PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The Super Bowl is celebrating this year for three friends who …
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The Super Bowl will look different this year for three friends who played every part of the big game.
But Don Crisman, Tom Henschel and Gregory Eaton have tickets in hand and say they will be there, as they have every year since the first AFL-NFL World Championship game in 1967. The trio, who are between 79 and 84 years old, it is among a shrinking group of fans who have personally witnessed every Super Bowl.
They usually use the event as an opportunity to meet, but this time they are working on coronavirus-era precautions. They will settle for an outdoor lunch while sitting a few feet apart for this year to meet.
They sit several rows apart in the stands.
“Of course I’m worried. Who wouldn’t be My doctor is concerned. He said don’t go, ”said Crisman, 84, of Kennebunk, Maine.
Crisman, who flies from Boston to the Tampa, Fla., Venue has not been on a plane since returning from last year’s Super Bowl. He’s bringing his daughter, a medical technician who has worked in COVID-19 vaccination clinics, to the game this year.
Crisman said he was ready to give up the series, but Henschel’s commitment to keeping it alive convinced him to make it.
“I have to go. I can’t break my cord. I have to be there,” said the 79-year-old Pittsburgh resident who winters in Tampa and makes easy commutes. “I slow down, but I always love the game still.”
Crisman and Henschel first met at the Super Bowl in 1983 when they learned they’d both been in every game up to that point. Eaton, a Lansing resident who also spends his winters in Florida, met them years later in the mid-2010s. Some other members of their exclusive fan who never missed a Super Bowl have died in recent years.
Eaton, who is Black, said he previously completed challenges to get to the game. He said he was turned away from a hotel for his race while trying to find accommodation for one of the first Super Bowls.
One of his favorite aspects of the game these days is catching up with Henschel and Crisman.
“I look forward to it every year – and the relationships we’ve had over the past five years are incredible,” said Eaton, 81, who winters in Palm Beach in winter. “We are like a brotherhood.”
Defending champions Kansas City Chiefs will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on February 7. Attendance was limited to 22,000, including 7,500 healthcare workers. The stadium will be about a third full.
Crisman is a New England Patriots fan who remains loyal to Tom Brady, the Buccaneers quarterback and former Patriot who is playing in his 10th Super Bowl.
Most of the time, however, Crisman wants to continue its Super Bowl streak and return to Maine without contracting the virus. He said he received one of the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Eaton said he also had the first shot, while Henschel said he didn’t.
Crisman said he knew his streak had to end at some point and he was initially prepared for this to be the year it happened. But then he found himself planning the game.
“Everything has to end sometime. I can’t explain it – it just happens, ”he said.
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