Those duck boats don’t load themselves.
We’ve come to think of victory parades as our right in Boston. We’ve had so many in recent years — cheering crowds lining the streets, joyful players smiling down upon them — it’s like we’re on joyous auto-pilot.
Unless you happen to be among those organizing the thing. On Wednesday, one of those people was Ken Brissette, the city’s director of tourism, sports, and entertainment or, as he puts it, “Minister of Fun.” It was his job to get the hundreds of Patriots players, officials, staffers, and their families into the belly of the Hynes Convention Center, then out onto the snowy streets in ducks and trucks. And to do it on short notice, in bitter cold, in a city piled high with snow, with critics second-guessing his boss Mayor Marty Walsh on whether it made sense to try it in the first place.
You’d think all this might make a person nervous. But Brissette was calm and cheerful early Wednesday morning. “It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s all coming together. . . . And we know exactly how it’s going to work.”
The duck boats were being swept by the bomb squad. The flat bed trucks were gathered in a garage upstairs. Soon it would be time to usher the legions onto their designated amphibians.
Brissette seemed so happy and in control, it was hard to imagine the brief chaos that would soon befall the place. One of his two phones rang every couple of minutes. He was the guy with the answers. A crowd of fans stood outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the players.
“How do I get one of those?” asked one man, pointing to the pile of All Access passes around Brissette’s neck. You don’t, said the Minister of Fun. “Can I buy one?” the man tried. Brissette laughed and kept moving.
He gets the passion. The Auburn native, 50, was raised to worship the Patriots. When he was little, the family tailgated at what was then Schaefer Stadium, starting early with home fries, eggs, and Jimmy Dean sausages on the grill. The kids played football in the parking lot. He still watches every game.
Soon Brissette would be surrounded by players, but there was no time to enjoy it. Owner Bob Kraft arrived in the frigid garage being used as a staging area, and Brisette brought him over to chat with the mayor. Patriots staffers were agitated — at the dozens of people allowed inside the Hynes (No autographs!), at the plan for unloading the buses (They can’t walk all the way from over there!), and at the signs identifying the duck boats by name (The players are looking for numbers!). Brissette urged calm, with little success. It would all work just fine, he said, over and over.
Then a beige Ford Five Hundred pulled into the garage, and out spilled Julian Edelman and a couple of teammates, smelling like a party. Edelman, who would later clamber onto the top of his duck boat to entertain the crowds, was sipping champagne right from the bottle, occasionally passing it to a buddy. He graciously posed with devotees, and — this man fears neither cornerbacks nor cooties — offered one of them a swig too. The fan accepted, of course.
Hordes descended into the garage, which began to take on a bar-scene-from-Star-Wars vibe: The costumed End Zone Militia; cheerleaders waving sparkly pom poms; a serene-looking Tom Brady holding his little boy’s hand; Bill Belichick looking grumpy as ever; friends, relatives, and shouting, back-slapping, selfie-taking fans.
For a few minutes, nobody seemed to be going anywhere. Brissette’s troops held their signs aloft. People seemed confused. Then, suddenly, they began to move, out of the garage, and into the narrow passage where the duck boats waited. Everybody found their places.
“Time to go!” somebody yelled. “Get your ladders up!” A huge door rolled open. The convoy pulled out. They were off to meet thousands of delighted fans. Brissette and his troops walked alongside them, all the way back to their offices at City Hall, and back to work.
The Boston Marathon is just 75 days away.