This is what people do in the presence of Lombardi: They either rub the laces on top, cup the cone of the ball, grab it by the neck and pump it skyward or support it under the base in order to bring it in softly for a kiss without chipping a tooth. (Don't laugh. After the Colts won Super Bowl XLI in Miami, I got hit in the ribs by Lombardi, and it left a pretty nasty welt.) The trophy, designed on a cocktail napkin by Tiffany's Oscar Riedner during a 1966 lunch with Pete Rozelle, was named after the legendary Packers coach after his death in 1970 and first awarded under his name to the Colts after Super Bowl V.
Anyway, 44 football seasons later, Allen delivered Lombardi through a thick torrent of green and blue confetti that, if you looked closely, was cut into the shape of tiny Lombardi Trophies. The distinctive shape was everywhere last week in New York and, based on the dimensions of the game's ubiquitous logo featuring the New York skyline, Lombardi was actually 5,000 feet tall, not 22 inches.
Seems about right.
Fans in Times Square waited in line more than an hour in the cold to snap a photo with Lombardi. It was on the game ball. It was on cupcakes. I saw it as a temporary décolletage tattoo. I saw it as a giant ice sculpture at a celebrity beach football game that featured Tom Arnold covering Deion Sanders trying to catch a pass from Warren Moon.
Then, finally, I saw it for real on the podium, where Allen carefully handed it to commissioner Roger Goodell, who handed it to Seattle owner Paul Allen, who handed it to Carroll, who handed it to Smith, the MVP. (By the way, personally, I would have given the MVP to Seattle's unheralded but destructive defensive front, which made the Broncos look slower than Secaucus train service). When the TV cameras were off, Smith leaned over the edge of the platform and, with his teammates stretching their hands up to get a touch, he faked like he was going to chuck Lombardi into the crowd below. That was a very different move than the one performed last year by the Ravens' Ed Reed, who laid it down in the cradle of his arms, as if gently rocking a newborn to sleep.
Instead, though, Smith walked it down into a sea of humanity on the field, where it went from long snapper Clint Gresham to receiver Doug Baldwin, who gave Lombardi its official first kiss. Linebacker Mike Morgan got the first selfie with it before handing it off to linebacker O'Brien Schofield, who passed it to 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, who looked like he might never let it go.
A native of Cambridge, Mass., Giacomini skipped football season as a junior at Malden High in order to concentrate on basketball. But a year later, the only scholarship offer he got was from Louisville -- to play football. Taken in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by the Packers, he was cut just after training camp in 2010, the season Green Bay would hoist its fourth Lombardi Trophy. In a pattern that repeats itself up and down the Seahawks' young roster (average age: 26), he was plucked off the Packers' practice squad by Seattle, where over the next three years he worked himself into the team's starting right tackle role. It was a long, tortuous journey full of injuries, setbacks and self-doubt, and one that left him near tears when I asked him about holding the Lombardi in one arm and his daughter, Alayna, 5, in the other.