Having greeted the new year without alcoholic help. I am at a loss to explain why my thinking is so muddled today. I don't seem to understand half of what I read in the papers.

For example, take Thursday's story that Peter J. Gianaris is going to jail. Gianaris is a "gambling king," our headline said, and his customers have included "rich and famous lawyers, doctors, journalists and businessmen."

The charge against Gianaris was that he conducted a gambling business by acting as a bookmaker for bets on sporting events. The defense did not challenge that allegation.

So Gianaris must go to jail, because the law says that it is illegal to bet as it is to accommodate one who wants to bet on a sporting event.

It should be noted, however, that the law says it is just as illegal to bet as it is to accomodate one who wants to bet. Yet the law never bothers bettors. It puts bookmakers in jail, but not those who bet with bookmakers. Millions of Americans bet without being arrested.

And this is what puzzles me. If the bookie must go to jail, why is the prosecutor so careful not to reveal the names of those with whom the bookie engaged in illegal acts? Why do we put the prostitute in jail and leave her johns free to engage the services of other prostitutes? When it takes two to tango, why do we punish one and not the other? When the District of Columbia legalizes gambling as the various states already have done, the City Council will in effect become Washington's new gambling king. Will we put the Coucil in jail, too?

I am not one of Gianaris journalistic clients, but not because I consider his activities immoral. They're just bad for my economic healt.

I may be a little dense at times, but one thing I do understand: If Gianaris wins enough money through bookmaking to make a living at it, his customers must, per se, be losers. I have no appetite for being a loser so I don't bet with bookmakers.

But his is a free country, and those who want to throw their money away are free to do it in a hundred different ways. If the Gianaris doesn't force his customers to bet. He doesn't send for the doctors, lawyers and journalist; they send for him.

So I'm left to wonder: If it is just and proper for a bookmaker to be sent to jail, why is it no just and proper for the prosecutor to identify those who gambled with him? And why doesn't he prosecute them as he has prosecuted Gianaris?

I am also puzzled about some facts that appeared in out sports section on the final day of the year. In a series about sports equipment, we noted that football helmets often fail to protect those who wear them.

"Sales of football helmets in 1976 totaled about $10 million," our story stated, "but product liability lawsuits against the industry sought damages totaling $110 million, according to Sporting Goods Dealers magazine."

Why so many lawsuits? Because "In 1976 there were an estimated 45,000 concussions suffered by players on organized football terms. Twelve high school players died of head injuries".

The statistics are incomplete, I can tell you. When I was a young sports-writer in 1933, one of my assignments was to keep as good a count as possible on stories about deaths caused by football injuries. I quickly learned that there is no machinery for collecting such data, no central clearinghouse for it - and precious little interest among readers, even those who are parents of children who play football.

For the most part, we learn about football deaths only when they occur in our local area. The usual reaction is, "Oh, what rotten luck that such an un usual thing should happen on this fine lad." And this is what puzzles me.

Surely we have seen and heard enough to known that football has become a vicious game in which the best and the strongest of professionals are maimed and knocked senseless with regularity. We all know that everlasting pain is the price football professionals must pay for the "easy money they make. We know, too, that the one common theme in all their lives is the prayer they will be able to complete their careers without crippling injury. Why, then, do we encourage little children to be drawn into this savage activity? Why do we cheer them on to break each other's bones?

Tomorrow I think I'll go back to raising money for Children's Hospital. Mending broken bones is something I can understand.