SUMMIT, NJ - The crew that will track the Down and Distance of each play during Super Bowl XLVIII will have a Hilltop City flavor, as a current Summit resident, and two former members of the community, will be part of the chain gang during pro football's championship game.
Jim Baxley of Summit, and former Summit residents Miller Bugliari and Tom Quinn, fixtures of the crews that work New York Giants home games, were chosen to work on the "official" side of the field at MetLife Stadium as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos. Baxley will work the "down box", tracking both the actual downs and the origin and distance of each play. He has been working NFL games for more than 25 years, following in the footsteps of his father Charles and his uncle, Ed Quinn. Baxley's brothers, Andrew and John, are also Giants game crew members, but are not working the Super Bowl.
Baxley, while acknowledging the privilege and gravity of the game, is centered on the task at hand. "I am approaching it as another game, making sure I am in total focus and mentally ready." He quickly added, "There is such a great deal of hype associated with the game, of course, and my friends and family are all excited. I know this is a once in-a-lifetime opportunity."
In a game that will feature world-class athletes performing at optimum levels using -- and protected by -- equipment made of Space Age materials, Baxley goes decidedly old school in tracking each play's origin and distance. He uses Johnson & Johnson tape and a Sharpie -- affixed to the pole of the down marker -- to track each play's vitals, such as "third and 10 from the 30-yard line". He goes through about four long strands of tape each game and has, like every master of their art, tried out pretty much every type of tape to make sure he has total confidence in the tools of his trade.
The fact that Mother Nature appears to be in a benevolent mood for Super Bowl XLVIII is appreciated not only by the game's players and fans, but also by Baxley and his fellow crew members. Extremely cold weather would have been uncomfortable and, while snow would have made for good television, it doesn't help when tracking plays with tape and a marker. Freezing rain would have been the worst case scenario, but fortunately that will not be the case today.
As for other concerns, Baxley admits to some close calls as 250 lb. athletes coming flying into his path, and he has had endured a "couple of glancing blows" over the years, but the chain gangs motto is "clear out", as the down and distance system -- complete with a clip on the chain that corresponds with the nearest major line yardage marking on the field -- simply can be picked up and placed precisely back in place.