The kids who trashed Brian Holloway's vacation house during a wild Labor Day party weekend in upstate New York messed with the wrong guy.
They gained plenty of notoriety, sure, but they're about to get more trouble than they bargained for, too. And not just because Holloway is a former NFL lineman who knows a thing or two about meting out rough justice.
He also happens to be a Stanford grad who's every bit as savvy at using social media as the kids who descended on his family's second home in upstate New York, then bragged about the destruction with photos and posts in real time on Twitter. More to the point, Holloway belongs to a family of prominent activists who don't just walk away from scrapes that other people started.
"I blew way past furious when this thing happened," Holloway said Thursday. "But the real backhand slap came yesterday.
"I've got a few hundred names (of kids who attended) already. They weren't hard to find. They told on themselves using social media the way they did. I've been talking to nearly all of them on my website (helpmesave300). But when I made an appeal to come back here and help make it right ... only one of them showed up yesterday with his dad.
"Look, I've got eight kids of my own, so I understand you can't watch every one of them all the time," he said. "But for this to happen, it shows we're off the rails as a society. And it's up to us as parents to come together and ask: 'How do we respond?'"
The Rensselaer County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the party, which drew between 200 and 400 kids from the Albany area and western Massachusetts. Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Yvonne Keefe called it "a very large investigation." No arrests have been reported.
Meantime, Holloway is taking some matters into his own hands.
"I can't say exactly what, but something will be going down tomorrow," he said, adding, "And you'll be calling me about it, too."
Holloway is sorting through the damage to the 200-acre site in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Initial estimates set the cost at $20,000 minimum, yet despite the broken windows and doors, and the graffiti spray-painted across the main and guest houses, Holloway and several family members are determined to pull together a pot-luck dinner for military veterans and their families on Saturday.
"Just a day in the country on this beautiful piece of property for some people who deserve it," Holloway said.
He borrowed a phrase from Vince Lombardi to describe what the last few days have been like: "Sweeping the ocean back with a broom." And while all of that sounds like a monumental task, well, it's hardly the first one the Holloway family has dealt with.
His great uncle, Vernon Johns, a minister, was considered by many to be a founding father of the civil rights movement in America. His grandfather, William Trent Jr., was one of the driving forces in setting up the United Negro College Fund. Holloway's brother, Jonathon, chairs the African-American Studies Department at Yale.
"If we don't take this on, the next party, or the one after that, will be at your house," Holloway said. "We need to be smart about how kids talk and deal with each other today. It's incredibly dangerous in some ways, and if we don't take action now, we'll wind up burying some of them later and ask ourselves, 'Why didn't we stop it, or change it, at the very least?'"
Holloway has been leveraging social media to begin the conversation. He's engaging many of the same kids who destroyed his house — so much so that his website crashed twice Wednesday night after more than a million hits. He's two weeks behind on the planned launch of another site — called herleague.net — that he envisions as a forum for women who love football, or else hate it, but want to discuss the game either way.
Small wonder he's averaging two hours of sleep a night.
"That's not a big deal," Holloway said, "because I'm really looking forward to Saturday. It will be a chance to celebrate a lot of servicemen, like a big family gathering, which is why we got this house in the first place."
Holloway is undaunted by how much work lies ahead, but acknowledged a little bit of him was wounded when he first learned of the party by seeing a photo of kids standing on a dining room table he bought with a Super Bowl bonus he collected as a member of the New England Patriots.
"It's the exact same table that sits in one of the houses of the Kennedy family's compound in Hyannis Port," Holloway said.Comment on this story
"I got it partly because I had that Super Bowl money in my pocket. It's how I rolled at the time. But mostly," he added, "I got it because it reminded me how much I love being surrounded by family and friends."
Holloway will know that feeling again Saturday, if only for as long as the party lasts. Then it's back to work. Asked what people interested in helping might do, Holloway urged parents and their kids to jump into the conversation about shared responsibilities.
"Just make sure everybody knows the event is 'pot-luck,'" he said. "We got enough to take care of on this end already."