Let me explain.
I grew up in the ’80s in a baseball household. The Red Sox were my dad’s religion, and that’s how he raised his kids. We didn’t follow basketball, which was, of course, a travesty, since in those days, the only place championship banners were being hoisted was on Causeway Street. But while I have no childhood memories of watching the Celtics, I do remember the team’s 1981 championship rally in Government Center. Specifically, I recall hearing about how Larry Bird sent the crowd into delirium with his famous declaration that Celtics playoff foe Moses Malone “eats shit.”
As an impressionable young shaver, that seemed like the greatest thing in the world to me. This was before social media and NESN and waffles and flying machines and the thought of professional athletes cutting loose, being “themselves” and celebrating a trophy with their fans was an amazing concept. From that point, I wondered just how riotous a Red Sox championship rally could be–a fantasy I replayed in my mind for years until the likes of Marty Barrett, Danny Darwin and John Burkett nearly beat it out of me.
When the Sox finally did the impossible in 2004, I saw the chance to realize a childhood dream. And within hours of Foulke-to-Mientkiewicz, my head was reeling with the rally possibilities.
Would Schilling deliver an epic poem based on his “Why Not Us” mantra? Would Pedro incite the first-ever Government Center mosh pit with a Yankees smack-down? And — holy shit — what magic would flow from Kevin Millar’s mouth once you handed him a microphone and set him up before 60,000 plus rabid fans?
Alas, it wasn’t to be. For reasons of crowd control and ensuring millions of folks had the chance to celebrate this historic — and for all we knew back then, once in a lifetime — event, the decision was made to bring the players to the people, charting a rolling rally course around the city.
I didn’t go to the 2004 parade. I didn’t make the 2007 edition either. I finally had the chance to attend in 2013. And while the experience was amazing, it seemed all too… fleeting. I stood in one place for roughly four hours, waved as the players milled past for what seemed a few seconds but was probably four minutes, then I packed up and headed home.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad I went. And I’m thankful for the embarrassment of riches that the Sports Gods have bestowed upon our fair city. Particularly where the Red Sox are concerned, I’ve now seen three times what I never expected to witness once in my lifetime. Not many people can say that.
But, man, would I love to see a full-blown, turn-back-the-clock championship celebration that packs them into City Hall plaza. One that gives the fans the chance to hear players address the crowd, talk about what the moment means to them, and — especially in the case of Mike Napoli or Jonny Gomes — maybe even stage dive into the throngs of admirers.
If we learned anything during David Ortiz’s now-legendary, “this is our fucking city,” magical things happen when you give passionate players a microphone. And as the city gears up for yet another rolling rally today to celebrate the Patriots’ Super Bowl success, a little part of me waxes nostalgic for a simpler time, without duck boats.