The Giants took one last curtain call for their adoring fans yesterday, rolling slowly up the Canyon of Heroes to the cheers of almost a million people, some packed 50 deep, all of them feting their beloved football team in a scene that only New York is capable of producing.
The parade on Broadway in lower Manhattan was complete with tons of confetti falling from the windows of skyscrapers, with fans screaming for the players and the shiny, silver Vince Lombardi Trophy that went along for the ride in Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning's hands.
Smiling people were everywhere, shouting for a team that defied the odds by barely sneaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and then winning four straight games, the last a 21-17 victory over the Patriots on Sunday night in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII. Less than 40 hours after Manning produced the stirring winning drive, the emotions were still raw, the exhilaration still fresh.
"This day has been truly magical," safety Antrel Rolle said afterward. "You take it in. You try to soak it all in at one time. For me, this is the day that it truly hit me, what we have accomplished."
The players were caught up in the moment as much as their fans were. The smiles of the men who gave the Giants their second Super Bowl championship in the last five seasons were wide and unceasing, their video cameras capturing the expressions of the fans. Just as the fans were capturing theirs.
Osi Umenyiora had his video recorder in his right hand, turning from side to side, waving with his left hand, his smile never disappearing. Jason Pierre-Paul stood next to him, his expression the same. And there at the back of the float carrying the defensive stars was the massive tackle Chris Canty, who boldly proclaimed last Wednesday in Indianapolis that New York should get ready for this moment, because the Giants were going to beat the Patriots.
Canty was so overwhelmed with emotion that he leaped over the side of his float and began embracing fans and exchanging high-fives before returning to the vehicle.
Pretty soon, several more players were mingling with fans, allowing themselves to be clutched and hugged and high-fived in a hail of confetti. It is a scene they will not soon forget, and one that undoubtedly will motivate them to try to repeat it in future seasons.
This Giants team has a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback and a nucleus of young stars. There's Pierre-Paul, who heard chants of "J-P-P! J-P-P!" up and down the Canyon of Heroes, and receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who could hear "Cruuuuuuz" wherever he went. Then there are elite linemen such as Justin Tuck and Canty on defense and Chris Snee, David Diehl and David Baas on the other side of the ball. So the Giants easily could contend for more championships next season and beyond.
But this was the time to revel in the moment of this unlikely postseason run. Fans waved banners, threw hats at players to get autographs and held up signs pronouncing their affection. "On Cruz Control" read one of them. "Coughlin for President" read another. "Deja Blue" said a third.
It was a sea of red and blue jackets, hats, scarves and assorted other items, all worn in tribute to a team that somehow defied the odds and won it all.
When the parade was over, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave each member of the team a well-earned key to the city, and the players, coaches and owners paid tribute to their team, to their fans and to their city.
"There's a group of guys in Dallas that call themselves America's Team," co-owner Steve Tisch said. "But looking out at all of you and the millions of people in the streets, we're 'America's Dream.' "
Coughlin told the crowd that "all things are possible for those who believe. We always believed. We always knew we could get here."
It was a good place to be. The way only New York can make it happen.