Jaywalking: Travel Kuz on the job at Super Bowl LII

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Patriots’ defense never showed up at Super Bowl LII nine days ago. Perhaps it should have hopped on the Travel Kuz bus driven by Jim Browning or one of the other three local drivers to make sure it arrived.

F.M. Kuzmeskus sent four of its Travel Kuz buses to Minneapolis, Minn., to provide transportation for the families and special guests of the players playing in the Super Bowl. Browning was one of the lucky drivers selected to make the 2,800-mile round trip that spanned more than a week and while he was there he got to take in the sights and sounds associated with the big game.

It wasn’t the first time the company had provided buses for large sporting events. In 2010, it sent several buses to Vancouver, British Columbia for the Winter Olympics, and in 2007, the company also provided buses to the Super Bowl held in Miami.

Browning is originally from Millers Falls, but now lives in Turners. He has been driving for 20 years but has spent the past 18 months at F.M. Kuzmeskus after returning to the area from living and driving in Chicago and New York.

Travel Kuz was contracted by Game Day Coordinators to serve as one of the transportation providers for the Super Bowl. The fleet of buses left early on the Tuesday before the Super Bowl for the drive, which was scheduled to take roughly 20 hours, and spanned 2½ days, arriving on Thursday.

The fun began on Friday when the buses went to the airport to pick up some of the families. Browning said his bus had families of Eagles’ players that day and those families were taken to a different hotel than the ones the players were staying at.

That was the only item on the agenda for the drivers that day, since Game Day had plenty of buses on hand for the Super Bowl, the list was not overwhelming for the drivers. They were, however, told to stay close in case of any problems with other buses. Browning said that the free time allowed him to wander over to the Mall of America, where Radio Row had been set up among other things.

“It was interesting because the Mall of America was all decked out for the Super Bowl,” Browning said.

On Saturday, the buses transported the families to the stadium to get pictures with the players. Browning had families of the Patriots’ players, but he said he didn’t recognize anyone specifically when they were getting on the bus. He did, however, remember one family sitting directly behind him, and he was describing them to his wife.

“I was telling her about these cute kids who were right behind my seat,” he said.

He spotted those kids again when he saw a photo posted on social media by Tom Brady of the family photo taken that day. Unbeknownst to Browning at the time, those “cute” kids were none other than the star quarterback’s. I was surprised that Browning had not noticed the kids were with their mother, Brady’s supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen, who I figured might stand out.

“The kids were with Brady’s sister and his mom and dad. Gisele was not on the bus,” Browning said. “His kids were sitting right behind me.”

The buses arrived at the hotels around noon on Super Bowl Sunday and Browning said it was interesting because the Patriots families were on one side of the street, Eagles families on the other. F.M. Kuzmeskus took families of the Patriot players to the stadium and dropped them off. They parked the buses there, and had hours to kill.

Browning said that during his time off he and the other drivers walked around the outside of the stadium and took in the sites. Browning said there was nothing too exciting during that time, although they did stumble upon a Black Lives Matter protest that was taking place.

The drivers had to be back at their buses for the third quarter and after the game the families piled back on for the trip back to the hotel.

“I was very impressed with the city of Minnesota,” Browning said. “It was pretty interesting to see just how well they were prepared to host it.”

On Monday, the drivers set out for the long bus ride home, which included them getting slowed by the snow storm that came through midweek last.

Browning said the entire experience was memorable and if asked to do it again next year, he would jump at the opportunity. It doesn’t hurt that next year’s game is in the city of Atlanta.

“It would be a lot warmer next year,” he joked.

Let me set the record straight … I was kind of rooting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Anyone who read this space last week may have seen the piece put together by co-worker Jeff Lajoie in my absence as I lay in bed battling a stomach bug that had me throwing up more than legendary coach Billy Belicheck’s secondary only mere hours earlier.

Much of what Lajoie wrote was mere drivel, meant to incite Patriot fans who were dumbfounded after losing to a backup quarterback who they had written off in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. If social media was any indication, Philadelphia should not have even shown up in Minnesota, but simply accepted its second-place trophy at a later date.

But I was not rooting for the Eagles. Any self-respecting Giants’ fan would never lower him or herself to rooting for the team from the city of Brotherly Love. There is a false narrative in these parts that Giants fans don’t like Patriots’ fans. It’s not true. I loved seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I knew if the Giants crossed paths with the Patsy’s in the Super Bowl, I could chalk up another trip to New York to watch a parade.

Jeff made some good points, such as the fact that Giants’ fans still hold on to those two Super Bowl wins tighter than a Patriot fan holds onto hope they might someday drink a beer with Rob Gronkowski. The dude is famous for partying and getting injured, and he loses every time he plays in the Super Bowl. Get over him. I’d rather have a beer with Odell on Bieber’s boat. Just saying.

Still, no way I was rooting for Philly. Prior to winning the first Super Bowl in team history, Philadelphia was best known for a broken bell, having one of the most famous historical figures who was never president (I’m looking at you Ben Franklin), and being the place a young Will Smith fled from to go live with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air.

So just like all of you Patsy fans, I was rooting for Tom Terrific to work his magic in the final minutes of the Super Bowl. He had already thrown for a record amount of yardage (granted it was because Josh McDaniels forgets you are allowed to run the ball as well), and seemed a lock to lead his team to the end zone. But alas, unlike the great Eli Manning from 10 years prior, Tommy was unable to avoid a pass rush when it counted, and the rest is history.

And then, as predicted, Philadelphia torched its own city. Maybe they were just trying to clean it up a little prior to the parade?

I’m off to take another piece of advice from Lajoie and go place a few dollars on Big Blue to win it all next season. Until then, football’s in the rearview.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.