Review: ESPN “The Perfect Machine”, a look back at Dolphins perfection
By Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins 1972 “perfect” team will get its ESPN E60 honor on February 5th with the airing of “The Perfect Machine” a new documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary.
To consider myself lucky is an understatement. I got to participate in the interviews of several former Dolphins players from that 72 team and by participate I mean I was given the opportunity to escort them to and from their interviews throughout the day. Then, months later, I got an opportunity to watch the screener for this ESPN special.
On February 5th at noon, ABC will air the hour-long special and ESPN+ will immediately air it afterward. It will re-air Sunday, Feb. 5, at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2. There will be other opportunities to watch at some point, I would assume, should you miss it.
The question is, should you miss it?
There are so many great things about this special. Directed by Dan Lindberg and narrated by Jeremy Schaap, the 50th Anniversary special takes you not only through the 1972 season but gives you some insight into what happened before that season. Not the loss to the Cowboys the year before, but further, back before Shula, when the Dolphins were coached by George Wilson, Sr., and Joe Thomas was the architect of the Dolphins’ future.
Schaap interviewed three players, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Manny Fernandez, then Dave Shula, and Joe Namath. I spoke with Schaap about the special earlier this week. Schaap took the approach to hit on the bigger topics. Not a “blow-by-blow” but instead an “anecdotal history of that team” (Miami Dolphins). That shows in this presentation.
While Schaap got the longer interviews with Csonka and Morris, Dan Lindberg handled the rest of the team. In all, 17 members of the 72 team are included in this documentary while archival footage is used for several others including Don Shula.
The ESPN E60 special doesn’t just get introspective from the players. This documentary also gets the thoughts of the media and others who covered the team 50 years ago and that perspective is also an important addition to the recollection of historical accuracy.
- Dave Shula
- George Solomon – former Miami Dolphins beat reporter
- Tony Segreto – TV reporter in Miami in 1972
- Jane Chastain – TV reporter in Miami in 1972
- Paul Maguire – former TV analyst and 1960’s pro football player
50 years. It’s a lifetime to many but to the Dolphins players who experienced that still unequaled accomplishment, it was yesterday.
This documentary dives into things I didn’t know or realize were going on. Insight from Marv Flemming about the locker room after his arrival from Green Bay and how Don Shula fixed the problem when he arrived was a small but interesting early part of the 60 minutes.
The Perfect Machine is a “perfect” approach to telling a story that we all thought we knew but in reality, didn’t quite know the whole story. What’s fun is that there are still so many angles to cover, so many stories left untold that 10 or 15 years from now, we may learn something new.
The approach is flawless. Integrated storytelling from the players, Schaap’s soft yet strong narrative, and a seamless storyboard from Lindberg that not only weaves through the 1972 season but binds it together with an actual story of how the team got to perfection as opposed to simply saying they did it by winning 17 games.
At its purest, The Perfect Machine is a testament to adversity, a testament to Don Shula and all of the players and coaches that poured their souls into one thing, redemption for an embarrassing Super Bowl loss the year before. The Perfect Machine is in their words and those closest to them and they are magnificent.
So, should you miss The Perfect Machine? No, no you shouldn’t.
Personal note: A big thank you to, Jeremy Schaap, Andy Hill, and especially Dan Lindberg and Scott Stone.
Following the airing of The Perfect Machine, we will release our interview/discussion with Jeremy Schaap about his thoughts and insights into what made it into the documentary, and what didn’t. Stay tuned!