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Remember when losing was accepted as "part of the game?" Remember when it was possible - even routine - to look in the mirror following a loss, rather than everywhere else? Remember when a questionable call was considered human error, and not the product of an elaborate conspiracy?

Think hard enough, and it will come back to you, like reciting the preamble or the theme song from "Happy Days."

We used to get a chuckle from Richie, Potsie, The Fonz and Ralph Malph. Now, we are left to believe they refereed Super Bowl XL Sunday in Detroit, with six-figure bonus checks from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in their pockets.

Seattle fans and, worse yet, their coach seem convinced the Seahawks' 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh was the work of scheming officials, under orders from NFL brass.

They point to four crucial calls - all of which went against Seattle - and reach the conclusion the game was a fix, that Tagliabue, et al, wanted Pittsburgh and its beloved "Bus," Jerome Bettis, to win.

It was enough to make Seahawks' coach Mike Holmgren spew contradictions. On the one hand, he told reporters, "Anything I say sounds like an excuse. We had our chances."

Yet, during a welcome-home ceremony Monday at Seattle, Holmgren told a crowd of 15,000 he knew playing Pittsburgh was going to be difficult, and added, "I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

Feeding frenzy

Holmgren told the home folks what they wanted to hear - and the last thing they needed to hear.

A day after capping his 14th year as an NFL head coach, Holmgren perpetuated the ridiculous notion of a conspiracy. He fed the beast.

Holmgren could have apologized to the crowd for his team's horrendous play calling and clock management at the end of both halves.

The first concluded with Josh Brown's missed field goal try from 54 yards, a far longer attempt than it should have been. The second ended with the Seahawks - in need of two scores - moving quickly into field goal range, then wasting away the final minute with Brown still on the sidelines. They did everything but take a knee in a bizarre finish which left even John Madden searching for words.

Holmgren could have reminded "Seahawk Nation" that officiating aside, their heroes had the ball in Pittsburgh territory early in the fourth quarter with a chance to take a 17-14 lead. However, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's badly overthrown pass was intercepted by Ike Taylor, leading to the clinching score.

The Seattle coach could have pointed to three dropped passes by tight end Jerramy Stevens, two missed field goals by Brown, three Pittsburgh sacks - a lot of things.

Instead?

"I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

Bad and as bad

Granted, the officials had a bad day, making calls which were debatable at best, wrong at worst. Those against Seattle nullified a touchdown, two first downs and 86 total yards.

Yet, "the guys in the striped shirts" were no worse than the Seahawks and their coach, who would have done well to follow the lead of his MVP running back, Shaun Alexander.

Asked Monday about the officiating, Alexander told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Referees have a hard job. I'm not going to sit here and bash them."

Holmgren chose to appease those at the welcome-home rally who held signs such as "REFS 21, HAWKS 10," and "REFS ARE CHUMPS."

He further riled the likes of 38-year-old K.C. Williams and his 13-year-old son, Kaleb.

"Rip-off," Kaleb Williams told the Post-Intelligencer after the rally.

"Call 911, we got robbed!" his father added.

The Seahawks got beat, which is no longer acceptable. Losing in the new millennium is always someone's fault, but never your own.

A 13-year-old boy can be excused for that mentality. A 38-year-old father and a 57-year-old coach should be above it. There was a time they were.

Remember?

Randy Kindred is a Pantagraph columnist. To leave him a voice mail, call 820-3402, By e-mail: rkindredyayaypantagraph .

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