Same time next year

These three fans have been to every Super Bowl. And no, that hasn't always been easy to do.

From left: Tom Henschel, Larry Jacobson, Don Crisman. Photo courtesy Don Crisman

Editor’s note: This story is a piece of the overall feature, which can be seen in its entirety below.

Back in January of 1967, Larry Jacobson was a 27-year-old teacher living in San Francisco, who was looking to make an impression on a certain young lady. An avid sports fan, Jacobson bought two tickets to the AFL-NFL Championship Game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The plan was to fly down the day of the game.

“A round trip ticket from San Francisco was $25, “ Jacobson says, “The two tickets were $12 each. The rent-a-car was $8. Dinner was maybe $8. It all came in for maybe $100.”

The woman ended up not being impressed, but Jacobson was smitten … with the game. He hasn’t missed one since.

“We’ve all had our share of near misses,” says 78-year old Don Crisman of Maine, “but here we are.”

WE, would be Jacobson, Crisman, and 73-year old Tom Henschel of Pittsburgh. Since that first game, millions of people have gone to see a Super Bowl. But these three have gone to every Super Bowl.

“It’s in my blood,” says Henschel, who back in 1967, lived in Chicago and worked for an airline during the day, and as a bartender at night.

“And all these ballplayers would come into this bar,” he says. “Next thing I know, one of the players drops two tickets off for me to come to the game. I could fly for nothin’. So I called a cousin (who lived in LA). I’ve never seen her before that game and I’ve never seen her since.”

The three men came to Los Angeles that January day in 1967 as strangers – as it happens, Henschel and Crisman sat in the same section of the stadium for Super Bowl I – but now through the game, have become lifelong friends. With the help of the NFL, which makes tickets available for them to buy, they reconvene every year to retell the tales of their dedication.

“We’ve all heard the stories before,” Jacobson says with a smile, “but the good thing is that at our age, we forget that we’ve heard them before. So it’s like hearing a brand new story every year.”

Jacobson and his wife were once planning to adopt a baby, but the birth mother wanted them both to be at the hospital for the delivery, which posed a problem: the baby was due Super Bowl weekend.

“And the future mother said no,” remembers Jacobson, “she didn’t want any part of it.”

So Jacobson and his wife chose to pass up that opportunity, instead adopting two sisters a few years later. It was a clear demonstration though: the three friends would not only go to all the games … but occasionally, to extremes to keep the streak going.

(Photo courtesy Tom Henschel)

Prior to Super Bowl 2 in Miami, Crisman was on a business trip in South Carolina, traveling in a friend’s small private plane. But an ice storm forced them to put the craft down at an abandoned air force base. They found their way to a hardware store, bought as many cans of de-icer as they could carry, and got to work on the plane.

“We got about half done,” he says, “and the ice came back. So we gave up and Saturday morning took a train outta Columbia. And it arrived in Miami – about two and a half hours before game time.”

All born in the Roosevelt administration, the three are a hearty bunch who’ve seen the big game change from one which didn’t come close to selling out in 1967 … to a contest so in demand, that this year, tickets are being scalped for $10,000 and up.

So once again, the three friends have come, with no plans to anytime soon stay home and watch the game on television.

“I’ll keep coming until they put me in a box,” Jacobson says.