EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- "Look at what you did! Look at what you freakin' did! Put that freakin' trophy up! Put it up!"
At 10:57 p.m. inside the Seahawks' crowded, euphoric locker room, Pete Carroll bounced past a garbage can and two equipment bins to the center of the room, where in a scratchy, hoarse voice he asked his team to "circle up" around Seattle's newest, greatest bauble: a 22-inch, 7-pound piece of Italian sterling silver crafted by hand during the past four months just down the road in Parsippany, N.J.
First, though, teammates had to pry the Tiffany & Co. creation, named in honor of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, away from Jermaine Kearse and the team's other wideouts who had it sequestered in the corner of the locker room, cell phones out, smudging the silver shine opaque with long, loving smooches while using it as a prop for the ultimate sports selfie.
The Lombardi was then baton-passed down the line by its neck, just under the regulation-sized football that sits atop the trophy, until it reached the impromptu huddle where a group of defensive linemen held it aloft as Carroll had implored. The plan was to keep it in the air, bathing the world champs in its electric-white glimmer, as Carroll summarized Seattle's triumphant, nasty and historic dismantling of the Denver Broncos and whatever hope Peyton Manning had of going down as the greatest quarterback of all time.
But Carroll's list of accolades ended up being so long -- the greatest defensive performance ever in the Super Bowl, the turnovers they forced, the pass rush, linebacker Malcolm Smith's pick-six, Percy Harvin's perseverance and his kick return, the poise of quarterback Russell Wilson, the running of Marshawn Lynch and so on -- that even the team's strongest players couldn't keep the Lombardi aloft long enough to justify the full laundry list of all that Seattle had achieved. (In some ways, you might say, keeping the trophy in the air presented a greater physical challenge than the Broncos' offensive line.) "I'm so proud that we are able to stand together right here at this moment," Carroll finally concluded. "You guys just kept fighting, kept scratching and clawing and look what you did! Look what you did!"
Now, I've covered 18 Super Bowls and watched 18 shiny new Lombardi Trophies get passed around 18 wild postgame celebrations, and I've honestly never seen the Lombardi incorporated so quickly, so fully and so effortlessly into the very heart of a team, a franchise and a city.
Seattle, what can I say? You're a natural.
So, taking this as my cue, I decided to stick by Lombardi's side and watch and record what unfolded over the next hour or so as one of the most iconic pieces of sports hardware in the world made its way around the postgame celebration of Super Bowl XLVIII.
For the record, Lombardi's journey began just as tradition dictates: by being walked onto the field by a Hall of Famer. In this case it was in the safe, capable hands of Marcus Allen, who moved the prize to the postgame podium as fans, players and onlookers reached through the tangle of humanity to rub the top of the trophy like Buddha's belly.