When it comes to major moments in sports, it’s a great chance that Gregory Eaton was in the building. Eaton was present when Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) “shook up the world” in 1964 at the Miami Beach Convention Hall and defeated Sonny Liston. He was in Mexico City for the 1968 Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists with Black pride. And since 1967, Eaton has attended every single Super Bowl.
With the 2024 Super Bowl being held in Las Vegas, Eaton, 84, continues to carry on the tradition of witnessing the greatest moments in sports.
“It’s going to be the largest Super Bowl we’ve ever had, in terms of the crowd and people watching on TV,” Eaton said days before the big game.
But even as the Super Bowl stands as a massive event on the field and in terms of economics, Eaton, a native of Lansing, Michigan, recalls a simpler time for the big game when tickets were less than $20 for the first match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
“I was excited because Green Bay won and Herb Adderley who went to Michigan State was good friend of mine,” Eaton said. “He’s the one who invited me. And then the second Super Bowl was in Miami, Florida. And I was there for that one. And then the third one was back in Miami.”
Eaton has also recognized the change in the Super Bowl Halftime Show. This year, Usher will take the stage. But during the first Super Bowl, HBCU’s Grambling State’s marching band was the halftime show. Eaton said the biggest change came after the performance of Michael Jackson in 1993.
“When Michael Jackson stepped on stage, it changed everything,” Eaton said. “The halftime show is now as big as the game. These are multimillionaire stars who aren’t being paid directly, but they just want to be a part of the Super Bowl. It’s become the biggest show in the world.”
But while Eaton has attended every Super Bowl, the ones that stand out feature the progression of Black athletes and coaches. He recalls Doug Williams breaking barriers as the first Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl in 1988. The match-up between the first Black head coaches with Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith in 2007. And last year when two Black quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts) faced-off for the first time.
“Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl and the first to start,” Eaton said. “Now, look at how many Black quarterbacks we have in today’s game.”
In terms of a prediction for this year’s big game between the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, Eaton shared his thoughts on the winner by singing the old blues tune, “I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.”
In 2025, Eaton will be going to the Big Easy to watch the big game as the Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans, his favorite host city.