SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — How much has the NFL Super Bowl changed since its debut in 1967?
For Greg Eaton — a Lansing, Michigan businessman who attended every game and is one of three surviving members of the legendary Never Miss A Super Bowl Club — it’s most evident in the bells and whistles. that go with it.
“During that first game, college bands were performing as entertainment and that’s how it was for those early years,” Eaton said. “Now you have big name artists performing and so many other things related to that. The NFL has done an incredible job of marketing this.
Indeed, performers for the 57th this year include Rihanna, who is due to perform at Sunday’s halftime show, and Chris Stapleton, who will sing the national anthem. And companies like GM and Stellantis are paying millions to promote their brands during the game.
Eaton, 83, looks forward to Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles as Super Bowl LVII takes place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
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Looking back, Eaton recalls having to stay in separate hotels from her white friends to attend a first Florida Super Bowl in the Jim Crow South. It was another era. And while Eaton has no “skin in the game” on who wins on Sunday, he’s especially proud that both teams will be led by black quarterbacks for the first time in the game’s history — Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Jalen Hurts of the Eagles.
Eaton said he was also delighted to reunite with the legendary club’s two remaining members – Don Crisman, 87, a Maine resident, and Tom Henschel, 82, a Pittsburgh native but living part-time in Florida – for his sit together in the standing room to watch Sunday’s game.
As part of the club’s tradition, Eaton has in recent years created a hat for men and Crisman has made special shirts. This year, Eaton designed a black jacket for each member, with a patch on the pocket with a Super Bowl emblem. It’s reminiscent of the iconic gold jacket given to new inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We have to look a certain way,” Eaton said of the distinctive clothing.
Eaton is the only member of the group to have been invited into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suite during a Super Bowl game. The invite came because of a ticketing issue: Eaton hadn’t been able to buy a ticket for the game in 2019 and it looked like his all-go streak was about to end. Two men came to his rescue – soon-to-be Chicago Bears president Kevin Warren and his good friend (and, for the record, my significant other) Jim Stapleton, who also has NFL ties. The men intervened and arranged for Eaton to purchase a ticket. Goodell caught wind of the snafu and invited Eaton to visit him in his suite during halftime.
Hoping the 57th Super Bowl won’t be the last
Eaton has always been a pioneer and leader, especially in the Lansing and Detroit communities. So it should come as no surprise that he is now planning to help his fellow club members – who are struggling to afford the game and fear this Sunday’s game will be their last together.
Super Bowl weeks don’t come cheap and have only gotten more expensive. Eaton’s can handle the week’s rising costs. But that’s not the case with Crisman and Henschel, both retired. They can each buy NFL tickets at face value — $3,500 each. Then there are airfares, hotels, and of course, food. Additionally, Crisman has had health issues and is in a wheelchair.
Eaton wants to make sure they’re with him at Super Bowl 58, which will be in Las Vegas in 2024, so he’s forming an LLC (with Stapleton’s backing) to raise money to cover their travel expenses. .
Richard Gibson, a photographer who has captured Miami Dolphins footage and attended 37 Super Bowls, signed up with the Never Miss A Super Bowl Club years ago and will also be in attendance. They became friends and he started taking their pictures every year.
Gibson also hosts an annual event so the media can interview the band and hear their amazing Super Bowl memories.
Stock anything for 57 years is impressive, not to mention something as special as this. Here’s hoping the health and resources will allow members of this special club to reunite in Las Vegas next year for SBLVIII – and beyond.
Contact Carol Cain: 248-355-7126 or email@example.com. She’s the lead producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on CBS Detroit. Catch Allegra Baistrocchi, Italian Consulate in Detroit, Franco Bianchi, CEO of Haworth Inc., and Italian designer Roberto Palomba on this Sunday’s show.