Another champion team shares a warm embrace with its fans
After a dozen of ’em these last 17 years, these championship parades are getting predictable, I tell you.
For instance, Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ good-time tight end who was in full yo soy fiesta mode Tuesday for his third championship parade, guzzled some wine, nuzzled a stuffed goat, wore and then ceased to wear multiple shirts and what appeared to be a Boston Police Department vest, and caught beers and Tide Pods chucked from the crowd. (Gronk drank the former but did not ingest the latter, at least publicly.)
Right . . . so pretty much as expected.
There’s not much new, which is part of the charm at this point. The Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday’s Super Bowl in Atlanta was the franchise’s sixth championship — and the 12th collected by Boston’s four primary professional sports franchises — since 2001. The Bruins and Celtics have each won one in that span, while the Red Sox have won four since 2004, including the 2018 World Series that led to the last parade exactly 97 days ago.
Such riches might explain the presence of the king from the Bud Light “Dilly Dilly” ads on one of the duck boats that, as always, carried the team along the parade route. Or perhaps the whole thing, like just about everything else, is becoming more corporate. But there was no cynicism to be found among the thousands upon thousands of fans who lined the route.
Championship parades have been so common this century that we’re getting to the point that we should start telling tourists to walk the parade route rather than the Freedom Trail if they want to comprehend a more modern history of Boston.
Given how familiar all of this is, and the logistical challenges of just getting to the parade if you live outside of the city’s nucleus, the attendance Tuesday was extraordinary. Perhaps the most impressive since the catharsis of the 2004 Red Sox parade, though the 2011 Bruins celebration also was a particularly massive and delightful gathering.
The support all around for this particular edition of the Patriots has been extraordinary, with approximately 35,000 fans showing up for their pep-rally sendoff to Atlanta, then traveling well and taking over that city to turn Mercedes-Benz Stadium into Gillette South.
There was a hint of defiance to this one, too. Fans and even the occasional player waved signs reminding certain media members about their skepticism of this team and of the 41-year-old Tom Brady’s ability to thrive at an elite level. Even mild-mannered Patriots public relations boss Stacey James wore a shirt that read: “Too Old. Too Slow. No Defense. World Champs.”
No, Boston fans are not tired of all of this winning, especially fans of an older generation who can remember the resigned, I-guess-we’re-a-part-of-this-sort-of celebration of June 13, 2001, when they gathered at City Hall to salute Bruins legend Ray Bourque, who had just won the Stanley Cup . . . as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Boston hadn’t held a party for its own champion since the summer of 1986, when Larry Bird and the Celtics won that franchise’s 16th title. That’s how desperate things had become: We had to celebrate a player who had to leave to become a champion.
Tuesday was a particularly lovely day for a parade, though the warm weather doesn’t necessarily mean the sentiments and memories will also be warmer. The 2001 Patriots celebrated their first title on a frigid morning, and the ’04 Sox took their tour of the city beneath a dreary gray sky that did absolutely nothing to dim the bright mood.
But if we were to concoct a formula that factored in crowd size, weather, and satisfaction based on the achievement, Tuesday’s 90-minute ride might have ranked in the top three among the dozen. We’ll save the official countdown and ranking of those for an actual rainy day.
Instead, we’ll simply make sure to tuck away the new memories from this one into the already voluminous Championship Parade scrapbooks. The images of a shirtless center David Andrews, and owner Robert Kraft showing off a massive chain given to him by rapper Meek Mill, and Brady holding his daughter while deftly tossing a football back and forth with fans, and Gronk in all his gronkness . . . well, they will go right there on the pages with images from the past parades: shirtless Glen Davis from the ’08 Celtics parade, and Manny Ramirez holding a sign mocking dismissed nemesis Derek Jeter in ’04, and Kraft dancing with Ty Law on City Hall Plaza in 2002.
In most sports cities, February is the dead period on the calendar, the long, cold hiatus between the end of football season and the start of spring training. Here, well, let’s see:
The Patriots just had their sixth parade in 17 years on a day in which the weather would have been lovely for Marathon Monday in April.
The Red Sox’ entire starting rotation from their World Series champion team has already reported to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Celtics are in the middle of compelling trade rumors involving Anthony Davis, are hot on the court, and have a reasonable shot of at least reaching the NBA Finals in June.
And the Bruins will celebrate the 1,000th regular-season game of legend-in-his-own-time Patrice Bergeron on Tuesday night — and thank goodness there will be no detour to Colorado for him since he’s already won a Cup here.
The amazing thing about Boston sports is not, as the song goes, that the good times have never seemed so good. It’s that the good times have been so good for nearly two decades, and we still haven’t forgotten how to appreciate a good parade.