It was a cold, raw February day in 2017 when about a million hearty souls lined the streets of Boston to celebrate the Patriots’ stunning victory over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. New England was still pulsating some 36 hours after Tom Brady engineered a comeback for the ages, leading his team back from a 28-3 second-half deficit.

Long before the massive crowds gathered for the Patriots’ fifth championship celebration, I was manning my post along the route filing reports for NESN. As fans began arriving in the early morning snow, one family passed by my location trying to figure out the best spot to view the duck boats.

“Let’s go to the usual place,” a young boy said to his mother.

The usual place.

Life is pretty good when you have a usual place to go when your city hosts a championship parade. New Englanders know the drill well. We’ve celebrated 11 titles in the last 18 years, a championship stretch unmatched in this, or any other, city in America.

It wasn’t always this way. The Golden Era of Boston Sports began the last time the Pats faced the Rams on Super Sunday. Back in 2002 the Rams called St. Louis home, and Kurt Warner quarterbacked the Greatest Show on Turf. The Rams had won the title just two years earlier, and were the heavy favorites to beat an upstart team from New England.


Brady was New England’s backup at the start of that season, taking over for Drew Bledsoe after the starter was injured early in the season.

He was a sixth-round pick from Michigan who stunned us all with a late-game march down the field that set up an Adam Vinateiri field goal to win our region’s first major pro championship since the Celtics won the NBA title in 1986.

Back in Boston fans poured out into the streets with the stunning realization that our team had won it all. It was a strange feeling.

It’s not strange any more. The Pats won two more titles over the next three years. The Red Sox joined the party in 2004 and ended 86 years of frustration. They’ve won three more since. The Celtics and Bruins each climbed aboard the duck boats over the next few years.

Plenty has changed since February 2002. One thing hasn’t. Brady has been the constant in New England’s run, the on-field part of the greatest football trinity the game has ever seen. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick assembled a dynasty, and Brady has battled time stayed at the top of his game.

He has never been more determined than over the past two weeks. “We’re still here” has become his rallying cry as the Patriots have stunned the predictions of gridiron doomsday in Foxborough. He has taken this team to one of the most improbable Super Bowl appearances in Patriots’ history.


And now, he can bring home a record-tying sixth Vince Lombardi trophy with another win over the Rams. And the duck boats can roll through the streets of Boston once again.

If the Pats win, it will be the second championship parade through Boston in four months. Incredible, even by our recent standards.

We’ve become accustomed to counting our “droughts” in months, not years.

This Sunday, Brady and the Patriots will be in their usual place. They’ll be playing in their ninth Super Bowl since stunning the world in February 2002.

And there’s a very real chance that one week from now families will gather in their usual places to celebrate.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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