Super Bowl XXXVI might have transpired close to 17 years ago, but the memories remain as vivid as ever — even if I was just an 8-year-old kid, huddled around my grandmother’s TV set.
Like many others located throughout the Commonwealth, New England and across the country, that sequence starting with 1:21 left in regulation has become as ingrained into my psyche as the cacophony of noise that came from my AOL dial-up service (Man, I feel old).
But who can forget it? Three straight dump-off passes to J.R. Redmond. A 23-yard hookup to Troy Brown underneath the Rams’ zone defense. A 6-yard pass to Jermaine Wiggins to cap off the drive. Forty-eight yards out for Adam Vinatieri? Cash.
As Vinatieri split the uprights and put an end to “The Greatest Show on Turf,” I joined in on the chorus of cheers with the rest of my family — many of whom reveled in Boston’s first title since Larry Bird and Co. dispatched the Rockets in 1986.
It was an unforgettable memory in what was just the start of a childhood dictated by parades rolling down Boylston. Still, I’d be lying if I told you that 8-year-old me had a full grasp on what was happening on my TV set back on Feb. 3, 2002.
New England’s triumph in Super Bowl XXXVI — what many Patriots fans thought would be an inconceivable outcome for a franchise that nearly packed its bags for St. Louis just a decade prior — was a pleasant surprise to me, a naive (and soon to be absurdly spoiled) sports fan growing up in South Boston.
At that point, I was still a Drew Bledsoe supporter— my fandom due in large part to the Bledsoe-branded Nerf footballs you could absolutely hum back in the day. Hey, we all have faults, right?
Fair to say, seeing a 24-year-old Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the Superdome was a sight that was hard to equate to anything I’d seen before in my early years of sports fandom. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us — not a team from Boston, and certainly not the Patriots.
Seventeen years later, we all know how the script plays out. Four more championships — for now. Eight more trips to the Super Bowl. Twelve more appearances in an AFC Championship tilt.
The narrative has shifted just a wee bit since we all saw Brady and Bill Belichick reach the top of the summit back in the winter of 2002, but that doesn’t make this sustained stretch of Patriots dominance any less unbelievable than it already is.