These decidedly un-hip gentlemen of a certain age were seen the other day strolling and reminiscing amongst the young and the chic on Ocean Drive in South Beach, which has changed a lot since they were first here for Super Bowls II and III.
I met Don, Stan and Larry and learned of their monk-like devotion to the Super Bowl. They have attended every Super Bowl since 1967.
"We've driven to 37 Super Bowls," Stan said. "I'm a big football fan. Probably an understatement."
These three have been to every Super Bowl. Don and Stan went together to the first one, back when 1/3 of the seats were empty.
"The price of the first tickets were $12 sideline and $8 end zone," Don said. "I said, 'You know Stanley, this can turn into the World Series of football. We oughta say 'We went to the first one.' I couldn't have guessed what it would turn into — has turned into."
Super Bowls were a bit different then.
"It's changed dramatically. You didn't see limos, and after the games you'd find the players in local bars," Stan said.
Together they have enough memorabilia to hire a full-time curator.
"This is the hat I wore at Super Bowl I. If you see this photo here, I was age 29 then, I'm age 70 now, it's a little yellow," Don said while he showed off some old photos. "This is Stan and I with the Jets version and the Colts version, I also notice — which I find outrageous — I wore a necktie."
There are two other fans in this exclusive never-missed-a-Super Bowl club: Tom and the newest member, Bob. They have to be careful; a lot of pretenders try to join their ranks
"We had another guy, I asked him about Super Bowl VIII in Houston, 'What did you think of the Super Bowl in Houston?' And he said, 'The Astrodome was great,' and I said, 'The game wasn't played in the Astrodome,'" Stan said.
By Super Bowl XXXIII just getting tickets was a big problem. That's when the NFL stepped in and put aside five tickets for them to buy. Still it hasn't been easy keeping their streak going and staying in the club. Larry suffered a near-miss when he was arrested on game day in an altercation with a New Orleans traffic cop.
"I had to wait in stadium traffic for a police car to pick me up, book me, bail myself out for $50, and take a taxi back to the stadium," Larry said. "I got into the stadium before the game started. Close call!"
Larry said the only thing that could keep him from the Super Bowl was if he were dead.
"If I were implanted in a grave I would not come," he said.
"I tell the kids, 'If I live to a hundred I'll see fifty six Super Bowls,'" Stan said.
"No way I'm quitting now. I said, 'Maybe I'll shoot for fifty,'" Don said. "I don't know if I'll make it."
First they were fans — now they're fast friends.
"Seeing Stan and Eunice it's almost like we'd seen them the week before," Don said. "Our friendship has run deep and it's like the year goes by very fast. And so it's been a joy, it really has been a joy."
When Don convinced Stan to go with him to that first one back in '67, he had a feeling the Super Bowl might turn into something. And so it has.