Football fans come in a variety of breeds. There are those who never miss a primetime game on television, others who will follow teams to stadiums around the country…and then there is Larry Jacobson, a member of an ultra-exclusive group of fans: those who’ve attended every single Super Bowl.
Jacobson, 75, is one of three men in the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club (two of the original five members have now passed away), who, in their own right, have become sports celebrities—VISA made a TV commercial about the club back in 2010 as part of a promotion around that year’s game.
A Tradition is Born
Back in the 1960s, Jacobson was a 20-something math teacher in the Bay Area. He followed football, but had never played himself. When the American Football League (AFL) and the National Football League (NFL) decided to merge in 1966, there was news that a celebratory game would happen the following year in Los Angeles.
“I thought it would be like what the World Series is today,” says Jacobson, sitting at his dining room table in Noe Valley. “Things were much different than they are today. Tickets were $12, our flights were $27 each, parking was $5, and our rental car was $8.”
Jacobson and his date got general admission tickets to what was assumed to be an exhibition game (“the AFL was known to be inferior to the NFL”). Even though it wasn’t sold out, news spread about the game and by the following year, it had become more of an event. This time it was set for Miami.
Jacobson traveled to Florida in 1968 for just $300 for four nights and five days with roundtrip airfare. The game, between the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers, was sold out. While he had a great time, he planned not to attend the following year unless the Raiders were in the game.
The Raiders didn’t make it to the Super Bowl in 1969, but Jacobson did, thanks to a friend who'd purchased tickets last minute. It was that game, he says, when things started to get serious.
“That was the game between Baltimore and the New York Jets,” he remembers. “It was a major upset, a 17-point spread, so when the Jets beat Baltimore, it showed that this was no longer an exhibition game. The Super Bowl was now a game that anyone could win."
Ask any of us who’ve been to every Super Bowl, and we will all agree that the greatest game was Super Bowl III.”
Larry Jacobson, Don Crisman, and Tom Henschel at Super Bowl XLIX. (Courtesy of Donald Crisman Sr.)
The Club Is Formed
It wasn’t until 1972, at Super Bowl VI, that Jacobson felt dedicated to making the annual football pilgrimage. Still, he hadn’t met anyone else who’d been to every Super Bowl.
“At Super Bowl XXXIII [in 1999], I was reading through the game program and there was a question about who’d been to every Super Bowl,” he recalls. “I’d always bought my tickets through the NFL, so my name was on there, but there were two other guys on there too—Stan and Don.”
A man named Tom, who’d also been to every Super Bowl (but wasn’t mentioned on the program), contacted Jacobson and the other two men. The following year, the foursome met at Buckhead Diner in Atlanta before the game (this one between St. Louis and Tennessee). Before meeting, Jacobson felt some nerves.
“I was apprehensive at first; I didn’t know these guys,” he says. But after a few minutes, the men started cracking jokes. Before long, they hit it off.
Later, the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club welcomed Bob, another game devotee, into the group. From then on, the group was inseparable, meeting at every subsequent Super Bowl (Stan and Bob have since passed away) and often in between.
“We see each other at non-Super Bowl things,” he says. “Bob, who has passed away, his daughter is getting married in July and we will all be there.”
The Super Bowl Experience
When asked about his favorite Super Bowl memory, Jacobson doesn’t hesitate.
“Super Bowl 23—the Montana to Taylor pass—that was the best,” he says, with a smile on his face. He is referring to January 22, 1989, when Jacobson was sitting close to the field (“probably row four or six”) in Miami, and the Cincinnati Bengals were taking on the San Francisco 49ers. With just 34 seconds left on the clock, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana threw a pass to wide receiver John Taylor for a touchdown to win the game.
What is it like to experience a Super Bowl? Jacobson describes it as a joyful football celebration. NFL Experience, especially, is tons of fun for fans. “They have the winning rings from the last 49 games on display, photos of Hall of Famers, and things for kids to do like football tossing, kicking,and 40-yard runs,” he says.
He recommends fans arrive in the host city the weekend before the game—most people, he says, get to the event's destination on Thursday before the Sunday game. But to avoid the crowds and get a full picture of the city and its football culture, it's best to arrive seven days in advance.
Looking Ahead to Super Bowl 50
Jacobson and his wife have lived in San Francisco, in a home with sweeping views of downtown, for more than 30 years. As he passionately reminiscences, he walks down to his so-called "memorabilia room," a space filled with encased footballs (one signed by Joe Montana), patches protected in shadowboxes, and a rug emblazoned with the 49ers logo.
With the Super Bowl coming to the Bay Area for the first time since 1985 (when it was played at Stanford University), Jacobson is excited.
“It means a lot to have the game coming here,” he says. I think it gives the city a chance to really show off for a 10-day stretch. While people wait for the game to happen, they can explore and have fun. San Francisco shows well, even in the rain.”
No doubt, we’ll see Larry at Levi’s® Stadium on February 7, and before that as an Official Super Bowl 50 Host Committee Volunteer.