There's an old saying, first uttered by a New York senator during a debate in 1831: "To the victor goes the spoils."
The Ravens can certainly speak to the accuracy of that sentiment after a dizzying week in which they visited the White House, shook hands with the president and received their Super Bowl rings.
What a week.
I'm sure nothing can top the exhilaration and sense of accomplishment the players and coaches shared on the floor of the Superdome after their Super Bowl victory was assured in February, but these last few days have to rank close.
The spoils of this victory are almost unimaginably sweet, carrying the indelible message that you REALLY accomplished something.
I will admit going into Wednesday's White House event with modest expectations. It was just boilerplate political pomp, a tired tradition rolled out for every champion every year, right? Well, maybe, but the power of the setting caught me by surprise. The event was quite moving.
For the record, it was preceded by a long caravan of buses carrying the players, coaches and staff down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, through the heart of Redskins country and up to the front door of the nation's most famous address – some underrated symbolism right there that any Baltimore fan can appreciate.
After passing through security, everyone wandered the building's heady corridors before spilling onto the famous portico overlooking the South Lawn. It was a serious photo op and the players took advantage, channeling their inner tourist and snapping away like crazy with their phones.
While the players waited inside for the ceremony to start, Maryland's political elite gathered on the manicured lawn along with some purple-jersey-wearing fans who obviously had friends in high places. A Marine jazz band played under a cloudless sky, the sense of place utterly perfect.
Everyone stood and whooped when the ceremony commenced and the president arrived, his purple tie a nifty touch.
Impressions …. No one enjoyed himself more than Ed Reed, who will be missed … the president has some talented speech writers …. Terrell Suggs looks especially trim, in fighting shape … the looks on the players' faces when they shook hands with Obama were priceless … what a moment for those guys … some lingered before returning to the bus … for such a public valedictory, the event felt surprisingly intimate.
But Friday night's ring ceremony was truly intimate, a Ravens-only gathering behind closed doors at the Under Armour Performance Center.
After the players, coaches, staff and their guests were seated, Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti spoke, singling out General Manager Ozzie Newsome, retired linebacker Ray Lewis, Head Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco, whom he anointed as the team's new leader.
Then came the anticipated moment: Bisciotti said that Super Bowl rings had almost seemed close enough to touch over the years as the Ravens contended in the playoffs, and now, in fact, they were inside the decorative boxes at the center of every table.
The players gasped as they pulled their rings, flush with 243 diamonds, from the boxes and slipped them on. The energy inside the fieldhouse was palpable, the players so overcome they instinctively rushed onto the dance floor to share the moment as only they should, with a burst of physicality.
Watching their sheer joy, it was impossible not to see that one of this group's greatest assets was its camaraderie.
Impressions … Jacoby Jones didn't seem to want to leave the dance floor … it felt right for Paul Kruger and Matt Birk to be on hand after they missed the White House event … it was a shame a few others couldn't make it … Reed, now of the Houston Texans, wore a purple shirt … to me, the rings depict the confetti shower that greets the Super Bowl winner, only with diamonds replacing the paper … wow.
The players seemed to fully grasp the powerful and conflicting emotions at play, that while this was their last hurrah and they would never be together again, the rings on their fingers were an immutable bond, symbolizing the historic accomplishment they would always share.
What a week.