When Matthew Baniewicz walked into Jackson Hole Airport on Tuesday wearing a bathrobe, swim trunks and ski goggles, heads swiveled.
People did not know what to think. Was he in a fraternity? A bit too old for that. Was he a comedian? No, he seemed quite serious. Was he on a reality show?
In Denver, he adjusted his ski goggles and then performed a fitness routine that included dynamic movement prep and a yoga asana, ending with the splits.
Melanie Peterson, who was on the flight with him from Jackson to Denver, posted his photo and an inquiry to a Jackson Hole for-sale group on Facebook.
“I got on a flight from JH with this character today and was wondering if anyone knows who this is??” Peterson said. “Admin...sorry...this was too funny to not inquire.”
The crowdsourcing didn’t come up with his name for several days, but speculation ran wild.
“Lost a bet” was the most common guess.
None of those guesses held water.
Baniewicz, in an exclusive interview with the Jackson Hole Daily, said it’s pretty simple.
“I’m trying to change the world,” the 38-year-old said. “Do you want to bring people down or build people up?”
He’s a four-time Jackson resident in the midst of his fourth move here. He’s a former Division I football player who has had a variety of jobs since graduation, including teaching physical education in Florida and waiting tables at the Granary at Spring Creek Ranch.
He’s worked as a personal trainer from 2005 to 2007 at Cobblestone Creek Country Club. It’s a field he plans to return to, although he’s more focused on training other trainers in Eastern European strength and flexibility secrets.
After years of struggling with depression and arthritis pain from his football injuries, Baniewicz is finally in a good place.
“I’m happy to finally be healthy,” Baniewicz said. “My message to everyone: It’s all about the complete person, body, mind and spirit. If you expect to develop your body without your mind, good luck. Are you reaching your highest potential as an individual? If you see me walk around the airport in a bathrobe, I would not be able to do that if I was suffering arthritis pain, or double-minded, talking the talk but not walking the walk.”
Baniewicz has been filming videos of his fitness routines for “a while,” about a year ago posting the first one to YouTube. He has five subscribers there.
In a video posted to his personal Facebook page of his arrival in Jackson, the 6-foot-2 blond cartwheels across the tarmac while a passer-by holds his cellphone to document high kicks.
“He’s lost his mind,” a woman says several times.
The night before his famous bathrobe day, Baniewicz wore his gym shorts, tights and puffy jacket out to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where he had a bystander shoot video of him entertaining some visitors.
“I show them a little something of the physical,” Baniewicz said. “I get a feel for the audience; I’m trying to make new friends.”
On Tuesday, Baniewicz woke up late but decided to make this day count.
His thought process went something like this:
“I decided I’m gonna use everything I’ve learned in sports, military school and my life and, to quote legendary coach John Wooden, ‘Make each day your masterpiece.’ ”
“This is your lottery ticket right here,” he told himself. “You take it and you cash it in at the bank right now.”
So he put on his bathrobe and hopped in his rental car. He visited Creekside Market, Kelly Warm Springs, Atherton Creek Campground and Mormon Row, where “Rocky IV” scenes were filmed. He filmed himself in front of the T.A. Moulton Barn. He skinny-dipped in the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, shot some bodybuilding-style photos in front of Jackson Lake. After lunch at Merry Piglets, he walked into the airport, checked his bags and endured a bit of additional scrutiny from the TSA for his unorthodox outfit.
“I’m getting all kinds of smiles, talking to people, trying to brighten everybody’s day,” Baniewicz said.
On the plane, he made friends with a couple of people intrigued by him talking about flexibility and sports training.
“I said ‘Would you like me to do a stretching warmup demonstration when I get off the plane?’ They said yes.”
So he did. In his bathrobe.
Baniewicz is an impulsive guy. He woke up in his mother’s house in Florida on Sept. 1 and decided to take a trip. He walked into the Palm Beach International airport without a ticket and booked one to Jackson Hole. Although he was here on vacation and seeing friends, he intends to move back here.
His bathrobe stunt has made him internet famous for the moment. He was dubbed a #jerryoftheday Thursday on Instagram, where more than 53,000 people have “liked” a photo of him in his bathrobe on the jet.
Baniewicz plans to use the momentum to inspire people and relaunch his fitness career. He can be found at Facebook.com/mattbaniewiczfitness.