "Perfection" is easy to read, and will keep you entertained and interested. It's a nice job.

Four stars

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