Last Super Bowl weekend -- a time of year when my guilt and shame became searing -- I promised myself that during Super Bowl weekend 1988 I would come out of the closet. Now, with 90 Washington Redskins and -- what? Minnesota Vikings, is it? -- about to clash in America's grandest display of toughness, I'm coming out. I'm not a football fan. I have zero interest during the regular season in who wins, loses or blitzes. This weekend the Super Bowl is the Super Bore.
Normal people can't imagine the relief I now feel. No more avoiding colleagues at the office on Monday mornings after the Redskins ''pulled one out of the fire,'' a metaphor I've heard often this year. No more pretending on Friday afternoons that I've read the gambling columnists and am betting against the spread on the Sunday games. No more fake nods of knowingness when someone says that it was too bad the St. Louis Cardinals didn't move to Baltimore rather than Phoenix.
I didn't expect a year ago that my coming out would be on the weekend of Redskins mania. In this town, it would be easier to announce on Easter Sunday that you're an atheist. My heresy comes when true believers are in a frenzy of worship for a team that The Post -- my own paper, no less -- said on the front page last Sunday has ''the best record in football'' in the 1980s.
To cover the pregame dramatics this week, and the game itself on Sunday, Washington's four television stations, and The Post, dispatched 93 people to San Diego. That comes to more than two newspersons per Redskin, with coverage of water boys thrown in for the 11 p.m. wrap-ups.
News coverage to date has been inspirational, the kind journalism schools should tell their students to monitor for reportorial inventiveness. A TV investigative reporter, assigned to the cultural beat in San Diego, headed for the nude beach south of La Jolla. He had about four minutes of air time, more than the combined Democratic and Republican presidential candidates were getting that night.
I'm uncertain where my indifference to football fanhood originates. I've read Freud on arrested development, Jung on shadow figures -- am I afraid to confront the blitzing 300-lb. lineman in my subconscious? -- and regularly scan the personal columns hoping to find a Sunday-afternoon support group.
I've tried -- heroically, I may say -- to go beyond merely wishing away my blight. A few summers ago, I hung out at the Florida training camp of the New Orleans Saints football team to deal with the shadow figures in the flesh, of which they had plenty. Bum Phillips was the coach of the Saints then. Bum, who allowed me to call him that, was much less the monster of organized violence than I imagined an NFL head coach would be. Bum, in fact, was fatherly toward his players. I saw a possible breakthrough. Here was a team to root for. Then I learned they were perennial losers. Spectators in New Orleans wore bags over their heads and called the Saints the Ain'ts.
Washington fans are a nobler breed. They respect Coach Joe Gibbs. Keeping holy the Sabbath, he sank devoutly to his knees in prayer in a recent game when his players had to hold the line. They did. God, headsetted, was listening.
Even more worthy of fan respect is Jack Kent Cooke, the team owner. He thinks so much of the public that he wants the District of Columbia taxpayers to have the privilege of paying for a new football stadium. If the city government -- as impoverished as all the others in America -- doesn't pony up, Cooke warns, ''I have no other choice than to go to one of the surrounding counties.''
Cooke, whose capital appreciation alone from Redskins stock is estimated at more than $50 million, owns a 641-acre estate in Middleburg, Va. In his boundless love of the fans, Cooke is doubtlessly planning to build the new stadium -- the Cookedome -- on his hunt-country property.
What's wrong with me? God loves the Redskins, Jack Kent Cooke loves the masses, and I can't even get it straight who it is the home-town lads are battling this Sunday. I guessed the Minnesota Vikings above. I meant the Denver Dolphins.