BOSTONPoor player attendance, negligible fan turnout, and a marked lack of general enthusiasm marred the New England Patriots' annual season-ending parade through the streets of Boston Monday in what is being regarded as the worst such parade in the last three years.
"New England fans are the best fans in the world!" said owner Robert Kraft, standing beneath a banner that read "CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NFL CHAMPION PATRIOTS" in bold block letters, with the phrase "Of The AFC East" hastily spray-painted beside it. "It's just too bad more of them couldn't be here with us today to celebrate what we all agree was really an almost perfect season."
The reception for the team was unusually stilted, partially due to the cold and partially because the Patriots had not, in fact, won the Super Bowl. Kraft's speech was interrupted twice by police, who informed the team owner that he had not obtained the proper permit to hold a parade, and delayed for over an hour before the team was notified that the traditional duck boats used for the team's Super Bowl parade had been rented out to other parties after the Patriots' loss to the Broncos on Sunday.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, and lineman Matt Light looked out over the few dozen bewildered spectators at Boston's City Hall, occasionally shifting their weight and awkwardly fumbling with unopened bags of confetti while waiting for hastily arranged flatbed trucks to arrive and take them down the parade route.
"We're baaack!" Brady told a hurrying lunchtime crowd in City Hall Plaza, standing with Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick, and dozens of teammates at the near-victory rally. "And we came back early this year! Now let's hear it for the guys who helped me win three Super Bowls in the last five years!"
Kraft and Belichick praised the team's commitment to above-average performance, a philosophy that led to a season-ending streak of four straight wins, a loss, a wild-card playoff win, and then Sunday's 27-13 defeat at the hands of a fired-up Denver team.
"My guys have become the team to beat in the NFL," said Coach Belichick, looking out over the honking, bustling afternoon traffic as it streamed around the parade. "Every team out there knows they have to bring their ‘A' game when they take us on. Damned if that wasn't what the Broncos did, too. Kind of takes the edge off the day, but, you know, we've been looking forward to this parade for a long time."
"Everyone enjoys a nice parade," added Belichick.
Fan reaction was uncharacteristically subdued.
"I took the day off for the victory parade a year ago," said Jake Scheinbarth, 33, a UPS delivery driver and self-described "die-hard Patriots fan." "But the day I took off was in February. This crap is obstructing my damn drop-offs, here."
"Go, Pats! Come on, let's move it! Aw, get the hell out of the way!" he added, leaning on his van's horn in frustration.
Law-enforcement officials along the parade route said the few fans who noticed the parade were unusually well-behaved.
"We had a few traffic snarl-ups along Boylston Street by people who weren't ready for three trucks with bunting on them to come down the street in the middle of the day," said officer Chris Cashion. "No arrests for public intoxication, no overturned cars, and only one woman bared her breasts. And it was a homeless woman who does that to all the truck drivers."
Officials said only one fatality had been reported during the celebration, but that it had actually happened in a dispute over dog ownership in relatively distant Quincy, MA and was most likely unrelated.