(LOS ANGELES) — Fifty-five years ago three men attended the first Super Bowl. Every year since, they’ve had a seat at the biggest football game of the year, and in more recent years, a seat together. But this Super Bowl Sunday will be their last time together in the crowd.
“I’m moving a little slower. I am the old guy in this club,” Don Crisman, an 85-year-old Maine resident, told ABC News Live.
Crisman said multiple health challenges has made it more difficult for him to not only attend an event so large, but also take the trip to the stadium. He said there’s only one condition that he’ll go back on his Super Bowl retirement plan.
“If my Patriots make it next year, I might have to change that plan,” said Crisman, as his two friends agreed that he can attend just another year.
Gregory Eaton, 82, of Michigan, and Tom Henschel, 80, said they aren’t giving up their spot at future games just yet. Eaton said he looks to Crisman as an example of what it means to be a dedicated football fan.
“I want to go as long as Don has been at it. If I could go as long as I am 85, I’ve got three more years,” said Eaton.
Eaton was the last to join the “Never Miss a Super Bowl Club.” Crisman and Henschel helped create the club after they met at the 1983 Super Bowl. Eaton met his friends decades later, during the mid-2010s.
“We thought we were the only two, and we ran into Tom. He was member number three,” said Crisman.
Their small club of fans has grown even smaller over the years as other members have become too ill to travel or have died. The club, which made a commitment to always sit together at the Super Bowl, once numbered six members.
The three remaining members describe their relationship as more than just a few friends who enjoy their favorite pastime together. They stay in touch throughout the year, even when football is in its offseason.
“Now I got two guys that we have something in common and we respect each other,” said Eaton. “It’s like Don and I talk year round, and it’s something that it’s fun and I love to do it.”
This year’s game is even more significant than past years because they’ll be able to sit with each other again. During last year’s game, the pandemic disrupted their common practice. To follow social distancing protocols, they were seated several rows apart at the game in Tampa, Florida. This year’s game will look more like past years, just in time for Crisman’s retirement from the club.
The friends have already met up in Los Angeles, and are planning how they’d like to spend their last trip together — unless the Patriots play in next year’s championship.
Crisman said he’d like to see the Bengals win on Sunday, but he has a feeling it won’t play out that way.
“I think the Rams are going to win by four,” Crisman confidently told ABC News Live.
Henschel also said he’ll be rooting for the Bengals. Eaton will be the only one in the group rooting for the Rams.
Although this is set to be their last game together, they believe their bond will continue — just the same as their love for football.
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