A 52-Year Super Bowl Bond
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A 52-Year Super Bowl Bond

The Super Bowl Five, as they are known – despite the death of their president last year – are four friends who have attended at every Super Bowl for 52 years and counting.

The Super Bowl Five, from left: Lew "Chicago Lew" Rappaport, Al "Prez" Schragis, Harvey "Prof" Rothenberg, Sylvan "The Fog" Schefler, Larry "Larry Mac" McDonald.
The Super Bowl Five, from left: Lew "Chicago Lew" Rappaport, Al "Prez" Schragis, Harvey "Prof" Rothenberg, Sylvan "The Fog" Schefler, Larry "Larry Mac" McDonald.

Not many brothers in arms have such a loyal commitment to the Big Game and their friendship to meet at the Super Bowl every year for 52 and counting. The Super Bowl Five, as they are known – despite the death of their president last year – are four Jews from New York and a non-Jew from Atlanta.

“We tried for years to convert Larry McDonald, but it didn’t work,” joked Lew Rappaport, 81, of Westchester, N.Y. “The Jewish feeling was always there, especially when Al [Schragis] was alive.” McDonald understood that bond, Rappaport said.

Religion is basically a non-issue otherwise, the men say.

“They always treated me like a brother, for 57 years,” said McDonald, who is originally from College Park and now lives near Lake Oconee, southeast of Atlanta. “I’m a Christian, but we are very compatible.”

Members of the Super Bowl Five say religion doesn’t really come up. It’s all about the comaraderie and the football. They share a bond that has withstood the test of time. All veterans in their 80s, they are relatively healthy and most still work.

The Super Bowl Five have a website and made jackets, a ring, watch, cufflinks and a belt with their logo inside the shape of a football. They’ve been interviewed by national media. And in addition to the NFL sending them tickets every year – they pay face value – they were honored at Super Bowl 50 with first-class tickets to Santa Clara, Calif., with a limousine service and a hostess to prepare their meals. The men agree the attention is a big ego boost.

“It’s an excitement we never thought would go this far,” said Harvey Rothenberg, the oldest member now at 85. The retired real estate developer is originally from Brooklyn, but presently lives in Boca Raton, Fla. “The camaraderie is more important than the game itself.”

With the loss of Schragis on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl, the Super Bowl Five reunion this year will include a toast and prayer for their departed friend.

Schragis was the oldest member and helped the group get off the ground in the mid-1960s after they met through mutual business connections and bonded over golf and sports.

“I owned a golf course in Florida I sold to Harvey Rothenberg,” McDonald recalled, “and we were talking sports the whole time we were negotiating.” The Schragis family built and owned the Doral Country Club in Miami—where NFL officials golfed—now owned by President Donald Trump. And so, the handful of new friends met at the golf club first before agreeing to attend their first Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 1967. At that time, tickets topped out at $12. The cheapest tickets for Sunday’s game are $3,500.

They all have nicknames: Schragis was “The Prez.” McDonald is “Larry Mac;” Rothenberg is “The Prof,” as he taught night classes at New York University; Rappaport is “Chicago Lew,” based on an interesting encounter he had in Chicago; and Schefler is “The Fog” because he once emerged jogging through golf course fog.

Over the past half-century, this group has traveled around the country for Super Bowls.

Of all the cities they’ve visited, New Orleans is a group favorite.

A few of them support the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which they visited when in the city.

Rothenberg recalled having dinner with Eli Manning before one of the New Orleans Super Bowls when Manning was still in school. “He was already famous for his age as a young football player.” Later, he’d become quarterback for the Super Bowl Five’s beloved New York Giants.

Rappaport, an interior builder, remembered being in New Orleans for the 1986 Super Bowl when the Chicago Bears played the Patriots. The night before the game, Jim McMahon and the other Bears marched down Main Street, drinking and enjoying classic Big Easy festivities. “We wondered how they would play the next day, … and they won.”

They are looking forward to experiencing Atlanta this weekend. McDonald is not the only one with ties to the city. 

Sylvan Schefler, an 80-year-old investment banker in Manhattan, had an office in Buckhead many years ago. “It was a little different in 1974. I’m looking forward to seeing the place, the growth. It’s a marvelous growth story.”

As far as the group’s game plan for the weekend, McDonald suggested Bones for dinner in Buckhead Friday night and the group is taking a tour of the Georgia Aquarium with fellow World War II Museum donor Michael Morris, who is also AJT publisher.

As vets, the men feel a sense of pride every time the national anthem and America the Beautiful is sung, Rappaport said. “It makes me feel proud as an American and a Jew.” He explained the Jewish pride aspect. “Historically, with the anti-Semitism that took place in this country, as Jews to be part of the Super Bowl is a good thing.”

Asked about players kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events, Schefler said, “It’s a personal thing. Too much is made out of it. Would I take a knee? No. … I think it’s their right, but that doesn’t mean I agree.”

The men don’t always concur on who they support among the teams. Some of the guys have connections to Boston, Schefler said about this year’s matchup. If others take a different side, it’s a friendly rivalry and discussion, although the men always bet among themselves. “What everyone does with football.”

Their friendship doesn’t end with the game, either. In between Super Bowls, McDonald says he visits Rothenberg when he’s in Florida with his construction business and he visits the other guys in New York when he’s there, and vice versa. They once stayed at his country club home when the Super Bowl was in Atlanta, but this time they are staying at a downtown hotel.

The Super Bowl Five understand they are getting up in years, but they are hopeful of reuniting many more times. “We are just happy to be together,” Schefler said. “There is a certain recognition that comes with time. That hit home with us when we lost Al.”

For Rappaport, “It’s been a wonderful ride over the last 50-some-odd years. I hope we can keep this thing going many more years, and stay healthy.” 

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