The three remaining members of the “Never-Missed-a-Super-Bowl” club are, left to right, Gregory Eaton of Lansing, Mich., Tom Henschel of Pittsburgh and Don Crisman of Kennebunk. They are shown last year at Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens, Fla. Richard Gibson photo

Kennebunk’s Don Crisman has never missed a Super Bowl, one of three fans who can make the claim they’ve been to all 54.

But with less than a month to game time, he’s still not sure he’ll be in Tampa, Florida, for Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7.

Crisman, 84, is waiting to hear from the NFL whether it will be able to provide two tickets to him and the other two super fans, Tom Henschel of Pittsburgh and Gregory Eaton of Michigan.

“I’m sitting tight and hoping the NFL will come through again,” Crisman said Thursday.

Since 1999, the NFL has set aside two tickets at face value for the super fans. For Super Bowl 50 five years ago, the NFL covered all their expenses, including airfare and lodging.

But Crisman said on New Year’s Day he received an email from an NFL official saying the league was not going to be able to accommodate them with tickets this year.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, NFL teams have limited the number of fans allowed to attend each game, with many teams, like the New England Patriots, not allowing any fans at all. This year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, featuring former Patriots Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, averaged 14,483 fans – third in the league – at 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium, where Super Bowl LV will be held.

NFL officials have yet to determine how many fans will be allowed into the stadium for the Super Bowl, still working with Florida public health officials to come up with a figure. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a December press conference that “we’re going to try to bring as many fans as we can safely do into Roland James Stadium.”

Don Crisman of Kennebunk has been accompanied by his daughter, Sue Metevier, to the past four Super Bowls. She’ll be with him again at Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Feb. 7 if the NFL supplies them with tickets that Crisman can purchase for face value. 2020 file photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Crisman seemed OK with not going and canceled his hotel rooms. His daughter, Sue Metevier, who has accompanied him to the last four Super Bowls and six overall, kept their plane tickets, however.

“I figured (the streak) was over,” he said after getting the email. “I figured I’d watch it on TV.”

Three days later, he said he received a call from a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who requested a copy of the email from the NFL.

“Two hours later, I got a call from the NFL,” said Crisman. “They said, ‘Sit tight, there’s a 50-50 chance we can work something out.’”

On Thursday morning, Crisman again reached out to the NFL and was told “things are looking good” and that he would know within a couple of days whether tickets would be provided.

“And that’s where I’m at now,” said Crisman. “You know, I wasn’t upset at first. I think it upset my family more. Now we’ll see what happens.”

Henschel and Gregory, who both have winter homes in Florida, told Crisman that they plan on being in Tampa for the Super Bowl and will try to buy tickets from scalpers if needed to keep their streaks going.

But, said Crisman, “I’ve told the NFL and everyone, I’m not leaving town unless I have a ticket. These are crazy times.”

“This is an interesting turn of events and we’ll see what happens,” said Metevier, who works at Southern Maine Health Care and has received her two COVID-19 vaccine  shots. “If everything works out and it’s safe to go, we’ll make a plan and we will go.”

Metevier, 53, manages her father’s schedule when they arrive at the Super Bowl, getting him to interviews, planning meals and making sure he’s safe. The pandemic, she said, adds a layer of concern to the game.

“If we go, I will take every single precaution I can, and then some,” she said. “I’ll get him there as best I can and as safe as I can.”

She realizes that going to Tampa means a lot to her father.

“He wants to see his friends, that’s become the most important part to him,” said Metevier. “The football is part of it, of course, but seeing his friends is important.”

Crisman is hoping to watch Brady play in another Super Bowl. He’d like to see the Cleveland Browns there as well. But, he said, he expects a Green Bay-Kansas City Super Bowl – a rematch of Super Bowl I.

Crisman attended that first championship game on a whim in 1967. He and his wife, Beverley – who has attended 28 Super Bowls – were living in Denver and a friend, the late Stan Whitaker, got four free tickets to the game in Los Angeles and convinced the Crismans to go with him and his wife.

There have been a couple of close calls for Crisman when he almost couldn’t find tickets or get to the game. But with the help of the NFL, the streak has continued.

“I guess I wanted to go to one more,” said Crisman. “But it wasn’t a big thing to me. I mean, I’ve been blessed. There aren’t many people on the planet who have been able to do what I’ve done.”


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