NEW YORK – With a snowstorm of confetti and paper raining down from skyscrapers, Michael Strahan cradled the Super Bowl trophy like a baby Tuesday as thousands of New York Giants fans celebrated on Manhattan's streets and saluted their improbable champions.
"I still can't believe it," Strahan said as the team was leaving New Jersey to come to New York. "I'm still in some kind of shock."
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The Giants rode in floats and many players carried video cameras to record the moment, waving to the throngs and basking in the delighted screams. A huge cheer went up when MVP quarterback Eli Manning joined Strahan, a star defensive end, at the front of a float.
The float also carried Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which was well protected in Strahan's massive arms.
The parade, featuring 50 tons of confetti, came two days after the Giants upset New England 17-14 to ends the Patriots' perfect season. Fans threw hats to the players, who signed them and threw them back. Bloomberg was to give team officials the key to the city after the festivities.
Mehdi Machkour, a 26-year-old restaurant worker from Brooklyn, wasn't quite sure which two players signed his hat. The Morocco native is more of a soccer fan, but this day brought a big change.
"Now I love football," he said.
The parade began at the tip of lower Manhattan in Battery Park and proceeded north on Broadway, going past the financial district and the site of the World Trade Center before a finale at City Hall Park.
The stretch is known as the "Canyon of Heroes," where ticker-tape parades have celebrated everything from Charles Lindbergh's Atlantic flight to sports championships. The last parade was in 2000, when the Yankees won the World Series. This parade was the first for a football team, said Kenneth Cobb, assistant commissioner in the city Department of Records.
While it clearly was a day for a parade, it was also a day for politics. New York and the 23 other Super Tuesday states were holding primaries that could seal the fates of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.
Just south of City Hall, politics and the parade crossed paths as signs for Democratic candidate Barack Obama were surrounded by fans wearing Giants red, white and blue.
Crowds were 20 people deep at some places, and the presence of children showed that many considered the parade to be worth missing a day of school. Arlene Remy, 32, of Brooklyn, was with her son and three of his friends.
"They haven't won a Super Bowl since 1991 and I want to be a part of history," she said.
Added Jack O'Brien, a computer programmer from New Jersey: "This is great because you can actually see their faces without their helmets on."
The city had tons of shredded paper on hand for the parade, but some fans came prepared with toilet paper. An hour before the parade, several street lamps along Broadway were covered in streams of white tissue.
Justice Rodriguez, 11, of Brooklyn, was up at 3 a.m. with his father and half-dozen friends to secure a spot along Broadway, complete with chairs, food and a camcorder.
"I want to see Eli Manning," said the boy, who wore a No. 10 Manning shirt over a down jacket. His father, Juan Rodriguez, took the day off from his car wash job.
"You never know when they'll win again," he said.
Police reported no significant problems at the parade, but made about nine arrests for minor offenses, including disorderly conduct.