You might not care for the Seahawks, might think they're too young, too fast, too brash. They do lead the league in speed, defense and penalties. They are young and great and, sorry, the future of the NFL. But let me say this: When it came to handling the Lombardi Trophy, I saw nothing but old souls full of deep reverence and respect for the game, its history and its grandest symbol.
"I don't know how you could not get emotional holding it," tight end Zach Miller said. "This represents the pinnacle of what we do. And to get there with such a dominant win in this game, all the better. The older guys, they know, they know how much hard work and sacrifice goes into this little trophy. But when you get to hold it, it sets you apart from other football players for the rest of your life. When I got to hold it, I thought, 'I finally made it.' I also thought, 'Hey, it was much lighter than I expected,' but I think maybe you're so excited to hold it, no matter how much it weighed, it would still feel light in your hands."
It felt that way for everyone inside the Seattle locker room, I suppose, except the poor guy the team had assigned to keep track of something Paul Allen probably values more than his multibillion-dollar bank account right about now. Last year, the Ravens actually lost Lombardi for a little while after the game, and the Saints banged it up pretty good four years ago, I'm told. So it was this guy's job to make sure that didn't happen with the Seahawks. The trophy costs roughly $3,500 in materials, but it must be returned to Tiffany after all the celebrating and parading and kissing in order to be engraved for perpetuity. "Someone just said, 'Keep an eye on it at all times,'" the exhausted, nervous guy told me as Smith and the linebackers passed it around behind him. "To be honest, I'm scared to death it's gonna walk off or disappear into somebody's bag."
A few minutes later, the trophy's custodian tried to sneak it out of the locker room to safety through the bathroom -- a rookie mistake -- only to be stopped by a series of players racing out of the showers for pictures and poses, including a dripping wet Golden Tate.
"OK, that's it," yelled the Seahawks' Lombardi wrangler. "It's going away now."
And with that, Lombardi slowly made its way to the equipment room near the locker room's exit, where, according to workers, it was placed in a black protective traveling case and shipped back to the team hotel for the postgame party. The trophy would make a brief appearance the next morning at the final news conference in New York before flying west to where Carroll repeatedly said it belongs, "With the 12th Man."
With Lombardi gone, finally, just before 11:45 p.m., the locker room began to empty out. Players pulled their name tags off their lockers, stuffed them in their bags as keepsakes and headed for the team buses. Right behind them workers tore down silk Super Bowl XLVIII banners on the walls to reveal the Giants' logos and mottos painted underneath.
Wearing funky wraparound shades, cornerback Richard Sherman emerged from the training room all smiles, while, somehow, making crutches look smooth and cool.
Sherman crossed right over the middle of the locker room where earlier Carroll had first used the symbol of the Lombardi Trophy to evoke the full awe and wonder of what the Seahawks had accomplished this season.