This man gatecrashed the Super Bowl 35 times in different disguises

Feb | 42 sharesEmma Brazell

Admit it, you've always wanted to sneak into the Super Bowl. Sure, watching it on TV at home with the family is all very good and well, but imagine the thrill you'd get from knowing you were attending the biggest American sporting event of the year, and you weren't really supposed to be there.

One man who doesn't have to imagine any of this is Dion Rich. Rich is an 87-year-old man who has gatecrashed the Super Bowl 35 times - and got in every single time. The retired San Diego nightclub owner - who has masqueraded as a security guard, an NFL official, a waiter, a disabled person in a wheelchair and a woman - has made a sport of sneaking into the annual championship game of the National Football League.

And if we're keeping score, he's certainly won himself the accolade of Greatest Gatecrasher of All Time, becoming Public Enemy No.1 for the NFL. Not to mention, he has allegedly managed to sidle his way into the World Series games, America’s Cup races, the Kentucky Derby, the Olympics and the Academy Awards.

Dion Rich Credit: Clairemont Times

Rich's incredible exploits all started back in the 1960s when the Chargers had just moved south from Los Angeles to San Diego. Back then, the 30-something was a jack 0f all trades, working as a ticket broker and professional schmoozer, among other things. However, it was his ownership of a number of bars around the area that thrust him into the American football game.

His bar quickly became the main place to go for the Chargers and any opposing teams that happened to venture out to San Diego, and it was hanging out with players on a regular basis that gave Rich the edge over any other budding Super Bowl infiltrators. The young man had never foreseen himself to be a famous gatecrasher, but fate had other plans for him; it was when he coincidentally spotted the perfect opportunity to gatecrash that he decided to take it.

"I got to know a lot of the Kansas City players real well," Rich, who has also gatecrashed parties at the Playboy Mansion and hung out with presidents and celebrities, told Rolling Stone for a 2015 feature. "So when they made the first World Championship Game and I found out where they were staying in L.A., I got up early, found where the buses were going to park and got there just ahead of them. When they got off the bus, I brought a jacket a Chiefs player had already given me and walked off the bus with them and into the locker room."

However, things were about to become even crazier that day: not only did Rich sneak in the Super Bowl, he also managed to crash the championship cup handover. Rozelle, the NFL's commissioner, was on a small podium in front of TV cameras, waiting to award the championship trophy to Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr, when Starr stepped off the stage for an interview.

Rich's golden opportunity had arrived. He stepped right up behind Lombardi and just like that, he had become who he was always meant to be: a legendary trespasser. It was on that day that he decided to crash every single future Super Bowl.

As time went on, the annual championship game became bigger and bigger and, as a result, harder and harder to get into undetected. It was then that Rich had to take his infiltration to the next level and began donning disguises to get past security, including wigs, glasses, fake moustaches and beards. In addition, he reportedly collected old press passes from previous events and casually flashed them at guards in order to stroll past.

At this point, Rich had become well-known among those involved with the Super Bowl, with the league noticing that his face always happened to pop up at the most prestigious moments; more often than not, during the trophy presentation. But he was about to seal his notoriety with one photo at Super Bowl XII. Things were about to get difficult for the ingenious intruder.

The league had put out a warning about Rich, but he managed to sneak past thanks to a ride on the Denver Broncos' team bus. As the minutes ticked by and the Cowboys' victory became more and more certain, Rich edged towards coach Tom Landry, grabbing his leg in the final seconds of the game. Hoisting him up in the air, Rich and Cowboys' defensive lineman Larry Cole, made the front page the next day, with Landry on their shoulders. Any anonymity the gatecrasher had remaining was gone, and the NFL was out for his blood.

Wanted poster for Dion Rich Credit: NFL/Dion Rich

Relying on the fact that Rich would enjoy chatting about his extraordinary gatecrashes, the league decided to hire a team of private investigators to use his notoriety against him. In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXIII in Miami, someone posing under the name of "John Kincaid" contacted Rich, stating that he wanted to run a story on his adventures and Rich happily agreed.

Foolishly, during the interview, Rich revealed, if not all, most of his secrets to crashing the Super Bowl; including the hitches in security he looked out for and how he then used this to his advantage. Not to mention, the league finally knew exactly what the mastermind manipulator looked like.

On the day of Super Bowl XXIII, Rich snuck in, like usual, but this time was pulled into a room by security. It was game over. He was read the riot act and told that he could avoid jail time if he promised never to break into the Super Bowl again. "I had run out of disguises," said Rich, who was allegedly costing the league thousands of dollars each year in security after gatecrashing 35 times.

Dion Rich at the Super Bowl Credit: Dion Rich

These days, Rich is 87 years old, and although he hasn't gatecrashed the Super Bowl in years, his reputation precedes him. Still residing in San Diego, it's reportedly difficult to walk into a room and not find someone he knows. Described by his assistant, Mariana Aguilar as "a truly amazing person to be around", Rich now uses his fame to work with charities, supporting San Diego's underprivileged children.

However, even in his 80s, he still sometimes uses his professional schmoozing abilities to his advantage, reportedly sneaking into an exclusive Rolling Stone magazine party connected to Super Bowl XLIX in 2014.

But no matter how many years pass, Rich's reputation as the Godfather of Gatecrashing will live on. “It’s not a game for me, it’s a way of life,” says the 87-year-old. I think everyone will agree that he surely deserves a lifetime pass to the Super Bowl by now, right?