By Terry Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – To start the 2019 Patriots Parade, the newly polished vessel Old Gloria inched its way past the Capital Grille on the corner of Dalton and Boylston Streets, the duck boat carrying two large egos and just as many Lombardi Trophies held high by Robert and Jonathan Kraft, the team owner and his son, the president of the New England Patriots.
The call to arms was to “Fire-up the duck boats,” and they did just that as the confetti cannons were turned on and everyone boarded a vehicle. The 23 duck boat Boylston Regatta was in motion once again, complete with a legion of cheering, screaming, drinking, hookey-playing fans, easily 50-60 deep.
Bill Belichick and his crew followed next as Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train” cranked over the loudspeakers and the estimated 1M crowd of Patriots fans cheered their beloved coach, his rare smile quite noticeable to everyone assembled on the sidewalks or within TV shots.
Not a winter coat was in sight as Tom Brady made his way along the parade route with yet another Lombardi Trophy on board and his back-up QBs seated in the middle-row economy seats but sharing the glory alongside Brady and his trainer. Spring-like temperatures on Tuesday brought out the multitudes as the players celebrated with their friends and families aboard the famed Boston tourist jalopies, to embark on a tradition that has endured a dozen times over since the turn of the 21st century (that’s 2001, technically).
Then, it was Gronk’s turn.
Party animal Rob Gronkowski and his bigger-than-frat-house-and-life-itself personality is the No. 1 fan favorite at these parades. Gronk’s penchant for accepting airborne ice-cold cans of beer prompted a Mayoral decree for this year’s VIctory parade, celebrating the Patriots’ sixth NFL title.
“Do not throw things,” said Boston’s own Grand Marshall and Mayor Marty Walsh in his announcement of the parade details yesterday. “Do not throw beers. Do not throw anything at those boats,” he added. (Unless it is to Gronk, a sign should say similar to the smoking exception for the late Red Auerbach posted at Legal Seafood).
Mayors know best, as only 100 days ago or so, a few rowdy fans tossed full cans of beer that splattered Red Sox manager Alex Cora, then, even worse, put a dent on a pennant or two atop the Commissioner’s Trophy.
As the parade hit Copley Square, passing the gorgeous Boston Library no school student visited today, the tunes kicked in, like a 42-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The combination of a deep blue-sky glorious day, a “well behaved” and appreciative crowd, a smiling Belichick, a G.O.A.T. quarterback playing to his loyal fans and Kraft, the team owner, showing some humility and mouthing, “Thank you,” as he pointed and made eye contact with hundreds upon hundreds of ticket-buying, jersey wearing, TV watching fans, made for an exceptional display of civic pride.
It brought about a sense of appreciation for what sports mean to the City of Boston. In such a wonderful, vibrant city, the people of Boston prioritize their sports teams. As the seasons change, so do the colors of team jerseys spotted from The Cape to Springfield. From the Red of the Sox in summertime, to the Blue, White and Red of these Patriots, to the “Black & Gold” for the Bruins to the Kelly Green of the Celtics, the majority of New England fans sport them all.
But they don’t simply wear the gear, they invest their most valuable commodity to the sports teams of Boston. They invest their time. They experience it all with their families. We go all-in – emotionally.
“You don’t get Boston until you live here,” said former Celtics coach Doc Rivers as he departed in 2013 for his current job with the, ahem, LA Clippers.
Just what did Doc mean when he waxed so poetic?
Only 10 years in for me, and I simply can’t explain it. Give me another 10-15 years, and I’m not sure that will change.
There’s just something about Boston.
Yes, it’s a major city in these United States but as No. 23 in population – well under New York, LA, Chicago or Houston – Boston remains a very small town. While its colleges and universities, its medical community, its arts & musical culture, its hotels and restaurants all are among the very best in the world, the city’s vibe remains its tiny, little secret.
There’s an “us against the world” mentality.
There’s a “we’re going to do it our way and screw the rest of you” attitude.
There’s an arrogance and there is humility. Somehow, they exist side-by-side all year long, in peace, in harmony and they’re both on display through, pretty much everyone, at the same time.
There’s an appreciation of this town’s history, of the military that serve, of the traditions that endure, of family, of all things New England.
After the 2013 marathon bombing that stopped this town in its tracks on Patriots’ Day, our single, most favorite day of the year, Big Papi said it right when he told the masses what he thought about our city.
The outright adoration of the local pro sports teams exemplifies that inexplainable vibe. It shows all season long, with a value placed on every single regular season game that just might matter in the final standings.
People never arrive late and NEVER, EVER leave a Boston game early, especially at Fenway.
The parents of the children in this town don’t just allow their kids to cut class and attend a parade, such as todays. They arrange the transportation and go with them. That was clearly evident today along the rolling-rally route as families and kids were everywhere.
Because, it’s the greatest sports city in the world.
And? “Never Gets Old.”