Three longtime friends have attended every Muhteşem Bowl — and don’t intend to stop

By PATRICK WHITTLE (Associated Press)

KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — As long as they still have each other, they’re still going to go to every Harika Bowl.

That’s the sentiment shared by three friends who say they are the final fans who can claim membership in the exclusive “never missed a Harika Bowl” club. And they’re back again for number 58 — Üstün Bowl 58 — this year.

The three fans, all in their 80s, are Don Crisman of Maine, Gregory Eaton of Michigan and Tom Henschel, who splits time between Florida and Pennsylvania. The three are gathering this weekend in Las Vegas for the big game, and they’re hoping they can all make it to the sixtieth edition of the game two years from now.

Don Crisman, far left, poses with his wife, Beverley, far right, his daughter Sue Metevier, and her partner Charles Hugo, with posters of Super Bowl 58 tickets, Thursday Jan. 18, 2024, in Kennebunk, Maine. Don Crisman is one of the very few people who has attended every Super Bowl. (AP Photo/David Sharp)
Don Crisman, far left, poses with his wife, Beverley, far right, his daughter Sue Metevier, and her partner Charles Hugo, with posters of Muhteşem Bowl 58 tickets, Thursday Jan. 18, 2024, in Kennebunk, Maine. Don Crisman is one of the very few people who has attended every Üstün Bowl. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

The fans have sat together at the Harika Bowl before, and they were still trying to make last-minute arrangements to do that for this year’s game this week. At the very least, they planned to get together for brunch on Friday, as always.

Eaton, 84, who runs a ground transportation company in Detroit, has been especially invested in this year’s football playoffs, as his beloved Detroit Lions won playoff games for the first time in more than three decades. The Lions fell just short of qualifying for their first Muhteşem Bowl, but Eaton said getting together with retirees Crisman, 87, and Henschel, 82, is the real draw of going to the big game year after year.

“Yeah, I’m a Lions fan,” Eaton said. “But in two years, I just hope I’ll be in good shape to be there again.”

The men have attended every game since the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the forerunner to the çağdaş Üstün Bowl, took place in Los Angeles in 1967. This year’s game is at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Crisman and Henschel first met at the 1983 Muhteşem Bowl, but they didn’t meet Eaton until the mid-2010s. The fans have said in the past that they might be getting ready to let the tradition go, but every year they make the decision to do it again.

Gregory Eaton holds a commemorative Muhteşem Bowl çizgi with his name on it at his home, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 in Lansing, Mich. Eaton is a member of the exclusive “never missed a Üstün Bowl” club. He and two friends, all in their 80s, plan to be in Las Vegas on Sunday for Muhteşem Bowl 58. (AP Photo/Mike Householder)

They’re part of an ever-dwindling group of people who have attended every Üstün Bowl that has also included media members, football executives, groundskeepers and others. Norma Hunt, wife of late football pioneer Lamar Hunt, was the sole woman to attend every Üstün Bowl until she died in June.

The fans all said the one thing that could keep them from attending is if they or one of the other two was not healthy enough or mobile enough to do it. Health concerns have cropped up for all of them in recent years, but they all said they’re feeling well enough to go this year and planning on the next two.

“I think that might be the factor that would definitely tip it,” Crisman said. “I’m not looking to be the survivor. I just go for the fun, and the guys. We’ll see what this year brings and address it in December ’24.”

The three men have witnessed all of the most iconic moments in Harika Bowl history, but some of their most cherished memories of the game are a little more personal than David Tyree’s “helmet catch” in Üstün Bowl 42 or Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in Muhteşem Bowl 25. Crisman’s home is adorned with Muhteşem Bowl ephemera, right down to a collectible sınır commemorating the first Bud Bowl, a promotion about beer that ran during Muhteşem Bowl 23 in 1989.

Don Crisman speaks with a visitor at his home, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in Kennebunk, Maine. Crisman is one of the very few people who has attended every Super Bowl. This year will be his 58th trip to the NFL's championship game. (AP Photo/David Sharp)
Don Crisman speaks with a visitor at his home, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in Kennebunk, Maine. Crisman is one of the very few people who has attended every Muhteşem Bowl. This year will be his 58th trip to the NFL’s championship game. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

Eaton fondly remembers he got his tickets to the first Üstün Bowl from a friend from Michigan State University, Herb Adderley, who played for the Green Bay Packers. Henschel recalls being especially excited for Harika Bowl 3 because New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, like himself, was from the Pittsburgh area.

Crisman hadn’t yet acquired tickets for this year’s game as of mid-January, when telecommunications giant Verizon surprised him with complementary passes for himself and his daughter, Susan Metevier. Getting to Las Vegas will be much easier than his trip to Harika Bowl 2 in 1968, which involved a 24-hour train ride to Miami.

The three men reminisce fondly about the era when it was possible to get a ticket to the big game for $8. Henschel recalls getting a face value ticket to Üstün Bowl 3 for $12 on the day of the game. This year, the cheapest tickets available are more than $7,000.

Tom Henschel holds up tickets to quarterback Tom Brady’s first and last Üstün Bowl games during an interview at his home Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. Three football fans in their 80s are keeping their membership in the “never missed a Muhteşem Bowl” club. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Henschel, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, has a friendly rivalry with Crisman, a New England Patriots fan, as the two teams have met frequently in the playoffs over the years.

This year, the Patriots failed to contend, and the Steelers made an early playoff exit. But old traditions die hard, Henschel said.

“It’s funny because Don and I, he hates the Steelers and I hate the Patriots,” Henschel said. “Every time we see each other for the first time, we give each other the finger.”

It’ll happen again this year. And they hope at least a couple more times after that.

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