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Loyalty the key for SDSU lifer

Tom Ables is the kind of guy who still holds a door open for his lady, who
believes in an honest day's work and that a child's value system should be
taught at home.

"I'm an old-fashioned guy," says Ables. "Things like tradition and
loyalty are big with me."

You have no idea how much.

San Diego State's football team has been to two bowls since 1991 and has
managed one winning season the last seven years. The program that brought
college football Don Coryell's innovative mind and Marshall Faulk's dazzling
moves hasn't been much of a factor on any level for some time now.

But mediocrity on the field hasn't stopped Ables from attending games.

Attending for, well, nearly forever.

Ables has missed just two games in 58 years and his overall count stands at 620
following the team's 24-3 season-ending victory against Air Force on
Saturday. There isn't a program in America who doesn't offer thanks this
week for such ardent support.

"Tom is more than just a fan," said SDSU assistant athletic director
Kevin Klintworth. "He's a resource for myself and a lot of others in the
athletic department. He volunteers his time and resources in several
different areas.

"He has found positives in every team and every game we've had for nearly
60 years."

Ables is definitely a lifer. He was born in San Diego and enrolled at SDSU
in the fall of 1946. That is where he met wife Nancy, who has witnessed more
than 400 Aztecs games. While attending school, Ables served as Sports
Information Director and also sports editor of the campus newspaper.

"It is my school," he says. "People might question my sanity, but it's
what loyalty is all about."

It is certainly a unique trait in San Diego, a person with such an immense
enthusiasm for a local college team. SDSU, despite a more successful history
than many nationally might realize, is hardly the top priority in a town of
beaches and zoos.

The Aztecs play in 71,500-seat Qualcomm Stadium, but haven't averaged more
than 30,000 in nine years. This season, the average was 22,625.

"I know a lot of people just see the bad of it (with losing)," said
Ables. "But I see the good of everything that goes into a college program,
all the people that make it happen ... It is a legitimate excuse that people
have other things to do here. That's just the way it is."


It is not the way for Ables, who in 1993 became the only non-athlete and
non-coach inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. The two games he has
missed since the '46 season: A Pineapple Bowl against Hawaii on New Year's
Day in 1952 because he couldn't afford the trip; and the third game of the
'64 season at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, when a doctor said he was too sick
to travel.

"It has been this way for a long time," says Nancy, wife to Super Fan for
55 years. "It suits me and it obviously suits him. He will never stop
going. He loves it too much."

He sits, without reservation, among select company both past and present. A
few Alabama fans -- Dick Coffee and Tony Brandino -- have seen over 600 and
500 games, respectively.

The longest recognized streak (home and away) is 797 USC games by Giles
Pellerin, who died at age 91 during the 1998 game against UCLA at the Rose
Bowl.

"What could be better than that?" said Ables, 77. "I don't feel nor
think I act my age. I have always figured that if I don't go to every game,
I might miss something great. People asked me earlier this season, 'Why in
the world would you go back to Ohio State? Your team is going to killed.'

"And look what happens -- we almost beat them. I have always used the word
privileged when speaking about the opportunity I have to attend so many
games."

SDSU has its own word for him: Thankful.

Ed Graney covers college football for the San Diego Union-Tribune.