PORTLAND, Maine — Donald Crisman has more than a half-century of Super Bowl memories behind him, from taking a 24-hour train ride to Super Bowl II to seeing his beloved New England Patriots win in overtime last year. But he says Sunday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Patriots just might be his final big game.
The 81-year-old resident of Kennebunk, Maine, a member of the ever-shrinking “Never Miss a Super Bowl Club,” has been to every season finale since the game’s inception in 1967. He has bought his own ticket every year except one.
Crisman was featured in a 2010 Visa commercial along with three friends who also had attended every Super Bowl. He is attending this year’s game with a heavy heart because one of the friends, Larry Jacobson, of San Francisco, died last fall. Crisman said attending the game without Larry would be different, and he might not have gone this year if it did not carry the chance of another Patriots win.
He shared some of his favorite memories with The Associated Press.
Last time in Minneapolis
Crisman prefers the warmer venues for the Super Bowl. But he has fond memories of the last Super Bowl in Minneapolis — in 1992 at the now-gone Metrodome.
He has a hat from the game bearing the Super Bowl XXVI logo that was signed by Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, quarterback Mark Rypien and wide receiver Gary Clark. He is bringing it with him to this year’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium to “show and tell it.”
The Super Bowl that almost wasn’t
Crisman’s trip to the second Super Bowl in 1968 was an odyssey. He had made arrangements to take a private plane to the game in Miami but an ice storm made it impossible to fly.
Crisman was undaunted and managed to find a train trip that took a full 24 hours to get to Miami. “I can’t believe how many times that train stopped,” he said. “It was agonizing to say the least.”
The Miami area, which is slated to set a record by hosting its 11th Super Bowl in 2020, is Crisman’s favorite place to see the game. He also is a fan of San Diego, which has hosted three times.
Crisman is “not a fan of these winter bowls,” which happen occasionally at indoor stadiums in Indianapolis, Detroit and Minneapolis. But when asked about his worst experience at a Super Bowl venue, he cannot think of one.
The Rhode Island native has been a Patriots fan since the team’s inception in 1960, so his favorite Super Bowl play of all time is fittingly James White’s overtime, game-winning touchdown last year. But previous to that, he was the subject of endless teasing because his favorite plays were a pair of field goals.
Specifically, they were the field goals that won Super Bowls for the Patriots in 2002 and 2004.
“I’ve been laughed at and kind of ridiculed. ‘You can’t have a field goal be your favorite play’,” he said. “Well, I do.”
Will he keep going?
Crisman’s crew at the Super Bowl was long made up of himself, Jacobson and two other friends, Pittsburgh Steelers fan Tom Henschel and Green Bay Packers fan Bob Cook, who also had attended every game. But the group has dwindled down to just himself and Henschel this year, as Cook died in 2011. He also is welcoming Jacobson’s daughter Heather this year, and expects to shed a few tears when she sits in what would have been her dad’s seat.
His son, Don Jr., called his dad “the most consistent force in football.” He said it will be different when his father no longer goes to the big game. But the elder Crisman said that day might be coming soon.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said. “But this year, I’m taking the Patriots.”