SOME TIME AGO -- about XXII years or so -- the National Football League decided that the world needed another week between the end of the playoffs and the kickoff of the championship game, which was to be known forever after as the Super Bowl. This has proved each year since to be the longest week in human history, during which hundreds of reporters ask the same players the same questions day after day and hundreds of other reporters file stories on what a ridiculous spectacle it all is.

Today it is finally over, and this evening all of Washington and environs will be able to see their Redskins play football instead of talk into microphones. If all goes as we hope, Washington will have reason sometime around 10 p.m. to be acting foolish and singing "Hail to the Redskins."

For anyone who may be visiting this city and wondering why a world capital should be so fanatically devoted to a sports team, an explanation is in order. For over half a century, pro football has given Washington an opportunity to take off its coat and white collar and roughhouse with the gang -- to get down in the mud with the likes of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Chicago and Philadelphia, St. Louis and Green Bay -- and often to come out on top. We don't mean to imply that Washington doesn't have its own share of hard-working blue-collar types along with its legions of clerks, typists, journalists, lawyers and lobbyists. But to be perfectly honest about it, this isn't exactly the City of the Big Shoulders.

That's why it's especially exciting for Washingtonians when their shoulder-padded surrogates go forth and win on the frozen fields of Chicago in January, as they have for the past two years, and why today's game -- the Redskins' third Super Bowl appearance in six years -- has so much of this city enthralled, including a good many people who will watch, smile and cheer for 3 1/2 hours tonight without having the slightest idea what's going on.

Last Thursday an American Indian group announced here that it plans to have a plane fly an advertising banner over Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego today to protest the Redskins' name, which many native Americans find offensive. An official of the group acknowledged, however, that he was himself a Redskins' fan and said the flyover would be done before kickoff so as not to "distract from what is going to be a completely absorbing football game"; they can think about changing the name later, he said. That's how things have gone here this week with regard to prioritization, which is a word Washington likes to use when it's not rolling in the dirt in the Super Bowl.