Fans welcome Seahawks home, blame refs for loss

SEATTLE -- Despite the Seahawks' disappointing Super Bowl
loss, thousands of Seattle fans showed up Monday at Qwest Field to
welcome the players home and congratulate them on their season.

Coach Mike Holmgren told the homecoming crowd that some of the
officials' calls from Sunday's 21-10 loss still rankled.

"We knew it was going to be tough going up against the
Pittsburgh Steelers," Holmgren said. "I didn't know we were going
to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

The fans roared their agreement.

"Refs suck!" they shouted in unison.

The focus of the fans' rage, a day after their team lost in
Seattle's first trip to the Super Bowl, included a Darrell Jackson
touchdown catch that was taken away by a penalty and a disputed TD
run by Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.

One call robbed the Seahawks of a touchdown; the other gave the
Steelers a touchdown.

"The officiating left a lot to be desired," said Dale Baxman,
a fan who took a half-day off work to attend the rally.

Vicky Phillips, another fan, was more direct.

"I think we need new refs," she said.

But more than griping about the officials, the fans,
collectively referred to as the team's "12th Man," turned out to
thank their team.

"I'm here to support them, let them know it's all right," said
Tracy Rogers of Seattle, who called in sick -- brokenhearted, really
-- to join the crowd. The Seahawks estimated attendance at about
15,000 although other observers thought the crowd was smaller.

Teenagers Malissa Dunn, Nickey Horgan and Gena Copley took a
parents-sanctioned day off from school to paint their faces blue
and green and score a front-row seat.

"We won in our hearts," said Horgan, 15. "We're still No.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who traveled to Detroit to watch the game,
told fans to be proud of the team that won the NFC Championship,
has the league MVP in Shaun Alexander and boasts seven Pro Bowlers.

Holmgren and other team officials praised the raucous legion of
fans who are known for raising the decibel level in Qwest Field to
among the loudest in the NFL.

"We just want to thank you for sticking with us all season,"
he said.

The entire Seahawks squad took the stage under an unusually
sunny Seattle sky.

"I just want to thank you for your unwavering support,"
linebacker Lofa Tatupu said.

Alexander drew cheers -- and perhaps raised hopes -- with his
comments about next year's Super Bowl XLI in sunny Florida. The
star running back's contract is expiring and, if the team doesn't
re-sign him before March 3, he will become one of the league's most
coveted free agents.

"Next year, our last game of the season will be a win in
Miami," he told the crowd.