They are high school sophomores, simultaneously old boys and young men. They are too young to drive, but too old to cry when their team loses.
Only 16, they live in Greater Boston, which means they haven't enjoyed pro sports champions in basketball, hockey, or baseball. But they know what it's like to watch their team win the Super Bowl, and when it happened again Sunday night, it called for something different.
Full of chicken wings, football cake, and the energy of the innocent, the eight boys stripped down to their shirts and boxer shorts, and poured out the front door of the suburban home. It was sort of like that moment in "Animal House" when Bluto rallies the brothers for one last foolish foray.
And so they ran and they whooped and hollered. Down the street. Around the block. Yelling. Louder. Eyes watering. Adrenaline rushing. Sheer joy. They could not stop laughing. It is a moment they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Someday they'll tell their kids about the cold, dark, February night when they ran around the neighborhood in their boxers.
Nobody called the cops. No cars were overturned. It was spontaneous celebration.
Those boys will remember the 2003-04 New England Patriots as the team that brought them maximum return on their emotional investment. It was a team that earned the love of the fans and never betrayed that absolute affection.
As sports fans, we all need a team like that -- a team worthy of the unconditional love that comes from the fandom. I am 50 years old and my team was the 1967 Red Sox. Fans loved the team, and the Cardiac Kids never let us down. They won close games, came from behind, beat 100-1 odds, and put Red Sox baseball back on the map after some of the darkest days in franchise history. They won the greatest pennant race of them all, inspiring books, songs, Big Yaz Bread, and a best-selling "Impossible Dream" LP. They lost the World Series, but it didn't matter much then. There was no disappointment, no heartache, no letdown.
The Patriots who paraded through downtown yesterday are the same type of team. They made fans feel good about being fans. Right to the finish.
Did you notice Richard Seymour's afterword at City Hall Plaza? Gil Santos had sent everybody on their way when Seymour, so much older than his 24 years, had the presence to take the microphone and say one more thing. He'd noticed that Rodney Harrison's name hadn't been mentioned during the shout-outs. He reminded the crowd that Harrison was having surgery on his broken arm during the million-fan march.
It was typical of the Patriots. Sort of like having your linebacker (Mike Vrabel) catch a Super Bowl touchdown pass, then go back on the field to cover the ensuing kickoff. No wonder Bill Belichick loved coaching these guys.
The coach talked about a group of players who "gave up a little bit of individuality" for the common good. Troy Brown said it was worth the black eye and broken nose he suffered in the game. Tom Brady, as ever, was humble and thanked the fans. The offensive line, which allowed zero sacks in the playoffs, remained in the background. All that was missing was a driving snowstorm to make everyone feel at home.
There's been a rush to talk about the future, and the word "dynasty" gets bandied about. Granted, there is much to like about the Patriots' possibilities down the road. They have a raft of draft picks, Rosevelt Colvin will come back from his injury, there's sufficient salary cap maneuverability, and the core of the team should remain intact. Brady is only going to get better and says the best ring is always "the next one." They'll go into the season with 15 consecutive wins, needing only three to match the Dolphins' NFL record.
But just because they won the Super Bowl and the parade is over, it doesn't mean we have to look ahead. Enjoy the moment a little longer. No matter how good they are, next year's Patriots will not be the same team. Perfect karma is not transferable from season to season. You can't go back. It will never be the same as it was this year, and if you are a fan of team play, this year was as good as it'll ever get.
Whether you are 16 years old or 66.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.