Three silver Super Bowl trophies and one famous gray sweat shirt worn by the mastermind who won them all took a championship ride through the streets of Boston on Tuesday, passing thousands of screaming fans giddy over their New England Patriots.
On a warm winter day, grown-ups skipped work and kids skipped school to stand on snowbanks and trashcans for a glimpse of coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch and their teammates.
"This is like a reason to skip school, pretty much. I don't really like football," said 16-year-old Anastasia Exarchos of Shrewsbury.
Less than 48 hours after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years, a 24-21 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday, their whirlwind journey ended with a "rolling rally" on World War II-era amphibious duck boats like the ones the Red Sox rode in their championship celebration last fall.
In the lead vehicle, Belichick wore his trademark sweatshirt. He was surrounded by team owner Robert Kraft, vice chairman Jonathan Kraft and player personnel director Scott Pioli — all clutching the team's three Vince Lombardi trophies.
Players and their families rode in other duck boats, which are usually used to carry tourists around Boston.
"This means more than anything in the world," offensive tackle Matt Light told the screaming fans. "You guys have been the greatest fans since Day 1. This is the best season of my life."
Some players flapped their arms, ridiculing the touchdown celebration of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Fans threw T-shirts, posters and other memorabilia at them to be autographed.
Defensive end Richard Seymour held out his fist for fans to gaze at his Super Bowl ring from another year. Tight end Daniel Graham and fullback Patrick Pass each held up three fingers for each championship, then raised a fourth.
One fan held up a sign "Next Stop Detroit." That's where the next Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 5, 2006.
Several people were led away from the parade route in handcuffs, but police couldn't immediately say why they were detained. Near the end of the celebration, a fight broke out at a downtown intersection and police circled the area while ambulances were called to the scene. It wasn't known whether anyone was injured.
When the rally ended, Brady embraced offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who is leaving to become head coach at Notre Dame, and raved about the fans' support.
"It's incredible. It seems very surreal, deja vu, man," Brady said. "You never get sick of the winning. You never get sick of the fans. I tell you, it's a great place to play."
Fans flocked to the parade route hours ahead of the scheduled start time, using the celebration as an excuse to duck their responsibilities.
"I told my boss I'm locked up in traffic," said Charles Roper, of Brockton, a 46-year-old delivery worker at a dry-cleaning business.
Roper missed the city's two previous Patriots parades, so Tuesday's celebration was his first chance to see the players up close.
"I am very excited," he said. "I'm not leaving until I shake somebody's hand."
Other fans did that Monday when the Patriots arrived at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro after their flight from Jacksonville, Fla. More than 2,000 were on hand to greet them.
Tuesday's celebration stuck to the streets without the detour onto the Charles River that was part of the Red Sox rally. It was frozen over.
Unlike the last two Patriots parties, it also didn't include a rally on City Hall Plaza, which still has enormous piles of snow left over from last month's blizzard.
By Howard Ulman
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