These gents have never missed a Super Bowl. And they hope to keep the streak going | CBC Sports

As long as they still have each other, they’re still going to go to every Super Bowl.

That’s the sentiment shared by three friends who say they are the final fans who can claim membership in the exclusive “never missed a Super Bowl” club. And they’re back again for number 58 — Super Bowl 58 — this year.

The three fans, all in their 80s, are Don Crisman of Maine, Gregory Eaton of Michigan and Tom Henschel, who splits time between Florida and Pennsylvania. The three are gathering this weekend in Las Vegas for the big game, and they’re hoping they can all make it to the 60th edition of the game two years from now.

The fans have sat together at the Super Bowl before, and they were still trying to make last-minute arrangements to do that for this year’s game this week. At the very least, they planned to get together for their annual pre-game brunch on Friday.

Eaton, 84, who runs a ground transportation company in Detroit, has been especially invested in this year’s football playoffs, as his beloved Detroit Lions won playoff games for the first time in more than three decades. The Lions fell just short of qualifying for their first Super Bowl, but Eaton said getting together with Crisman, 87, and Henschel, 82, is the real draw of going to the big game year after year.

In January 2005, Eaton showed off his tickets for the 2005 Super Bowl while surrounded by other Super Bowl programs and souvenirs. (Vicki Dozier/Lansing State Journal/The Associated Press)

“Yeah, I’m a Lions fan,” Eaton said. “But in two years, I just hope I’ll be in good shape to be there again.”

The men have attended every game since 1967 when the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the forerunner to the modern Super Bowl, took place in Los Angeles.

This year’s game goes Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Crisman and Henschel first met at the 1983 Super Bowl, but they didn’t connect with Eaton until the mid-2010s. 

They’re part of an ever-dwindling group of people who have attended every Super Bowl, a group that has included media members, football executives, groundskeepers and others. Norma Hunt, wife of late football pioneer Lamar Hunt, was the sole woman to attend every Super Bowl until she died in June.

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Stéphan Genest came up with the idea for the ‘ballbecue’ after tailgating in Los Angeles 15 years ago. He spent years perfecting the design and construction of his football shaped barbecue.

The trio all say their personal health and mobility are the main things that could keep them from attending. Health concerns have cropped up for all of them in recent years, but they all said they’re feeling well enough to go this year and planning on the next two.

“I think that might be the factor that would definitely tip it,” Crisman said. “I’m not looking to be the survivor. I just go for the fun, and the guys. We’ll see what this year brings and address it in December ’24.”

The three men have witnessed all of the most iconic moments in Super Bowl history, but some of their most cherished memories of the game are a little more personal than David Tyree’s “helmet catch” in Super Bowl 42 or Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in Super Bowl 25.

Crisman’s home is adorned with Super Bowl ephemera, right down to a collectible hat commemorating the first Bud Bowl, a promotion about beer that ran during Super Bowl 23 in 1989.

A person wearing sports paraphernalia poses for a photograph while holding a football.
Crisman poses in a paraphernalia-filled room at his home in Kennebunk, Maine, in January 2021. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

Eaton got his tickets to the first Super Bowl from Herb Adderley, a friend from Michigan State University who played for the Green Bay Packers. Henschel recalls being especially excited for Super Bowl 3 because New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, like himself, was from the Pittsburgh area.

Crisman hadn’t yet acquired tickets for this year’s game as of mid-January, when telecommunications giant Verizon surprised him with complimentary passes for himself and his daughter, Susan Metevier. Getting to Las Vegas will be much easier than his trip to Super Bowl 2 in 1968, which involved a 24-hour train ride to Miami.

The three men reminisce fondly about the era when it was possible to get a ticket to the big game for $8. Henschel recalls getting a face value ticket to Super Bowl 3 for $12 on the day of the game. This year, the cheapest tickets available are more than $7,000.

A person holds up a photo while posing for a photograph.
Henschel poses with a photo of himself with Super Bowl tickets at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta in February 2019. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Henschel, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, has a friendly rivalry with Crisman, a New England Patriots fan, as the two teams have met frequently in the playoffs over the years.

This year, the Patriots failed to contend, while the Steelers made an early playoff exit. But old traditions die hard, Henschel said.

“It’s funny because Don and I, he hates the Steelers and I hate the Patriots,” Henschel said. “Every time we see each other for the first time, we give each other the finger.”

It’ll happen again this year. And, they hope, at least a couple more times after that.

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