Time to go. It’s the saddest weekend of the year for parents of 18-year-olds who are loading up the Volvo for that maiden trip to Syracuse/Ann Arbor/Ithaca/Name That College Town.
All the stuff is packed. Pillows and linens from Bed Bath & Beyond. Foam pillowtop mattress. Hot plate. Bean bag chair. Pop-up hamper. Power strip. Xbox. Flat screen. Mini-fridge. Microwave. Laptop. Beer pong kit. Shower caddy. Flip-flops. Framed photos of the family dog. Posters. Winter coat.
Here is something else that’s making the trip . . . something that takes up no space in the family wagon: Our kids will go off to college carrying the love, care, and pride they have for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins.
This is the class of 2020. Young people with vision. It is a new generation of New Englanders; kids born just before the turn of the century, bathed in the sweet success of nine championships and nine Duck Boat parades between February 2002 and February 2015.
Our fortunate sons and daughters have been raised on success and the expectation of championships. So let’s remind them not to be too arrogant or harsh with their poor new roommates from Buffalo and Cleveland and Altoona, Pa.
These young men and women of New England will go off to school and pepper their dorm shelves with Tom Brady and Big Papi bobbleheads. They will wear Bergeron sweaters and old-school Ubuntu T-shirts. They will discover the jealousy that the rest of America has for us. They will encounter a classmate from Baltimore who will say, “Yeah, I always hated it when those loud Boston fans would take over Camden Yards and chant, ‘Let’s go, Red Sox!’ ’’
Our kids have the Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins in their DNA. There’s nothing they can do about it. It’s no different than their Boston accents or their eye color. It’s part of what makes them who they are. They grew up in a local culture in which professional sports simply could not be ignored.
These new collegians learned to say “No-maaaaah,’’ at the same time they were reading “Goodnight Moon.’’ They were first-graders when everyone in New England was talking about the end of the Curse of the Bambino. They loved Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, the goofy, cuddly outfielder who peed in the Green Monster and appeared to be wearing Red Sox pajamas.
They saw Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore in “Fever Pitch.’’ Under the Christmas tree, they unwrapped a framed photo of Jason Varitek stuffing his catcher’s mitt into the face of Alex Rodriguez.
They watched their older sisters (and maybe their moms) swooning over Brady. They saw Brady hoisting that big silver football trophy while confetti rained down on his handsome head. They saw Tom in magazines and in major motion pictures. Then Tom’s wife turned out to be even more famous and good-looking than Tom. She was in all the magazines.
They saw Paul Pierce spring out of a wheelchair to beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. They saw Rajon Rondo working Gumby magic on the parquet floorboards. They remember Kevin Garnett telling them that “anything’s possible.’’
They walked past the statue of a guy named Bobby Orr when they went to events at the Boston Garden. They heard tales of the Big Bad Bruins. They were allowed to stay up late on that weeknight in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
Far from home, our kids will spend the next few months adjusting to college life, meeting new friends, getting anxious about studies. But they will never be far from Fenway or Gillette or the Garden. They will stay connected to home with their smartphones. They will follow the Red Sox in a nifty three-team pennant race with the Blue Jays and Orioles. They will endure teasing from jealous fans who claim the Patriots are cheaters, but the Patriots’ opener in Arizona on Sunday night, Sept. 11, will be appointment TV.
Boston sports teams will be part of the conversation anywhere people gather on campus over the next four years. Celebrity Boston sports fans — Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Louis C.K., Denis Leary, Maria Menounos, Stephen King, John Krasinski, Mike O’Malley, Kenny Chesney, Dane Cook — will speak of the Sox and Pats in films, on television shows, at concerts, and on social media. Our faraway freshmen will learn to deal with Rangers fans, Blackhawks fans, Lakers fans, and Cubs fans. And they will feel superior to all of them.
The 2020 kids will be all right. They grew up in the High Renaissance of Boston sports, and no matter where they go or what they do, they will proudly carry our teams with them for the rest of their lives.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.