"Something for Joey," on Channel 9 at 9 tonight, is one of those marvelous moments in television that walks the fine line between compelling drama and sentimentalism and comes out a winner in the end.

Reminiscent of "Brain's Song," tonight's drama is based on the relationship between John Cappelletti, the Los Angeles Rams running back who won the 1973 Heisman Trophy while at Penn State, and his younger brother Joey, who is waging a battle against leukemia.

"Something for Joey" covers 2 1/2 years, from the time Cappelletti is moved to running back by Coach Joe Paterno to the moment after the 1973 season when he receives the award and dedicates it to Joey, who is sitting in the audience at the New York Hilton.

The two hours would be worth watching simply for the old films of Cappelleti working over Penn State's opponents in the 1972 and '73 seasons. But there is more than that.

There are stellar performances by Marc Singer as Cappelletti. Jeff Lynas as Joey, Geraldine Page as the boys' mother and Gerald S. O'Loughlin as their father. There is, in addition, something that is becoming all too rare on television - the willingness and the ability to be sentimental about life and death.

"Something for Joey" is a warming production full of life and its enhancement by the inevitability of death.

There are cliches aplenty, evoking memories of Win One for the Gipper and Babe Ruth visiting the stricken child in the hospital after delivering a home run for the boy. And yet our lives are made up of cliches.

And it is a tribute to the people responsible for "Something for Joey" that they were willing to run the risk of sentimentality in order to serve the demands of poignancy.