With championship parades, Boston has its ducks in a row
It’s not just that Boston fans have mastered the protocol of the modern championship parade — how and when to get there, where the best sightlines are along Boylston Street, how to get a witty sign (“Chris Sale, show me your belly-button ring”) noticed by the players, that sort of intel that comes only with experience.
It’s that, as we were reminded again Wednesday afternoon, Boston invented modern championship parade protocol.
Oh, that may seem arrogant to fan bases in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago, or to other cities that have seen their teams fall to one Boston team or another during this run of 11 championships across four sports since the Patriots got all of this thrilling madness started with their Super Bowl victory over the Rams in February 2002.
To which we say: How can it be arrogant when it’s the truth?
OK, so it’s a little arrogant. Maybe more than that. It’s just that what we saw Wednesday, as the Red Sox celebrated their fourth World Series title since 2004, was quite familiar, in all the good ways.
It began with a little pep rally at Fenway Park, and perhaps a few warmup beverages for the participants. The players and their families, ownership and management, and various front-office folks and assorted personnel boarded the duck boats and began navigating through the sea of red.
First from Lansdowne Street, then right onto Ipswich, left onto the main drag of Boylston, a left onto Tremont, and continuing onto Cambridge until the finish line on Staniford. Veteran duck boat drivers stopped needing GPS for this route a long time ago.
Whoever originally came up with this fitting, perfectly Boston idea to use the duck boats all those years ago for the Patriots’ first parade was a genius. Whoever decided that the parade should halt before the amphibious vehicles could venture into the Charles with their precious cargo — as they did as a capper on the chilly day of the 2004 Red Sox parade — might have been even savvier. In retrospect, taking this thing on the water was courting a whole new era of misery in Red Sox lore.
The acknowledgement of familiarity in all of this is not to suggest that any of it should be taken for granted. Anyone who remembers the desperation, during that championship-less period from the Celtics’ 1986 win until the Patriots in ’01, of celebrating Raymond Bourque’s Stanley Cup win at City Hall after he won as a member the Colorado Avalanche knows this.
You young ones who know only success — and my God, you’re post-college age now — should know it too. A championship is always worthy of a parade, and a parade is always worth attending, especially if it comes with the subtle satisfaction of sneaking out of work, or better, sneaking your kids out of school. All of the logistical challenges for you — even as a master of parade protocol, of course — are worth the lifelong memory.
And never forget: It’s a lifelong memory for those on the duck boats, too. Wednesday’s parade would not make the podium among the best of the 11 celebrations this century. The Bruins parade in ’11 was the most idyllic, the ’04 Sox was the most cathartic, and the ’01 Patriots was the purest fun. Wednesday’s parade seemed quick, or ruthlessly efficient in getting the job done, like the ’18 Red Sox themselves.
The best thing about it was the joy on the faces of those who hadn’t experienced it before. There was Chris Sale, standing tall above the crowd, beaming and hollering at fans, a joyous version of what he did to inspire his teammates before their epic rally late in Game 4 of the World Series.
There was Rick Porcello, pointing to the B on his hat and repeating, time and again, “This is for you. For you.”
There was Mookie Betts, smiling behind glasses that make him look like a studious undergrad at Boston University or Emerson, then fumbling a beer thrown his way, a rare E-9 for the special right fielder.
There were familiar faces, too. While Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, both as gregarious and involved as when they were the ones securing championships themselves, took turns raising the championship trophy (one of four that made the trip), Jason Varitek looked on from another boat like an amused dad. And it was so good to see Jerry Remy, whose season in the broadcast booth was abbreviated because of another cancer fight, smiling and saying he is “kicking cancer’s ass.”
No, there were no zany antics this year, no version of Jonathan Papelbon dancing to the Dropkick Murphys (who did make the trip on the lead boat) or Rob Gronkowski crushing beers, no shirtless Glen “Big Baby” Davis among this crew. There was just the collective appreciation of the moment, a moment that now comes around here often after Boston fans waited for so long, a moment that can never be taken for granted — but yes, can be anticipated again.
“A city like this, they love all the sports,’’ said pitcher Joe Kelly. “Hopefully, this could be one of many parades. Maybe the Patriots can win this year, Celtics, Bruins, everybody will.”
Just what the rest of the sports world wants to hear — and yet, not entirely unrealistic. To borrow the words of a certain tall guy in green who rode in a 2008 parade, in Boston sports these days, anything is possible.