It's that time of year again -- the autumn poised along the Blue Ridge Mountains, festive crowds (college crowds, anyway) pushing into stadiums for season openers, and the Indian rights activists demanding that the Redskins change their name.

I grew up in Arlington and my first sports recollections are of "Choo Choo" Charlie Justice and Gene Brito. When I was old enough to catch a pigskin my buddies and I took turns being Taylor, Mitchell and Jefferson running buttonhooks and going deep. We were 'Skins, and any stranger so impolitic as to suggest that Unitas threw a better pass than Sonny risked a bloody nose. We never really knew a Dallas fan and we figured it was because they had better sense than to show up in our neighborhood. I later ran pass patterns for the Wakefield Warriors (another bellicose name). And even today it is only the anticipation of the Redskins opener that gets me through the baseball-less Washington summers.

You will have guessed that I'm a '60s person. And indeed I have solid civil rights credentials having marched often (twice on Washington). I would have joined any Indian rights effort within a radius of 500 miles if I could have found one. However, owing to an accident of history, the focus of most Indian unpleasantness has always been well to the west of the Blue Ridge.

The point is that in the Washington area there are at least several million inhabitants like me for whom the term "Redskin" ushers up the warmest and most noble feelings: a handsome, red-skinned warrior with aquiline features, cold autumn days and hot chocolate, and a marvelous and, of late, winning football tradition. It is a feeling shared by whites, blacks and dozens of other races that make their home here. The Redskins may be the only force that unites this curious city.

And in an age when Cosby and Benson are benighted for their positive television images, I am moved to ask what could be better for the Indian movement than to have generation after generation of Washingtonians grow up adoring the noble Redskins.

CHRIS PAREL McLean