The Redskins' recent release of Babe Laufenberg, a seemingly annual ritual, has finally made me realize why this town has found itself in a love affair with Babe. He is the little brother we all once were, just waiting in the shadows for a chance. He has never boasted or criticized, never let his ego dictate his words or blamed those who have constantly teased him with slight rays of hope, merely to close the door and abandon him.

The Redskins, as a team, chose to stay on strike. Babe respected and honored that decision. He is a team player, a man of loyalty and dignity. He demonstrates the strength we all possess in the dark corners of our hearts but that we've never been able to reach deep enough to find. Babe could have crossed the picket line during the strike, but he chose to stay out. The cost to him was more than $44,000 -- and it may have cost him his career.

The reward from Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs for such courage has been predictable. They want Babe around only if they need him. Some replacement players, who served their own best interests by crossing the picket line, were kept. Do we call the replacement players courageous for crossing? No, they are selfish -- mere reflections of the rest of us.

Where is the man who put team before self? Where is the man who chose not to fragment the team by being self-serving? He's history again. Good luck to you, Babe -- win the war for the rest of us, because we just don't have the determination or the guts!

WILLIAM NORMAN WALKER Fairfax