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Fans skip school, work to see team

BOSTON -- Three silver Super Bowl trophies and the gray
sweat shirt-wearing mastermind who won them all took a championship
ride through the streets of Boston on Tuesday, passing nearly 1
million screaming fans.

Kids skipped school and grown-ups missed work. Confetti flew and
players blew kisses to the crowd.

The New England Patriots took another victory ride through town
-- their third in four years -- to give their sign-waving,
slogan-chanting supporters a chance to share in Sunday's 24-21 win
over the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville, Fla.

"It's incredible. It seems very surreal, deja vu, man,"
quarterback Tom 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."

It was a warm winter day, but coach Bill Belichick still wore
his gray hooded sweat shirt, a symbol of his fashion sense and
coaching focus: he's too busy making his team look good to bother
about himself.

Coaches, players and their friends and family members rode along
the 1½-mile route in World War II-style amphibious duck boats,
usually used to take tourists to historic city sites. The Boston
Red Sox used them in their championship "rolling rally" last
October but, unlike the baseball team, the Patriots didn't go into
the Charles River, which was frozen over.

Belichick was in the lead vehicle with team owner Robert Kraft,
vice chairman Jonathan Kraft and player personnel director Scott
Pioli. The executives each clutched a Vince Lombardi trophy, though
they may need help doing it next year.

One fan held up a sign that read "Next Stop Detroit." That's
where the next Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 5, 2006, when the
Patriots can win their fourth trophy in five years.

"It took me nine years to get my first championship. Now
they're coming every year. I could get used to this," said Troy
Brown, who played wide receiver, defensive back and returned punts
in the Super Bowl.

The crowd was mostly orderly, although several people were led
away from the parade route in handcuffs and police said they made
37 arrests. There was no mass gathering of fans at City Hall Plaza,
where the Patriots addressed them after the last two championships.

Some players flapped their arms, ridiculing the touchdown
celebration of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Fans stood on
snowbanks and trash cans. They threw T-shirts, posters and other
memorabilia at players to be autographed and took photos with cell
phone cameras.

Some wanted a smile from their dimple-chinned quarterback. He
gave it to them along with three raised fingers, signifying each
title.

"Take me to the prom," read one sign directed at Brady.

His girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, rode on one of the
duck boats.

Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, who rode with Brady, tried to
address the crowd but his microphone malfunctioned. He smiled and
was cheered just the same by youngsters who roared like rock fans.

"It's fantastic," said 11-year-old James Casey, wearing a red,
white and blue Patriots jacket. "I got to see the Patriots in
person. It's awesome."

Plenty of grown-ups acted like kids, roaring for the city's
second pro sports championship in four months.

"It's exciting," Uri Ahn, 36, of Bedford, N.H., said. "It's
something you might not see again. It's history. It's a true new
dynasty."

The Patriots have won 32 of their last 34 games, including the
playoffs. Belichick passed former Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi
for the best playoff record, 10-1. And no team has won three
consecutive Super Bowls, something the Patriots can accomplish next
year.

If that happens, defensive end Richard Seymour's hand might be
sparkling more than it was Tuesday when he held up his fist for
fans to admire one of his Super Bowl rings. At one point, tight end
Daniel Graham and fullback Patrick Pass each held up three fingers
for each championship, then raised a fourth.

But, befitting Belichick's obsession with not looking ahead, the
focus was on the latest championship and the adoring fans.

"This means more than anything in the world," offensive tackle
Matt Light told them. "You guys have been the greatest fans since
Day 1. This is the best season of my life."