Patriots Fans Pack Victory Parade

BOSTON—More than a million New England Patriots’ faithful braved freezing temperatures and biting windchill yesterday to dance in the streets of Boston and revel in their football team’s first-ever championship.

The 2002 Super Bowl champions brought home the National Football League’s Vince Lombardi championship trophy and presented it to fans who sported face-paint, pennants and the team colors of red, white and blue.

On their victory parade, Patriots players rode a caravan of Duck Tour busses from Copley Place to City Hall, arriving to hip-hop chants of “We are number one.”

All told, police estimated that 1.25 million fans packed City Hall plaza and the surrounding streets.

A symphony of blow horns welcomed the team as fans jammed sidewalks, shook pompoms and danced on the chimney tops of local commercial buildings.

Patriots faithful went to great lengths to find the best views. Some watched from a parking structure or atop tall nearby office buildings. Others perched in trees or plastered their faces to the tinted windows of City Hall offices at Government Center.

Even two towering goldenrod cranes at a construction site in the North End rotated their booms toward the plaza and their crew members enjoyed an aerial view of the stage where Patriots players and cheerleaders celebrated.

With Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Mass. Acting Governor JaneM. Swift, and US Senator John F. Kerry looking on, Patriots players thanked fans for supporting the team amidst doubts from sports analysts.

Before Sunday, when they defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 despite being 14-point underdogs, the Patriots had never won a championship. In fact, the last time a Boston team won a professional championship in any sport was in 1986 when the Celtics brought home the NBA title.

“City of Boston, it’s been a long time coming, huh?” said Patriots captain and cornerback Lawyer Milloy. “They labeled us underdogs, they gave us no respect. We’ve got our respect now, right?”

Cornerback Ty Law later performed his trademark end zone dance with his teammates, and bullied Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft into improvising their own versions—much to the amusement of onlookers.

Sidelined star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, lately the subject of trade rumors, did not attend the celebration.

Out in the crowd, school-age children stood side-by-side with workers still wearing uniforms from businesses such as Ivelle’s Auto Seller and Apex Striping Co.

Fans jammed the City Hall steps early in the morning and were already shoulder-to-shoulder two hours before the victory parade began at noon. By that time, a jumbo television screen was already replaying kicker Adam Vinatieri’s winning field goal and “We are the Champions” boomed on the loud speaker.

Among the early birds was Bill M. Martin of Taunton, Mass. He said he arrived at 8 a.m. with a Patriots helmet painted on his bald head. He’d had his cousin paint the helmet on Sunday afternoon before the big game and since then had showered with a bag over his head so he wouldn’t spoil the design.

Across the plaza, Stephen A. Moss, a fifth grader at East Somerville Community School, took what his father referred to as a “field trip” to come and cheer on the team.

And New York City resident Greg T. Curran, who was born in Massachusetts, drove the 200 miles to Boston just to cheer on the team he grew up with.

All the while, police maintained a visible presence, though police estimated that only several dozen arrests were made.

—Javier A. Valle contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Justin D. Gest can be reached at gest@fas.harvard.edu.