Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×

Search

Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

From Lombardi’s Packers to Belichick’s Patriots, Diehard Fans Have Attended All 57 Super Bowls

3 men, now in their 80s, have watched the Big Game morph into a cultural phenomenon


Football fan Don Crisman will be in the stands Feb. 11 at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium when the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 58th Super Bowl.

Where else would he be?

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

The retired sales and marketing executive for a microwave antenna and transmission line company has attended all 57 previous Super Bowls, one of just a few living people who can make that claim. Crisman, of Kennebunkport, Maine, and two others — Lansing, Michigan, native Gregory Eaton, 84, and Tom Henschel, 82, a Tampa, Florida, resident originally from the Pittsburgh area — are the remaining fans in the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club.

A handful of sports-related professionals, including Milwaukee-area photographer John Biever, 72, and retired Kansas City groundskeeper George Toma, 95, have witnessed the same history.

Early tickets were a bargain

In January 1967, Crisman scored tickets through business associates to the very first Super Bowl, pitting the Green Bay Packers of the establishment National Football League (NFL) against the Chiefs of the upstart American Football League (AFL). It was played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and wasn’t even sold out.

Since then, the now-87-year-old and oldest fan in the small club has managed to attend every title game. Crisman says his streak was in jeopardy this year. Super Bowl tickets are expensive and hard to come by, and Crisman had already sold a signed Tom Brady 2002 Super Bowl ball from his memorabilia collection to help finance a previous trip.

Less than a fortnight ahead of the 2024 game, prices in the secondary market were topping $7,000 for the cheapest tickets. Eaton recalls the face price of tickets to the first game were $6, $8 and $10. In today’s dollars, that’s about $56, $75 and $93.

“That’s the biggest change, the tickets,” he says. “Hard to imagine: Programs were 50 cents,” $4.66 adjusted for inflation.

Henschel, who paid $3,250 for a ticket in the corner of the end zone at this year’s game, admits “some of my family members think I am out of my mind to spend that kind of money.... But they know it’s my thing.”

Through the years, he has taken his wife, mom, dad, brothers, nieces and nephews to Super Bowls. A photographer friend will be joining him in Las Vegas, but the cost of the game won’t be their only expense.

“All the hotels raise their prices big time,” he says. “And even the good restaurants make a whole new menu for Super Bowl week at double, triple the price on food.”

Verizon surprised Crisman with a pair of tickets after getting wind of his situation. The mobile company has a long-standing partnership with the NFL and has equipped all 30 stadiums in the league with its 5G Ultra Wideband technology. Verizon made Crisman an honorary Test Force member to report on the strength of the cell signal from his seat.

Remembering the early Super Bowls

1967. During the first game, Crisman rooted for the underdog Chiefs against the NFL champion Packers because he was a fan of the team that was then the AFL’s Boston Patriots.  

Fellow Never Miss a Super Bowl Club members Eaton and Henschel root for the teams closest to their hometowns: the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

“I didn’t go in with high hopes,” Crisman says. Though Kansas City kept it close at halftime, Green Bay outclassed the Chiefs in the end. Final score: 35-10. The legendary Vince Lombardi, for whom the Super Bowl trophy is now named, was the Packers’ coach.

1968. Lombardi’s Packers repeated the following year, beating the AFL’s Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl 2 in Miami.

The AFL turns the tide

“The most important games, I think, are the next two,” Crisman says. “The AFL was still looked upon as a not real big-league operation.”

1969. The AFL’s New York Jets upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in Miami. The legendary game became famous because days earlier Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath had guaranteed victory.

“The fact that the AFL won in the third game was monumental,” Crisman says.

1970. A year later, with its own Hall of Fame quarterback, Len Dawson, Kansas City handily beat the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in New Orleans, another upset win for the AFL. Following a 1970 merger, the AFL was absorbed into the NFL.

Health & Wellness

Target Optical

50% off additional pairs of eyeglasses and $10 off eyewear and contacts

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Memorable moments for these super Super Bowl fans

Favorite games. Beyond those early AFL victories, the six wins for Crisman’s beloved New England Patriots top his list, especially the overtime 34-28 triumph in 2017 in Houston against the Atlanta Falcons. The Pats overcame a second-half 28-3 deficit.

Other games that conjure up good memories for Crisman include the 1971 Super Bowl in Miami, when the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 on a last-second field goal, and the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, when the Pittsburgh Steelers topped the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, on a last-minute touchdown catch.

Among the games that stand out for Eaton, who is African American, is the 1988 Super Bowl in San Diego, when the Washington Redskins clobbered the Denver Broncos, 42-10. Doug Williams won most valuable player honors as the first Black starting quarterback to lead his team to victory.

Another Eaton favorite: when two Black coaches faced off for the first time, in the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida, where Tony Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts bested Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears, 29-17.

Meanwhile, diehard Steelers fan Henschel revels in all six Pittsburgh wins, most notably 1979’s Super Bowl in Miami, when his team edged the Cowboys, 35-31.

Least favorite games. Crisman calls the two Super Bowls when the underdog New York Giants beat the Patriots, in 2008 in Glendale, Arizona, and in 2012 in Indianapolis, the “two of the worst days of my life.”

The 2008 contest was the only game New England lost that season. To this day, Crisman says he can’t bear to look at photos of the famous catch that Giants receiver David Tyree made, securing the ball by pinning it to his helmet.

Other memorable players. “Well, of course, Tom Brady,” Crisman says admiringly of the longtime Patriots quarterback. He is “the GOAT” — greatest of all time.

Crisman also singled out Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach of Dallas. And he met Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr of the Packers: “The kind of person you thought you knew for many months, even though we only met for 10 minutes.… Gentleman, first class.”

Favorite coaches. Not surprisingly, Crisman chose Bill Belichick, who coached the Patriots for 24 seasons until departing at the end of 2023, and former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula as the greatest of all time among NFL coaches.

Henschel named Chuck Noll, who coached four of the six Steelers Super Bowl triumphs.

A formerly affordable vacation for the family

Crisman didn’t set out to attend every Super Bowl: The idea just kind of evolved, he says. In the early days he would go with his wife, Beverly.

It was “affordable back then,” he says. “We took our wives probably 16, 18 years. It was like a vacation. We’d see the sights in the area and go to the games.”

His daughter Susan Crisman Metevier, 56, who was in on the Verizon surprise and is also a football fan, will be joining him for the Las Vegas game.

“Without her, I wouldn’t still be going,” Crisman says. “I’m not as mobile as I once was, and sometimes I need wheels under me to get me around the stadium.”

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Henschel also wonders how long their little club will last.

“I walk with a cane now, I have hearing aids now and am really slowing down big time,” he says. “I'll give it up after 60.” Henschel means Super Bowl 60 in 2026, when he’ll be 84, still the youngster of the trio. But then he says his wife has heard him say for four years running that he’ll stop the trips.

The halftime shows are less of a draw

Through the decades, the Super Bowl morphed from a championship football game into a global cultural phenomenon. Even people who aren’t football fans tune in for the clever TV commercials and star-studded halftime shows. Typically, Crisman is not watching.

“Super Bowl 1, they had two college bands and a basket of pigeons I think they let fly,” he says. Halftime is “usually time for my bathroom trip.”

Still, he fondly remembers Diana Ross’ performances, the national anthem at 1982’s Super Bowl in Pontiac, Michigan, and her halftime show as part of the 1996 Super Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.

“To be truthful, I don’t know anything about some of these entertainers, other than Reba McEntire,” he says. She’ll sing the national anthem Feb. 11 to kick off Super Bowl 58. 

Early threats to one fan’s streak

Private plane, then train to Miami. Before 1968’s Super Bowl in Miami, an associate with a plane planned to fly Crisman to the game after they finished a business trip. The plane iced up, and the pilot landed at an abandoned Air Force base in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

“After we climbed the fence with our briefcases and suits and ties, a state policeman came along and took us to Columbia,” Crisman says. Attempts to deice the plane failed. On the day before the game, he boarded a train to South Florida, arriving two or three hours before kickoff.

In San Diego without a ticket. Before the 1998 Super Bowl, Crisman had another close call. A ticket he thought he had didn’t pan out, so he pasted a card on his shirt: “Need one ticket, desperately, never missed.”

His luck held. He rode his hotel’s elevator with three doctors, and one told him that a fourth doctor was a no-show.

Crisman had to persuade the other guys that he wasn’t a scalper. He ended up sitting with them.

“We still corresponded many years later,” he says. “The good news was not only were they in a good section where we had a waitress, they each had a flask of Chivas [Regal Scotch] in their back pocket.”

Predictions in 2024. The oldest fan in the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club will be rooting for the Niners with his free ticket this year and predicts they’ll prevail, 24-17.

Henschel hates both teams, so he doesn’t have a strong interest in which one wins. But he thinks the Chiefs will be victorious, 27-24. Eaton, who was devastated when his beloved Lions didn't make the cut, is also favoring the Chiefs, though he didn’t predict a score.

Crisman doesn’t take his Super Bowl memories for granted: 

“I’ve been blessed to be able to do this. Sometimes I feel kind of selfish. I get all kinds of correspondence from people saying they wish they could only attend one. So I get a guilt feeling every now and then.”

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?