At 18, Michael Friason has never attended a Redskins game.

Oh, he's watched them on television. Read about them in the newspaper. Studied their moves on the 11 o'clock news. But the last time ordinary souls like Friason could walk up to a Robert F. Kennedy Stadium booth and buy tickets just as easily as getting into Madonna's last concert here was 21 years ago -- three years before Friason was born.

That changed yesterday. Friason's sister, who has absolutely no interest in football, walked calmly under ugly gray skies and through a chilly drizzle to buy Redskins tickets. She fought no crowds. She waited in no line.

"My brother wanted to see what {a Redskins game} is like," said Friason's sister, who did not want to be named. "This is his only chance to see a game."

Throughout the day, a steady trickle of fans -- many of whom could not ordinarily get inside RFK Stadium to see a Redskins game -- took advantage of the choice and not-so-choice seats vacated by outraged season-ticket holders. In protest of the National Football League players' week-old strike, thousands of regular ticket holders have returned their tickets and asked for refunds.

Officials of the D.C. Armory Board, which operates RFK Stadium, estimate that 35,000 to 40,000 fans will fill the seats for today's Redskins-St. Louis Cardinals game. For the first time in 159 games played over 21 years, the stadium's 55,000 seats will not be sold out.

Of course, these fans will not see the real Washington Redskins play. In an effort to circumvent the strike, the NFL owners have assembled substitute teams made up of former college players, pros who did not make final cuts and some NFL Players Association members who decided to cross picket lines to play.

For fans such as David F. Russell of Virginia Beach, it didn't matter that the Redskins who will put on the burgundy and gold uniforms at game time are not the same Redskins that Washingtonians die for.

"It's my one chance," Russell said. He added that he would have no problem with walking through the picket line of Redskins linebackers and the mass solidarity rally that 200 area labor unions plan to stage outside the stadium.

Even as fans snapped up game tickets, season-ticket holders continued to turn theirs back in during the weekend.

Garland Allen of Temple Hills, who slid his ticket beneath the steel bars at the stadium sales window, said he did not want to see strike breakers playing in Redskins uniforms.

"We've come to see the real Redskins," Allen said. "They {substitute players} are like aliens. What have they done to deserve the right to be out there between those lines?"