55 and counting: These fans have attended every Super Bowl

55 and counting: These fans have attended every Super Bowl
Don Crisman holds tickets from the first three Super Bowls, which are part of his collection. Crisman will be attending his 55th Super Bowl on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

TAMPA, Fla. — Their numbers are dwindling, but a handful of fans can still claim they have attended every Super Bowl.

Members of two different groups -- the Never Miss A Super Bowl Club and the Super Bowl Five -- have sat in stadiums since the first Super Bowl, which was held Jan. 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Coliseum. That first game was known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, but the Super Bowl phrase has endured ever since.

Content Continues Below

That streak was in jeopardy this year because the COVID-19 pandemic limited how many Super Bowl tickets would be available.

Don Crisman, Tom Henschel and Gregory Eaton belong to the Never Miss A Super Bowl Club, according to USA Today. Getting tickets was a touch-and-go affair this year, but Henschel said he was not deterred.

On Jan. 1, the NFL told the group it would not be able to help them get tickets, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Henschel called the ticket office every three days until the league came through on Jan. 17, asking if they had their credit cards ready.

“I was never worried. I’ll be honest with you,” Henschel, 79, who splits his year between Tampa and Pittsburgh, told USA Today. “I knew the NFL -- we’ve been on their VIP list for like 27 years, maybe a little bit longer -- and I just had a feeling they would come through with at least a single ticket for us.”

The NFL went digital with tickets this year, but the three club members will receive souvenir stubs in the mail after the game, the Times reported. Henschel, a Pittsburgh Steeler fan who has maintained his collection of ticket stubs, will put his scrapbook back into his safety deposit box after Sunday’s game.

“Five years old, my dad started taking me and my brother Jim to every high school game when we were 4 and 5 years old,” Henschel told Bay News 9. “We’d see a high school game on Friday, Pitt game on Saturday, and the Steelers on Sunday. We never got any homework done.”

Crisman 84, of Kennebunk, Maine, was not sure if he would be able to attend this year’s game because of the pandemic.

But after receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the longtime New England Patriots fan was given the green light to attend by his doctor, the Times reported. That is, as long as Crisman brought back a program, the physician joked.

Eaton, 81, of Lansing, Michigan, who now lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, got the news about buying the tickets on his birthday.

“I stay safe, I wear my mask, I distance,” Eaton told USA Today. “You’ve got to be careful. If I get it by then, it was supposed to happen. But you’ve got to be sensible about things. Keep your mouth covered. Wash your hands. It’s outdoors. If the Lord let me live 81 years and he lets me get COVID because of that, it’s just my time.”

The Super Bowl Five now has only four members, USA Today reported. They are Harvey Rothenberg, Sylvan Schefler, Larry McDonald and Lew Rapaport. The fifth member, Al Schragis, died in 2018, according to the newspaper.

Only Rothenberg, 87, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Schefler, 82, of New York, will be able to attend their 55th consecutive game, according to USA Today.

Rapaport had already decided to skip his first Super Bowl because of the pandemic. McDonald was planning to go until he contracted COVID-19 last week.

“I’m in bed and my beautiful wife is my nurse, so I’m going to miss it,” McDonald, 86, who lives outside Atlanta, told USA Today. “I’m going to be there in spirit. I won’t be there in person but ... This is just a bad one. We’ll get back up next year, I promise you.”

Schefler said he is grateful he will be returning for his 55th game.

“I don’t know whether the answer is relief or exhilaration,” he told USA Today. “You pinch yourself with glee that you have the opportunity to do this.”