KENNEBUNK — Fifty was the goal for Don Crisman.

As a select member of the Never-Missed-A-Super-Bowl fan club, Crisman had planned to end his streak last year with the 50th Super Bowl in San Francisco.

But he did leave himself an out, as he mentioned two years ago when the New England Patriots were preparing to play Seattle for the NFL championship: “If the Patriots get into 51,” said Crisman, a lifelong Pats fan, “I’m going to have to get to that too.”

Well, here we are, Super Bowl LI – that’s 51 for the Roman numeral-challenged – in Houston, where the Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Crisman will be there along with his daughter, Susan Metevier, and two other members of the exclusive club, Tom Henschel of Pittsburgh and Larry Jacobson of San Francisco.

Patriots or not, it’s a hard habit to break.

Truth be told, Crisman, 80, made his hotel reservations last May after talking with Henschel and Jacobson – not knowing, of course, who would be playing. He had to talk to his wife, Beverley, because he had “made a promise to her that I was going to bring this to a close.”

But his family wants him to keep going as long as he can.

“‘Please don’t stop.’ That’s what we told him,” Metevier said. “It’s become more than just a football game. It’s about our family. It’s about what he’s done.”


Scroll over the map to see where Super Bowl fan Don Crisman has traveled.

Beverley has attended 28 Super Bowl games with him, including last year’s. Crisman was feted along with the seven other fans who have attended each Super Bowl, and had seats on the 50-yard line. The tickets were valued at $2,500, a far cry from the $12 it cost to attend the first Super Bowl in 1967.

For Crisman, the Super Bowl is more than just a game.

“The feel and being there is just different,” he said. “Now I think I’ve placed a higher level of importance on it than I should have earlier in my life. It’s just as important to meet the guys as it is to go to the game. We relive every game over and over again. We just enjoy one another’s company.”

He finds it almost surreal that he’s seeing the Patriots play in a Super Bowl for an NFL-record ninth time. And while he’s thrilled to see them again, their participation adds an almost-tangible level of stress.

“It just brings it to a different level,” he said. “They’ve been my team since they were created.”

Patriots fan Don Crisman holds a Super Bowl 50 football at his Kennebunk home, which features a room dedicated to sports memorabilia, including items from his 50 trips to the Super Bowl.

Patriots fan Don Crisman holds a Super Bowl 50 football at his Kennebunk home, which features a room dedicated to sports memorabilia, including items from his 50 trips to the Super Bowl. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The streak started on a whim in 1967 when Crisman and his wife were living in Denver. A friend, Stan Whitaker, got complimentary tickets from the bank he worked at, then convinced the Crismans to go to with him to Los Angeles for the game.

Crisman has had two close calls, the first just a year later. “The streak almost ended before it began, in Super Bowl II,” said Crisman, who had moved to Maine in 1968.

That year, while on a business trip for Gabriel Electronics, weather and plane issues forced his group to land at an abandoned airfield in South Carolina. Three days later he had to take a train from Columbia, South Carolina, to Miami, where he arrived just 2½ hours before kickoff.

Then in 1998, he couldn’t secure a ticket at Super Bowl XXXII. Desperate, he placed a sticker on his shirt that said, “Member of Never Miss A Super Bowl Club. Need One Ticket.” Soon after, while in an elevator with Beverley, someone noticed his sign and said a member of his group had to bow out and they had one ticket for sale at face value. He paid $300 and kept the streak alive.

A year later, there was a story in the Super Bowl program on Crisman’s group. Starting the next year, with Super Bowl XXXIV, the NFL has set aside two tickets for each member of Crisman’s club at face value.

mike-lowe in houston
This hasn’t been an inexpensive hobby. Although he’s never talked about how much it has cost him to go to the games, a feature on Crisman in the Patriots Game Day magazine said it has cost more than $50,000 over the years. “We live frugally,” said Beverley Crisman, “so we can do this.”

Their basement has a treasure-trove of Super Bowl memorabilia.

Of note, there’s a framed photo of a license plate from Don Crisman’s rental car in Phoenix two years ago when the Patriots played Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. Why? The plate’s number was 207KPT.

“Area code, abbreviation for my town,” said Crisman. “I saw that and said, ‘We’re in.’ But of course it wasn’t until the last 20 seconds that (the Patriots won). Coincidence? Maybe. But it had some meaning to me.”

Everything in the man cave has meaning to him.

There are ticket stubs from every Super Bowl played. Footballs autographed by the Super Bowl MVPs – including his favorite, from Super Bowl XII, signed by co-MVPs Randy White and Harvey Martin. Programs, including one from last year’s 50th featuring a centerpiece story on Crisman and his friends. Pennants. Pins. Patches. Ribbons. Beanie Bears. Autographed jerseys and photos.

There are encased autographed hats, including two from Super Bowl halftime performers Diana Ross – Crisman’s favorite singer – and James Brown. Crisman noted that Ross’s halftime show, which ended with her being lifted out of the stadium by helicopter, was “the greatest of all-time.”

Don Crisman's ticket stub from the first Super Bowl – before it was even called the Super Bowl – played in 1967 in Los Angeles. Crisman has been to every Super Bowl since it started and he'll head to Houston this year to see if his team can beat the Atlanta Falcons and earn its fifth Super Bowl victory.

Don Crisman’s ticket stub from the first Super Bowl – before it was even called the Super Bowl – played in 1967 in Los Angeles. Crisman has been to every Super Bowl since it started and he’ll head to Houston this year to see if his team can beat the Atlanta Falcons and earn its fifth Super Bowl victory. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“I’ve sold a few things,” he said of the memorabilia. “I have too much stuff.”

None of his collection will replace his memories.

He misses his friends who have died, including Whitaker and Robert Cook of Wisconsin. Cook became ill shortly before Super Bowl XLV in Dallas and couldn’t attend. He died four days after the game. Crisman choked up and became teary-eyed when he recalled Cook’s daughters sitting in his seats, holding a likeness of their dad’s face during the game.

“That’s one of the more moving moments I’ve been at,” Crisman said. “It was a very emotional situation.”

He’s seen history made every year, including Joe Namath’s guaranteed victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III – the biggest victory in his opinion, legitimizing the AFL – and each of the Patriots white-knuckle wins – his most gratifying games.

Beverley Crisman isn’t traveling with him to the game this year. While she’s often accompanied him on the trips, she hasn’t always gone to the games, instead spending time with the many friends she’s made over the years.

“I like to people-watch,” she said, and remembers fondly the time she was sitting on a bench at the Patriots’ team hotel when Tom Brady sat next her, opened a styrofoam box and ate his lunch.

Fewer of those friends are attending the game lately, so she will remain behind. But she will never ask her husband to stop his streak.

“He loves sports,” she said. “And … I like to hear him when he gets all excited and talks about it.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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