Brian Valentine and his buddies needed more space. The tailgate parties they threw before every Seahawks home game were becoming so popular that a simple pickup truck couldn’t possibly transport all the necessary items for an awesome tailgate experience.
So naturally, they went out and bought a bus. His name is Bussell Wilson — an ode to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — and simply put, he’s badass.
“Bussell has a life of his own,” said Valentine, the senior vice president of Amazon’s e-commerce platform who’s retiring next month.
Valentine and his fellow co-owners — sons Jake and Chris Valentine, along with friends Tyler Bishop and Trevor Youngren — bought the bus this past August just before the incredible 2013-14 season began.
They scoured Craigslist for a bigger vehicle and found a 1996 short bus 40 miles south of CenturyLink Field on a random lot in the small town of Spanaway, Wash.
Sure, it had 230,000 miles on the engine, but the bus drove just fine. A one-time payment of $1,600 and all of a sudden, the diehard Seahawks fans had a new tailgate transporter.
Bussell Wilson was born.
“My son Jake and I were driving the bus home and started talking about how every project we work on has to have a name,” Valentine explained. “He was like, of course this has to be Bussell Wilson.”
Bussell, who was painted by a professional artist and rocks a 00003 license plate, actually shares a lot of qualities with Russell. They’re both shorter than average, both wear blue and green, and both have a job to do on Sundays. While Russell helps lead his team on the field to the Super Bowl, Bussell helps fans keep the pre-game party rocking before every home game.
The bus looks great from the outside, but its functionality is also sweet. The most impressive feature has to be the mounted keg tap of Georgetown’s Roger’s Pilsner — the brewery actually “sponsors” Bussell — that faces outside for easy beer access.
More than 200 people show up every Sunday to see Bussell, and anyone is welcome. His owners also cook tons of food and feature special dishes based on Seattle’s opponent that day. For example, when St. Louis came to town, BBQ ribs, gooey butter cake and toasted ravioli was made for all.
“We have a really good time before the game,” Valentine said.
Having good times is what Valentine, who spent 20 years at Microsoft before landing at Amazon in 2006, seems to like. After all, it was Valentine who had Tom Petty play at his wedding — albeit with some minor hiccups in the planning process.
Valentine, 54, even threw two tailgate parties during the preseason outside his house for neighbors. When the Hawks fly away for road games, Valentine keeps Bussell parked outside his house.
“It raises the value of the neighborhood tremendously,” said a chuckling Valentine.
Bussell, however, won’t be making the 3,000-mile trek to New Jersey for this weekend’s Super Bowl to watch the Hawks take on the Denver Broncos for a chance at a world championship. In fact, Bussell doesn’t really like leaving Seattle.
“If we took it on the road, I wouldn’t really be worried about it actually getting there,” Valentine said. “I’d be worried about it being in a visiting environment and being kicked over or set on fire.”
Valentine, who will be at MetLife Stadium this Sunday cheering on his team — he predicts a 24-21 Seahawks win — has also had fun inviting Amazon colleagues to come hang out with Bussell before games. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “loves it,” Valentine said.
But there’s one person in particular he wants Bussell to meet.
“Russell Wilson hasn’t visited,” Valentine said. “That’s the one I’m waiting for.”