date published: February 18, 2002

After a 16-year hiatus in which Beantown sports fanatics went without witnessing a national pro champion, the New England Patriots were crowned champs in Super Bowl XXXVI after conquering the St. Louis Rams in a upset for the ages. The Cinderella Pats defeated the heavily favored Rams 20-17 in New Orleans in the biggest sporting event of them all on February 3.

It’s been a long time coming. 1918. 1972. 1986. Numbers that Boston area sports fans know all too well. These are the dates that our other local professional sports teams—the Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, respectively—were last crowned world champions. The NFL’s Patriots—who started out as a charter AFL franchise in Boston in 1960 before being re-christened the New England Patriots upon their relocation to Foxborough in 1971—failed twice before at capturing the glory, in 1986 and 1996. In their 42-year history, they had been championship-less—until now.

The Hub and its citizens celebrated in style, with a grand parade in a fleet of Duck Tour vehicles, followed by a raucous rally at City Hall Plaza on February 5. Braving freezing temperatures, some began arriving in the wee hours of dawn to catch a glimpse of their favorite football team, eventually numbering an estimated 1.25 million strong—essentially tripling the population of Boston in the space of one afternoon. Everyone from office workers to school kids playing hooky poured onto Boston’s streets for possibly the biggest celebration in city history.

And why not? Despite the current successes of the apparently playoff-bound Bruins and Celtics, not to mention the start of yet another hope-filled spring training for the Red Sox, it’s been a while since Boston had an excuse for such jubilation. In an era of patriotic fervor, it only seems appropriate to be lauding a team named the Patriots. And since these are the New England Patriots, owner Robert Kraft has promised that the team will make appearances in the other five states of the region so they can share in the joy. So let the party continue—you never know when we’ll get another chance to celebrate like this again.

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