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Originally published September 2, 2014 at 9:28 PM | Page modified September 3, 2014 at 11:21 AM

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Lombardi Trophy continues to embrace Seahawks fans everywhere

Seven months after Seattle won the Super Bowl, the travels of the championship trophy spark tales of joy far beyond the Puget Sound area.


Times staff columnist

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The celebration has lasted seven months now. In Seahawks country — where the Lombardi Trophy is finally real and spectacular — the Super Bowl XLVIII party continues on, never peaking, always inviting in new guests.

If every random thought of the victory puts people back in the spirit, then imagine what seeing the Lombardi Trophy does. Track its whereabouts lately, and the traveling tales illustrate the deep meaning of a championship 38 years in the making, as well as a Seahawks fever still spiking throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The trophy, 22 inches tall and seven pounds of sterling silver, has gone from the lips of left tackle Russell Okung just minutes after the Seahawks won the title in East Rutherford, N.J., to a championship parade that drew an estimated 700,000, to the White House to visit President Obama. But some of the best and most touching moments happened when the Seahawks took the trophy on a summer tour of the region and beyond, providing fans with an opportunity to spend time with the gleaming example of the Seahawks’ first championship.

In Anchorage, Jim Balamaci is still amazed that Seahawks fans in Alaska had the chance to be a part of the celebration. The trophy took the trip north July 7-9, and about 1,000 fans attended four events over those three days.

“The 12th Man lives in Alaska, that’s for sure,” said Balamaci, the president of Special Olympics Alaska, which hosted one of the events.

Balamaci has been a Seahawks fan basically since the team’s 1976 inception. He has been a season-ticket holder since 1998. He was in New Jersey last February to watch the Seahawks finally win it all. Balamaci had little doubt that the 2013 season would be the Seahawks’ year.

In his heart, he had known they would hoist that Lombardi for more than a year. When the Seahawks lost a heartbreaking divisional playoff round game in Atlanta to end the 2012 season, he saw a team that was ready to play at the highest level.

“I knew they had the team, and I knew they were going to learn from that loss, and it would make them determined,” Balamaci said.

Because he must take a three-hour flight to get to CenturyLink Field for games, Balamaci has an even greater appreciation for the reach of the Seahawks. They are the favorite team of an underappreciated portion of the United States and Canada, areas that aren’t overflowing with professional sports options. The Seahawks are the most popular team in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.

When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, it wasn’t just Seattle’s triumph.

“The way they won it, we really felt like a part of it,” Balamaci said. “The championship, it just breaks down the barriers. It’s like we’re one big team. I don’t think other states, other NFL teams, get that.”

In Olympia, Stephanie Horn had an idea. She wanted to throw a birthday party to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Combined Fund Drive, a workplace giving program for state employees. And the Seahawks’ Lombardi Trophy made for the perfect guest for the fundraiser.

More than 700 people showed for the event. The Combined Fund Drive raised more than $16,000 during the barbecue and live auction on July 24. Horn, the special programs director for the Combined Fund Drive, marveled at how drawn people were to the trophy.

Gov. Jay Inslee attended. So did Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her predecessor, Sam Reed. Wyman has since told others that it was one of her favorite days on the job.

“As soon as they put out the trophy, it was a mad dash to get pictures,” Horn said. “I just think that it’s been a long time coming, and people were just thrilled to be close to that victory. The first championship — I can’t explain it. It was special. It was magic in the air.”

In Bellingham, Christine Jenkins is the director of sales at the Best Western Plus Lakeway Inn and Conference Center. More than 1,200 fans came to the hotel for a trophy event on July 6.

Men cried. Fans brought their favorite Seahawks memorabilia to pose with the trophy. Some tailgated, arriving at 6 a.m. and partying until the event began nine hours later.

“It was visceral,” said Jenkins, who is also on the Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism board. “The excitement, you could feel it. Some of the staff, we were able to hold the trophy, and that was a moment of a lifetime. It was a bucket-list moment. Finally, it’s ours.”

And the Seahawks get to keep that Lombardi Trophy forever. It’s not like the Stanley Cup, passed on from year to year to each champion. This is the Seahawks’ trophy and the Seahawks’ alone. And for the 12th Man, a fan base that has faithfully supported a franchise and seen its championship ethic develop over 38 years, it’s a symbol of persistence’s value.

Over the past seven months, this trophy has had a victory lap to remember. From Joint Base Lewis-McChord to the Oregon Historical Society Museum. From Vancouver, Wash., to Vancouver, B.C. It has partied with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The Storm even held a special event with all of Seattle’s pro championship trophies — the Lombardi, the Sonics’ 1979 championship and the Storm’s 2004 and 2010 titles — together for the public.

This week, with the celebration still going, the Lombardi Trophy will slip quietly into the background. Another season begins. Another pursuit of sterling silver.

If the sight of one brought you to tears, consider that the Seahawks are favorites to win a second this season.

Rest your eyes.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @JerryBrewer



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