Adam Marchand sat alone on a park bench in Copley Square yesterday, somberly staring straight ahead. He had no book, no newspaper, no cellphone, no iPod. Just painful memories of the agonizing New England Patriots loss in Sunday's Super Bowl and thoughts of what might have been.
"This is a day of mourning," said Marchand, a 29-year-old hotel worker from the Back Bay. "I didn't want to even get up today. I still can't believe it."
Marchand had taken the day off in anticipation of a late-night celebration to mark an undefeated season and the team's fourth Super Bowl championship. Instead, he and countless other heartbroken Boston fans spent the day in a state of disbelief, struggling to make sense of a soul-crushing defeat that few saw coming or even imagined possible.
Losing in the final seconds, just one win shy of perfection, was the cruelest twist, they said.
"They had a chance to make history," he lamented. "The undefeated season, gone. It doesn't mean anything anymore."
From the South End through the Back Bay to City Plaza, diehard Patriots fans shuffled in a half-trance down streets they had expected to dance in during a victory parade planned for today. In a sports-crazed city whose spirit is inextricably bound to the fate of local teams, the mood was decidedly morose, the sense of loss genuine.
"You can hear a pin drop," Samantha King said as she walked across Boston Common. Like Marchand, King had taken the day off, expecting Sunday night to stretch far into Monday morning. Instead, the Super Bowl party broke up early, and the 31-year-old spent the day shopping for shoes.
Patriots garb, omnipresent in recent days, was rarely seen. On a bleak, gray day that matched the mindset of many people, the city felt slower, sadder. Smiles were scarce, mutters the main form of conversation. Many boycotted all sports coverage, and some could not even bring themselves to discuss the game. Too soon, they said.
"I really don't want to talk about it," said Sean Savignano, a 21, a courier from Dorchester. "I'm really bummed."
New England sports fans have known plenty of heartache. But in recent years, with the Red Sox and Patriots winning an incredible five titles between them without a single championship defeat, once-fatalistic fans had come to expect the best. Surely the unbeaten and heavily favored Patriots would not break the streak.
When they did, spoiling a perfect season and the claim to be the greatest team of all time, many fans felt sucker-punched. This loss was not supposed to happen. This loss would linger and leave a mark.
"It's a hard [expletive] blow; that's for sure," said Ray Thibault, 19, of Boston. "19-0, I was sure of it. I still can't believe it. Man."
Standing on Boylston Street, Thibault could almost picture the throngs of delirious fans as his conquering heroes rolled by on Duck Boats. He would have been right there with them, he said wistfully, whooping until his voice went hoarse.
The shocking upset cut wide, from laborers in hard hats who ate lunch together in grim silence, to downtown business types who vented about the game during cigarette breaks.
And to a fan, it cut deep.
"I'm absolutely devastated," admitted Douglas Cooper, 25, from Andover on his lunch break. "We had it, the perfect season, and it all fell apart. It's totally depressing."
Jose Pina, 35, from Roxbury, woke up feeling blue, and put on Red Sox garb, as a form of solace. It didn't work.
"We should have had that game," he said near Copley Square. "They broke my heart. They broke everyone's heart. Everyone is down today."
Like many fans, Pina leaned on previously won titles to soothe his wounded psyche.
"We're still a dynasty," he said. "We're still the city of champions. I'll be OK."
Some found kinship in the shared suffering.
"I've been walking around looking at all the sad faces," said John Yelmokas, 68, from Braintree. "Everything seems dead today."
Some observers shook their head at all the moping. Buck up, they said. It's just a game.
"They had 18 wins, but people still complain," said Joe Santo, a newspaper vendor in Copley Square.
"They love to complain. They want to relive the pain. They can't let it go."
Brockton resident Karen Mathis also had little patience for self-pity. On her morning train ride into Boston, Mathis said she did not see a single person smile.
"They're just sulking," said Mathis, 50. "They'll get over it."
On the Common, a woman in her 20s wearing a blue Patriots cap looked downcast and somewhat lost.
Asked about the game, she bristled.
"I really don't want to talk about it," she said. "Sorry."
When a light turned green at an intersection, she hesitated, unsure where to go.
Finally, she strolled into the Public Garden.