THE EVENT was the Super Bowl; but one week later it is the image of Washington as a more perfect union -- where blacks and whites hugged each other, where immigrants felt at home, where city dwellers and suburbanites joined as one -- that is just as precious as the game itself.

Look at the replays on your VCRs, check out the fans in the stands after the final gun. Who are those people locked in loving embrace? Strangers -- in black and white. Look at our team. Big, white dudes who, if dressed in overalls, would seem right at home in Forsyth County, Ga. are kissing big, black dudes who, if dressed in leather, would seem right at home on the South Side of Chicago.

When I think of the people who gave their lives in the quest for racial harmony, and all the years of violent resistance to integration, it stuns me that something like a football game can make people forget their differences, relegate them to nothingness and suddenly begin acting like refugees from the Garden of Eden.

Doug Williams, Timmy Smith -- let me tell you, brothers, it would have taken 10 times more shrinks and social workers than we already have working overtime for the next 10 years to come anywhere near what you and your teammates have done for us.

And, frankly, given the increasing polarization of the races here, to say nothing of the ever-widening class split, I don't think we could have afforded to wait that long.

Talk about being right on time. You Redskins gave this city just what it needed. We needed to smooth over those artificial barriers that separate the District from our neighbors in Maryland and Virginia. During the Redskins' victory parade, suburbanites came to town acting like homefolk, not just commuters.

Let's also face the fact that Washington has a big racial problem. We needed a dose of racial progress bad.

It helps when poor kids who live near RFK stadium come out onto their porches after a victory, and wave and smile at fat cats in limos who wave and smile back. It reduces the frustration level, buys us a little more time in our quest to find remedies for our social ills.

It makes us feel like we are all in this together. Unfortunately, that is not quite true. Once those smoked-glass windows are raised and the limos disappear, once the doors to the housing project apartments are closed, it's back to the two separate and unequal worlds that are our reality. But at least we can hope for a better day.

In a town where many people have high hopes of one day seeing the "first black president of the United States," having a winning . black Super Bowl quarterback no doubt helps keep the dream alive.

Until the Super Bowl victory, I confess, pessimism about life in these here urban areas was getting the best of me. With so much fear and trembling in the streets, all you could look forward to was the fantasy of a sporting event.

But even that was turning sour. I remember the day after the Redskins' game against Atlanta, which we lost. I received a dozen calls from blacks who had been riding the Metro subway out of RFK stadium to the outlying suburbs. Apparently after the majority of blacks had unloaded, some whites on the Orange Line to Vienna and the Red Line to Shady Grove felt safe enough to start unloading racial slurs.

It had not been a particularly good night for Doug Williams, and commentary on "nigras trying to be quarterbacks" caused some people to have a long and nauseating ride.

Then came The Game. Can you imagine three million people doing the same things at the same time? All of us clutching our foreheads on the Broncos' first play. All of us about to get up and leave the room when Doug falls down. All of us jumping to our feet when Doug gets going. All of us happy in the end.

It was like taking a magic potion. An honest-to-goodness biochemical change had occurred in people during that game. I mean, there I was -- sitting in mixed racial company -- laughing like crazy at Jimmy-the-Greek jokes.

Suddenly, it was funny when a white guy, watching a white Bronco chase Skins back Timmy Smith, says, "Forget it, whitey. You ain't got no thighs."

And as soon as he says it, Smith shoves the Bronco to the ground, goes in for a touchdown and everybody, black and white, breaks out into applause and cheers.

After the game last Sunday, motorcades of black folk from Southeast were greeted with cheers and high fives by white folk in Georgetown. In Adams Morgan, Washington's equivalent of Ellis Island, people were hanging out of windows, looking at their neighbors across the street with the ultimate smile, the kind that says, "I'm happy because you're happy."

Even Nigerian cab drivers were welcomed with opened arms. "I feel like I'm in on the action, too," one of them beamed with pride. We were a city. The whole metropolitan area was one.

Now, in the wake of the Super Bowl, I'm riding the Metro en route to the Redskins' victory parade. White folk are wearing shirts with black folks' faces on them! An elderly white woman is wrapped in Doug Williams' "Touch of Class," and she is proud.

I am so happy for the black adolescents. The very nature of their dreams -- indeed, their whole outlook on life -- has been positively affected by Doug Williams' success.

Did you see some of them on television during those post-game reaction stories? "I feel I can do anything." "Anything is possible if you try." "If you want to bad enough, you can do it."

And how do they know this? Because they saw it -- in a guy they could identify with and at a time in their lives when they would want to.

What effect this has on young white boys, I don't know. It was simpler in the old days. When Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fought back in the 1930s, blacks were for Joe and whites were for Max. This time, white Washington boys didn't root for John Elway. And what the heck. If I can dream of playing like Johnny Unitas, they can dream of playing like Doug.

Forgive me for getting carried away, but these precious moments are too few and far between in our city. It's not like we can look forward to the euphoria of a baseball victory later in the year. And even if the Washington Bullets did stage that grand come-back, it's just not the same thing, going out to Landover.

Let's face it: We have the Redskins, and we'd better enjoy them while we can.

Talk of moving the Redskins out of Washington to the suburbs has already cast a pall over the victory. Regardless of the outcome, the Skins have taught us a lesson this year that we should not forget. As the only team in the NFL to stick together during the strike, they proved that togetherness wins Super Bowls. If it works for them, it ought to work for us.

Courtland Milloy is a Washington Post columnist