I'm sure the sun will rise and set tomorrow if we don't solve this problem. But still . . . .

"On my frequent visits to my parents' house," writes Norman L. Brown of Rockville, "I pass by the Turkey Thicket athletic complex near Catholic University and often watch the many who in all kinds of weather play basketball.

"They shoot the ball through metal hoops without nets. I feel sure that other playgrounds find their facilities in the same condition.

"While admitting that basketball was not my best sport, I can think of nothing less satisfying than making a basket without having a basket.

"Perhaps . . . some kind person could find or make a pattern and volunteers who crochet could readily produce the nets. The city should be more than willing to furnish the cord at little cost. Some of the kids I see could put them on the rims without even standing on a chair."

In an ideal world, I'm with you all the way, Norman. There's nothing like that sharp zip as a basketball "tickles the twine." It's clean and sure.

As you say, to "swish" a shot through a hoop that's just a hoop is a disappointing experience. There's no satisfaction, no feeling of finality. On some of the playgrounds I used to haunt, there's even cause for dispute. Did the ball go through the hoop or past it? Some of those arguments can be hazardous to your health.

The problem with your wish, Norman, is that neither the city nor any group of volunteers has the time or money to replace every net every few weeks. And that's how often it would need to be done.

The nets get torn. They get frayed. They get stolen, by vandals or high-spirited souls who think they'd make nice souvenirs. I'm sure that a dozen ladies in a nursing home would be glad to replace all the city's nets once. But wouldn't they sigh, and find something else to do, when they were asked to do it a second and third time -- and then a fourth and fifth?

The retail cost of a basketball net at the city's two major sporting goods chains is $1.79. Even if the city could get a zillion nets someplace else for half as much apiece, it's too big a price to pay. After all, a net is a luxury when you consider that there are hundreds of folded, spindled and mutilated rims on the city's playgrounds.

I watched a rim meet an early death this summer at a public school playground near where I live. A young "skywalker" like the ones Norman watches at Turkey Thicket dunked the ball, then hung on the rim for a few seconds like a high-wire artist.

Why? Because his girl friend was watching. Great reason. But it didn't look so great when, with a strange squeak and a sharp snap, the hoop cracked away from the backboard and hung limply, like a goose with a broken neck.

Thanks a million, showoff.

That was in July. I went by the school last Saturday. The rim was still dangling in the breeze. It might be next summer before the 200 non-showoffs in the neighborhood can play a game of full-court basketball again. Knowing the way the D.C. government works, it might be a lot longer than that.

I'm afraid the best answer, all things considered, Norman, is to open indoor gyms at the city's public schools, although budget constraints would probably make this difficult. It wouldn't be basketball in all kinds of weather. But it wouldn't be basketball without a "swish," either.

John Everhard of Falls Church was just back from a trip to Chicago. Eagerly, he opened the mailbox.

There was an advertising brochure from Hub Furniture. "A Very Personal Invitation For You," it said on the outside.

Only one trouble. The brochure was addressed to "Resident."

Two more sightings of vanity license plates ordered by clever motorists:

Amy Shaughnessy of Southwest reports seeing a plate that read "BEYOND." What kind of car? A blue Horizon, of course.

And Lowell F. Padgett of Manassas noticed a snazzy sports car with California plates. They read: "FOMYEGO."