BOSTON — You’d think New England would be numb to this by now.
The Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII was the team’s sixth championship in the last 18 seasons and the 12th title by a Boston sports franchise since 2002. It came just two years after the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl win and a mere three months after the Red Sox knocked off the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.
Take a look at the crowd that turned out for Tuesday’s championship parade, though, and you’d think the Pats had just broken a decades-long title drought.
On an unseasonably warm February morning, an overwhelming number of fans packed the city’s well-worn parade route, which ran down Boylston Street to Tremont Street, then past Boston Common and City Hall Plaza before coming to a halt near TD Garden.
At its lightest, the crowd was five deep on both sides. At its peak, well…
Fans lined up vertically, as well. Dozens piled onto bus stops, mailboxes, monuments and any other elevated surface they could find. Others climbed trees. Still more watched from second- and third-story windows in the various office buildings that lined the route.
As the rolling rally curved past the Boylston Street T station, an entire construction crew observed from above.
“This is beyond my expectations,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore, one of 24 first-time Super Bowl winners on the Patriots’ 53-man roster. “I didn’t see this coming. This is a great opportunity. We’re Super Bowl champions, and its great for the city of Boston.”
Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots’ caravan — which included players, coaches, staffers and their families — received a police escort from Gillette Stadium into the city around 9:45 a.m. ET, with officers shutting down Routes 93 and 90. (The delayed travelers didn’t seem to mind. Many waved, honked and pulled out their phones for photos as the convoy of buses sped by.)
Upon arriving in Boston roughly 45 minutes later, the team and its guests boarded a fleet of duck boats and flatbed trucks — 28 vehicles in all — and hit the streets, driving at a slow pace through throngs of adoring Patriots supporters.
“Honestly, I thought it was just going to be a float,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “Get through, see everyone cheering and stuff. But this thing is just crazy. It’s unreal. Pretty unbelievable.”
Team owner Robert Kraft occupied the lead boat along with newly elected Pro Football Hall of Famer Ty Law. Another boat carrying head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of player personnel Nick Caserio wasn’t far behind.
Also residing in those boats were two of the franchise’s six Lombardi Trophies. Quarterback Tom Brady had another on the ride he shared with backup QBs Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling (who sported an Indiana State Larry Bird jersey for the occasion) and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
As the parade progressed, fans hurled cans of Bud Light and other refreshments up to the players, many of whom gladly indulged. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn received a full pizza from one particularly generous onlooker, according to a Patriots staffer. The duck boat carrying media members was struck by a rogue Eggo waffle.
Per usual, creative homemade signs dotted the crowd, many of them taking shots at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or ESPN talking head Max Kellerman. One of the Kellerman signs eventually made it into the hands of linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Tight end and perennial parade MVP Rob Gronkowski also was the subject of more than a few signs, many of which were decidedly NSFW.
Even lesser-known Patriots players received plenty of love from the fans in attendance. Fullback James Develin and punter Ryan Allen both were the subjects of multiple posters, and one shirtless man was seen passionately waving a Matthew Slater jersey.
What stood out most, however, was the volume of the crowd. It was loud throughout and deafening at times — as ear-splitting as any cheers at Gillette this season — reaching a fever pitch once the boats turned off Boylston and drove parallel to the jam-packed Common.
It took roughly an hour and 15 minutes for the boats to reach their final destination, at which point the players disembarked and began heading toward the buses that would take them back to Foxboro. “Tequila” fittingly blared over a loudspeaker as Gronkowski hopped off his flatbed and was ushered away by a half-dozen Boston Police officers.
Gilmore, Burkhead and safety Duron Harmon stopped for brief chats with reporters, as did Kraft, who was sporting a diamond-encrusted “CHAMPIONSHIPS” chain given to him by rapper Meek Mill. Harmon’s outfit of choice was a replica of Brady’s Serra High School jersey.
“It’s the least I can do to show my respect for Tom Brady,” he said.
The parade officially capped the 2018 season for the Super Bowl champs. They’ll now disperse to their respective hometowns before reconvening in April for offseason workouts.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images