'Hail to the Redskins' -- music that soothes the savage breast of a city.

Even after living in Washington for more than two years, I didn't realize the hold that the Redskins have on this town until I attended a friend's wedding here. At the reception, the father of the bride got the band to play "Hail to the Redskins" while he danced around the ballroom, arms thrust triumphantly in the air. And this man used to teach law.

Welcome to Washington, I thought, as I looked on in disbelief.

In a town of institutions, the Redskins come first. As the team entered the National Football League playoffs last week, the District's fanatic devotion to the Skins reached a frenzy.

A recent Post article entitled "The Pigskin Pick-Me-Up" even said that the Skins' victory over Philadelphia had provided the city with "another week of holidays." The immediate past president of something called The Touchdown Club -- an organization that the reporter obviously felt no need to identify to his readers -- said that the team's victories are responsible for transforming violence-torn Washington into "one beautiful neighborhood" in which "all the neighbors love one another."

It sounds positively beatific. Yet to a non-football fan like me, it's all very strange, indeed.

Though I grew up male in America, I never developed the traditional American man's passion for football. (In Washington, it seems that women also love football and the Redskins.) While I occasionally watch tennis, basketball and boxing, the sight of padded, helmeted, indistinguishable behemoths crashing into one another with terrible force holds little appeal. Maybe it's the highly specialized nature of the game -- too much like real life -- that I dislike. And with the differences between tight ends, defensive ends and secondaries still a mystery to me, I am effectively excluded from participating in one of Washington's common obsessions.

I do, however, take note of the Redskins' game times. For a few hours on the weekend, quiet descends on the city. Lines at the Giant dwindle, stores empty, roads become mostly vacant. The killings stop for a little while, and Washington actually does become kind of beatific. District streets were particularly tranquil during the first-round playoff matchup with the Eagles.

I wish the Skins had made it to the Super Bowl. It would have thrilled the fans, and I would have welcomed another couple of quiet game-days until Super Bowl Sunday.

If Washington's team had played on Super Bowl Sunday, I was going to celebrate in my own way, most likely by lifting a glass at some area restaurant (which probably would have been deserted) and saluting Coach Joe Gibbs and his players:

Hail to the Redskins. -- Martin Kimel