When I found out I would be interviewing the four members (You’ve probably seen them in a series of Visa commercials) of the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club, I asked readers to submit questions on American Profile’s Facebook fan page or by Twitter. I only had a few minutes with each of the men, but here are their answers to some of your questions, and some of my own that didn’t make it into the story.
Amazing stories of what they’ve given up to go to every game
How much have you spent over the years?
Tom Henschel, who retired from Northwest Airlines, says he’s probably thrown down $100,000 or so.
“It’s funny how the hotels must have four or five days for Super Bowl weekend and jack up the prices for rooms,” he says. “By the time you get a rental car, food and souvenirs, it’s probably $100,000.”
Larry Jacobson, who worked as a schoolteacher and school administrator, estimates that he spends on average $1,500-$2,000 per game. That price includes airfare, ticket, hotel, souvenirs and food.
“Around Super Bowl VII or VIII, my father said ‘buy a color TV and watch the game from home and save your money to buy a house or apartment,’ ” Jacobson says. “Forty-five years later, I can say my father was right.
“It’s a joke in our family,” Jacobson says. “If my wife buys something, I say, ‘How much did that mattress cost? We didn’t need that.’ And she says, ‘How much does the Super Bowl cost?’ Then that’s pretty much the end of it.”
Robert Cook, a retired travel agent, says he “doesn’t want to talk about it” when asked how much he spent attending all 44 games. But his second wife, Sarah, points out that it probably didn’t cost him as much as some people because he worked in the travel industry and got airline passes and discounts.
Don Crisman, who retired as the VP of sales and marketing for Gabriel Electronics, says he doesn’t know how much he’s spent over the years.
“I was fortunate in business that I could schedule something nearby and make it a three-day weekend.” Crisman says he and his wife also made some Super Bowls into family vacations.
“When you live in cold climates, it’s nice to escape somewhere warm,” he says, noting his Maine town received 5 inches of snow on the day of our January interview.
How did they all meet?
The men, who range in age from 69-79, know the stories about how they met, but they were a little foggy on the years. Here’s the best scenario we could put together based on the teams in the Super Bowl and the cities where they met:
Don Crisman says he and his friend Stan Whitaker, who had to drop out of the group due to health reasons in 2009, were standing in line to get to tickets the “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” during Super Bowl week in Pasadena, Calif., in 1987.
The men struck up a conversation with Tom Henschel and realized they had all been to every game. Before their chance meeting, they each had thought they were the only ones to go to every game.
Sometime in the late ’90s, a journalist introduced the trio to Larry Jacobson in a Florida media center. And a few years later, a friend of a friend introduced Robert Cook to the group.
How did the tradition get started?
Crisman says he’s not really sure how the tradition got started.
“I was a big NFC fan, and [my friend Stan Whitaker] had access. Tickets weren’t too hard to come by for the first 10-15 years…After we’d been to 10 or 12, we decided to go as far as we could.”
Henschel says he was just “in the right place at the right time” to get to go to the first four games. “After I’d been to four or five, I decided I’m not going to miss this.”
Jacobson: “After Super Bowl IV, the rest is history.”
Who do you attend the games with?
Crisman: “We took our wives in the early years. Around XVII or XVIII, as the costs got higher, Stan and I went and the wives did something else – went to the mall.”
“This year, thanks to Visa, my two sons are going with me,” Crisman says. “It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time.”
What was your best seat?
Tom Henschel has a special story behind his tickets to Super Bowl XIII in Miami.
“My wife and I had not been married long and she wanted to get a special present for our anniversary,” he says. “She took a picture of the first 12 ticket stubs that I had in a frame and mailed it the NFL. She wrote a note that said ‘Football’s my game, I’ve got 12 in my frame and 13 is my aim.’ ”
The NFL sent her four tickets, but they didn’t know where they were until they got to the game. “They were on the 50-yard line,” he says. “Those were the best seats I’ve had.”
How many games will they attend?
As Super Bowl XLV approaches, 50 seems to be the next milestone.
Jacobson: “Yeah, I have a goal: To go to the Super Bowl until they throw dirt on me. It’s like asking how many years you want to live or how many years you want to be married.”
Henschel: With health problems and whatnot, you never know, but I really want to hit 50. “To celebrate that milestone, I want to be in the circle – to flip the coin for Super Bowl 50. I’ve thought about writing to the NFL and telling them they should do that.”
Cook: “I think 50 will do it.”
Is one stadium better than another?
Jacobson says ‘no.’
“They’re all the same,” he says. “There are good and bad seats but the stadiums are all the same. They’re all concrete with a field that’s 100 yards long with 60,000-70,000 seats.”
“Some are better for watching a game, but the stadiums are the same. Denver, for example. The open end is toward the Rockies so you have a view of the mountains.”
Henschel agrees that it’s not the stadium but the city that makes the difference. He says the fans are too spread out in large cities.
“My favorite city is New Orleans,” he says, adding that the close quarters magnify the celebration. “I think they should all be played in New Orleans. Everyone’s so close. It’s all rah, rah in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.”
Crisman says Reliant Field in Houston, the home of Super Bowl XXXVIII, really was beautiful. He has high expectations for this weekend’s game. “They say Dallas is the Taj Mahal of football,” he says.
What does your family think about your feat?
“My children think it’s kind of neat,” Cook says. “My boys love it. They think I’m a real hero.”
During the off-season, Jacobson (the man who says all stadiums are the same) visits NFL stadiums around the country.
“I’ve been to 19 of the 31 (in-use) stadiums,” he says. “In the next three years, I hope to have been to all 31.”