Sorry conspiracy buffs, a loss sometimes is just a loss

A man can do a lot of thinking during the four-hour, pedal-through-the-floorboard drive from Detroit to sweet home Chicago. Like ...

  • Who cares if Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw stiffed the NFL's Super Bowl MVP ceremony? It was their loss, not ours. They had a chance to be part of one of the great team photos of all time, but decided to take a pass because of family commitments, or money demands, or both. All I know is that if I were Montana or Bradshaw, I would have brought my family to Detroit for this one. It's not like they had to take a wagon train to get there. After all, how many times do you get almost all the living MVPs from SB I to XL on the same field?

    But Montana, the only three-time Super Bowl MVP, told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, "I've moved on with my life. People think I need to be stuck with football the rest of my life.''

    Yes, he's moved on all right ... until Feb. 25, when he's making a paid appearance at a collectors show. Autographs go for $149 apiece, photo ops for $169.

    Apparently Joe has no family commitments that day.

  • Can we have a Franco Harris Rule? The rule states that no lead singer older than the 56-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers legend can perform during the Super Bowl halftime show.

    Sorry, Mick. You and the belly shirt have to find a new gig.

  • And finally, can we stuff a very large sani-sock into the mouth of Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, and anyone else who says the refs had it out for the poor, little Seahawks?

    The signs are very clever (Refs 21, Seahawks 10 ... or, Pittsburgh's 12th Man: The Refs), but they're bogus. It's how sore losers rationalize a final score. Worse yet, it's crying. And there's no crying in football, unless you're Hines Ward.

    I know what you're thinking Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and, yes, Seattle Seahawks. You're thinking about the way the Steelers bumbled about in Ford Field, and you're saying to yourselves: "Tell me again how we lost to these guys?''

    Think about Sunday's game:

    Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger freaked out ... The best Pittsburgh pass of the day (and I'm stealing Michael Irvin's line here) was thrown by wide receiver Antwaan Randle El ... The Steelers' inspirational "hero,'' Jerome Bettis, rushed for a grand total of 43 yards and couldn't pound it in when Pittsburgh needed him most ... The Steelers had fewer passing yards, less time of possession, fewer total yards, and more turnovers.

    And yet, the Steelers won by 11, covering the spread with ease. Conspiracy theories arrived moments later.

    The refs stole it.

    The NFL "wanted'' this.

    The Seahawks were really the better team.

    Look, the game itself was 3 hours and 36 minutes of yawns. I think we can all pretty much agree on that. I loved the story lines, but the game, not so much.

    But to simply dismiss the Steelers victory as an act of referee kindness is to take a Bettis-sized leap of faith.

    Sorry, but Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson pushed off in the end zone. Did it gain him an advantage? Maybe. Maybe not. All that matters is that the official standing nearby -- a lot closer than John Madden, you or me -- thought so. Instead of a touchdown, Seattle settled for a 3-0 first quarter lead.

    Sorry, but Roethlisberger might have broken the plane of the goal line on his second quarter 1-yard TD dive. Or not. That's what matters, right? Not where he landed, but if the ball broke the plane? The play was reviewed and upheld. What else was anyone supposed to do? And while there are no guarantees, if the ball had been spotted just short of the goal line, the Steelers were 100 percent on fourth-and-goals this season.

    Sorry, I truly don't know whether Sean Locklear held Clark Haggans on that key fourth quarter call. Even if he didn't, and it was first-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 1, then what? If you can't guarantee Pittsburgh's scoring on fourth-and-inches in the second quarter, you can't guarantee Seattle's scoring on first-and-goal from the 1. Why? Because funny things happen, like the Bettis fumble against Indy. Or Roethlisberger's underthrowing a wide-open Cedrick Wilson against Seattle, costing the Steelers a sure touchdown or a likely field goal (the ball was at the Seahawks' 7). Instead, Kelly Herndon intercepted the crummy pass, returned it 76 yards and Seattle scored three plays later.

    No one can deny there were questionable calls during the game. But before Holmgren and Latte Nation start whining about playing "the guys in the striped shirts as well,'' perhaps a history lesson is in order.

    The striped shirts didn't cause tight end Jerramy Stevens to drop four passes. The striped shirts didn't cause the Seahawks defense to give up a Steelers first down on a third-and-28 situation (which later led to the Roethlisberger disputed TD). The striped shirts didn't cause the Seahawks defense to give up the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history. They also didn't cause Etric Pruitt to sprint up from his safety position, only to be fooled by the trick play that resulted in Randle El's 43-yard TD pass to Ward (and by the way, if everyone knows the Steelers like to run gadget plays near midfield, don't you think the Seahawks knew it too?). Or cause Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to throw a killer interception with nearly 11 minutes left in the game and Seattle trailing by only four points.

    Enough already with the whining. The Seahawks had their chances. Plenty of them to overcome the Steelers and, if they insist, the refs, too.

    Holmgren, who didn't exactly distinguish himself in the waning minutes of both halves, is no doubt suffering some post-Super Bowl anger. Perfectly understandable, especially in front of the thousands who greeted the team upon its return to Seattle. But days, weeks, months from now, when he's able to think more clearly, he'll realize the only people to blame for the loss were wearing Seahawks metallic blue, not black and white.

    Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.