Well, pardon me and excuse my English and remember, if you can, that I am educated beyond reason, but lump it America--Washington has won. Yes, the city you've learned to hate, the city of faceless bureaucrats and pointy-headed intellectuals has won the NFC championship. Beaten Dallas. Take that, Ronald Reagan!

Maybe it was not the same as a pay raise for federal workers. Maybe it was not the same as an acknowledgement that this city actually does something worthwhile. Maybe it was not the same as ceasing to pick on government workers or acknowledging that real people live here, but it will do for now. The bureaucrats won. They beat that most American of all cities: Dallas.

Oh, I know better. I know the fiction in the term "we." The players come from all over the country, and when they are here they don't even live in Washington. I know that football is a business and being a fan is being a fool and that the team has nothing to do with the city. If it did, Dallas would always finish last and San Francisco first and Washington somewhere in between.

But sometime in the last week none of that seemed to matter. A city that has been a scapegoat for years started to live for something. A city that was told by Jimmy Carter that it was the problem, not the solution, started to take some pride in itself. A city that every recent president has campaigned against, maligned, kicked, scapegoated and blamed for his own shortcomings started to get some pride in itself, started to believe that it could compete--and win. And it did.

So for a while in Washington everything stopped yesterday. Actually, things had begin to slow down toward the end of the week. It was acknowledged that the president would once again hold down the pay of federal workers and it was noted that the layoffs and the RIFs would continue, but the real attention was focused on the Washington Redskins. Somehow, if they could win it would be all right.

And so yesterday in Washington nothing moved. During the game there was hardly any traffic to speak of. In every store there seemed to be a television set. I picked up my cleaning early, and already the TV had been put on the counter. At the deli, the guy who owns the place had put a set where he usually puts the lox. At the place where I buy the papers, people were already talking about the game.

And then suddenly, after the game, life exploded in Washington. Traffic filled the streets and people came out of bars and the cars started off with their horns blowing. Some people held victory signs out of cars and they walked on the street with a special bounce and it was all because the the Redskins had won.

It was a characteristic Washington victory. The regs said that 12 more seconds had to be played. The regs, published years ago in the football version of the Federal Register, said that you had to play an entire game. And so while all the country watched in consternation or amusement and wondered why the remaining 12 seconds had to be played, only Washington understood. The regs said so. It didn't change the outcome. It didn't change the score. It just made it official. Now send the results to the president.

I watched the game at a party. Ralph Nader was there--the only one in a suit. He, the consummate regulator, rooted like no one else. He knew the players and he knew the plays. He had made America buckle up and he had changed the cars we drive and he did it all because it was the right thing to do. Now, like Washington, he is somewhat out of fashion. But that does not make him wrong--or a loser. When the Redskins won, he cheered--and then someone had to drive him home.

There is, of course, one victory to go, but it will be gotten. But even in the meantime, Washington showed the country its stuff and the team brought the city something it desperately needed--pride in itself.

So pardon me and excuse my English, but there is just something I want to say. It's not gracious, but it's well-earned. Lump it, America. We won.