Showing true grit, Pats’ fans rally in Boston
Cold ignored as crowd gives team a boost of Super spirit
A bitter wind swept across City Hall Plaza and a shivering crowd. But Jakye Leary, a 10-year-old from Dorchester, hardly seemed to notice. His beloved New England Patriots were about to take the stage at Monday’s Super Bowl send-off rally, and he was soaking up every moment, holding his iPad high above his head to record the festivities.
“What a way to send them off!” said his father, Tyrone Greene, as Jakye nodded in excitement.
With the Patriots going to their sixth Super Bowl since 2002, Greene said he didn’t hesitate to take Jakye out of school so he could wish his favorite team good luck. They joined throngs of devoted fans who braved the cold to show their support for the Patriots, wearing their favorite team garb and waving signs that read “Finish the job.”
Fans said they were confident the Patriots, fresh off a rout over the Indianapolis Colts, would prevail over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots are perennial contenders, but this team was even better, many said, a balanced, well-rounded unit that had played brilliantly after a slow start.
“They’re tough,” Peggy Kelley of South Boston said of the Seahawks. “But they aren’t gonna be that tough.”
Kelley, 67, said she was angry the team had come under fire in the Deflategate controversy, which fans uniformly dismissed as a trumped-up media concoction.
“It’s only a big deal because it’s the Patriots,” Kelley said. “They have no right to strip them of their reputation like they have.”
Despite the cold, Kelley said she “had to come” to show her appreciation for the team’s season and send them off to the Super Bowl on a high note.
The NFL is investigating allegations that the Patriots used underinflated footballs during the first half of the AFC Championship game against the Colts. New England won 45-7.
Fans said they believed the team was being singled out for a minor rules infraction because of their long-held success.
“They’ll always pick on them for something,” said David Eisenhauer, 57.
Eisenhauer, from Quincy, said he wanted to bring his grandkids to the rally, but they had school. But they’ll be there for the championship parade, he said with a hopeful smile.
Many fans wore replica jerseys of their favorite players, from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski to defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. When the players arrived and Wilfork took the stage, the crowd roared its approval.
“We have the greatest fans in all of football,” Wilfork said to cheers. “Hopefully, we have one more in the tank to finish the job the right way.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston took off his jacket to show off his Brady jersey, saying “We love our Patriots!” and team owner Robert Kraft thanked the fans for braving the elements and introduced Bill Belichick as the best coach in the league.
As the crowd roared, Belichick urged everyone to be safe in the coming blizzard and thanked fans for their unwavering support.
“You’ve been there all year for us,” he said. “We love you, Boston!”
Brady, taking the stage to chants of his name, praised New England fans as the best in America.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable accomplishment for our team.”
It didn’t seem that Jakye Leary could be more excited, either. The game was still days away, but he was ready. Asked about his favorite players, he listed several: Brady, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, and Gronkowski. Especially Gronk, he said, as he spiked an imaginary football in triumph. The way Gronk would on Sunday, fingers crossed.