Chicago, where many of the trip's pranks went down, was the group's favorite location
Outtakes: Behind the Scenes with Brooks' Bunch
Some of the most memorable, entertaining and even educational (in a way) moments of the recent Brooks' Bunch 2003 and Beyond trip were not originally on the agenda
'Brooks' Bunch 2003 and Beyond,' the annual educational field trip hosted by Buccaneers Pro Bowl Linebacker Derrick Brooks, concluded last week and was memorable for many reasons, including visits to NFL Headquarters, the Empire State Building, VIBE Magazine, Loyola University, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and Florida State University. While the 29 students and phalanx of chaperones will undoubtedly remember those planned visits fondly, not all of the fun and excitement on a 11-day, cross-country adventure goes according to an agenda. That was certainly true for Brooks' Bunch 2003 and Beyond.
Buccaneers.com carried a daily wrap-up of the journey, but not all of the travelers' most memorable moments made it into print the first time around. They will now, however, as the following interludes deserve a special place in the Brooks' Bunch history books.
Truth be told, the three days' worth of New York City adventures were highlighted by some less than exceptional tour guides. While the guides aboard the New York Waterway harbor tour, the first 'historians' the group ran into, were quite good, it appeared a strict knowledge of the famous city never made it onto land.
To whit: Following their harbor tour, the Brooks' Bunch boarded a bus for a guided look at the financial district of New York City. Some of the shared history might have been thought-provoking, but unfortunately it emanated from a guide whose monotonic delivery rivaled that of Ben Stein's classic teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (remember "Bueller, Bueller?"). Safe to say, the tour lacked some of the excitement the tourists had expected from a native New Yorker. Perhaps that was the problem; the tour guide, who hailed from Toronto, actually responded to one question with: "Well, I'm not an American, so I really don't know the answer to that question."
No such problem on the next tour, as the guide this time was a native New Yorker. On the group's final day in New York, it took a bus tour of the Harlem area, passing through Rucker Park. During this portion of the trip the guide felt compelled to use the words 'Rucker Park' every three to four seconds, bellowing them with such emphasis that the windows on the bus shook. After passing the now-unforgettable Rucker Park, the guide promptly got the bus just a bit lost. The driver, quick with the pedal, turned the bus around in front a major New York City highway exit by pulling into a 7-11 parking lot and backing up into the street, with a number of irritated drivers waiting to pass.
The guide was obviously also quite found of his family. As the tour proceeded through Harlem, the group ran into the guide's brother twice, at lunch and shortly thereafter on the road. At the second meeting, the tour abruptly halted so that the guide and his brother could discuss their plans for the evening. Fun for everyone.
Another gem of a moment in New York City occurred during the Bunch's visit to the Julliard School for the Arts. At the end of the tour, the visiting students were treated to a Jazz ensemble concert by three Julliard students and encouraged to ask questions of the musicians following the performance. The Q&A developed nicely for about 10 minutes until one of the visiting students asked about Julliard's tuition costs. At precisely that moment, the piano player's cell phone rang. Deadpan, the Julliard student said, "See, your not supposed to ask about tuition."
The off-the-cuff hijinks continued in Chicago. Beginning fittingly enough with dinner at Ed Debevic's, where the waiters and waitresses dance on the counters, Chicago was home to the most memorable of the trip's pranks.
The first full day in Chicago began with a visit to the Harpo Studios, home of the Oprah Winfrey Show. At the door to enter the famous studio each student and chaperone was supplied with a nametag, and on departure almost everyone still had a nametag on. That's where the fun began. Hillsborough County Detective Henry Duran, one of the trip's security detail, decided to play a joke on Buccaneers Director of Security and the trip's head security officer, Andres Trescastro. Trescastro may have been a little too concerned about the others on the trip, because he let his personal guard down and paid for it.
The bus began to board to head to the Wrigley Field, the next stop, and Duran began to accumulate nametags. With several in hand, Duran, displaying his well-hidden evil genius, began to place the stickers strategically on the back of Trescastro. Possessing a back full of stickers, Trescastro was summoned to the middle of the bus by Duran, who wanted everyone to witness his handy work. Unaware of his new ornaments, Trescastro walked up and down the aisle to the delight of Duran and the rest of the travelers. It was a memorable moment that continued for nearly the entire trip to Wrigley, even after Trescastro noticed that Duran was touching his back a suspiciously high number of times.
The Windy City will also be remembered as the favored destination of Brooks' Bunch and Beyond 2003, even though the group was only there for two full days. The signs were everywhere. In New York, Brooks' Bunch attended Chicago the Musical and in Atlanta they visited Morton's of Chicago, a local steakhouse.
Atlanta will be best remembered for the evening during which the Brooks' Bunch students presented Derrick with a plaque reading:
Thank you for your leadership and generosity. You set the path for us, so now we can follow. We will always appreciate and cherish the memories of this trip.
The plaque also contained a quote that Brooks often utters to his students and group leaders.
"If you want a child to take the right path, you must lead them yourself."
The visit to Tallahassee had two memorable moments, both due in large part to the male ego.
The first took place at the FSU reservation when James Jolly and Mario Lawrence, failing to heed the advice of their female lifeguard and canoe boarding instructor, tipped over their craft about two feet from shore. Their bright maneuver was to stand up in the boat. Luckily, the students were hardheaded in more ways then one and they both escaped harm, going on to perfect the canoe boarding technique just moments later.
The second memorable moment in Tallahassee took only few men to accomplish, but the entire male Brooks' Bunch contingent and the help of a local to undo. Traveling on a dirt country road during a light rain, the Brooks' Bunch bus was instructed to stop by their guide to the bonfire and walk about 200 yards instead of having the bus pull up, because according to the (this part is important) female guide, "The bus will get stuck if it goes past here."
According to reports, several male students encouraged the male bus driver to ignore the guide's warning and proceed along the path. After a brief debate, he attempted and was promptly, yes, 'stuck in the mud'.
An attempt to drive out of the predicament only forced the bus wheels to dig deeper and deeper into the pit. Much aimless debate followed until a local man who just happened to be passing by helped the Brooks' Bunch concoct a plan. The large passenger bus was first hooked to the tailgate of a small-sized pickup truck. Then the bus driver threw his vehicle in reverse while the truck pulled in the same direction and several male members of the Brooks' Bunch pushed. A local film crew that was on hand capturing the adventure for HBO's "Real Sports" got all the action. Forty-five seconds passed before, finally, the combined towing-reversing-pushing action freed the bus from its muddy snare. The scheduled bonfire was then cancelled, though due to the rain and not the unnecessary bus adventure.
It was an eventful 11 days, even if some of the events were unplanned, and a trip that everyone, students and chaperones included will remember for a lifetime.