YOU KNEW THE whole town would snap its cap if the Redskins made it to the Super Bowl, but some of those caps--and banners, T-shirts, towels, pins, buttons, combs and, for all we know, diapers, doilies and jockey shorts--are not The Real NFL Thing. The league, as you more than likely have read or heard, has tried to cry unsportsmanlike conduct, seeking (unsuccessfully, as of late yesterday) a court order to stop the sales of unofficial NFL items, which is to say those not licensed by or sold with the permission of National Football League Properties, Inc. The legal question here, as we get it from the booth, is: who should be living high off the Hogs, and who should be giving you the shirts off their backs?

For that matter, what about freedom of T-shirt speech?

Seriously, fans, the NFL does have trademarks to protect, and its nonprofit (that's right) NFL Properties does donate its proceeds from royalties to various charities. So that is why it always fields a defensive team of lawyers to stop any unofficial offensive use of names or symbols of NFL teams or the league itself, including the words Super Bowl.

But time out right here: who's to say when a nickname, a slogan or even a homemade editorial can't be slapped on a T-shirt and sold?

Time is short, the green is long and sales are booming like Moseley field goals--and enforcement of anything much in this zany hog-hawkers' atmosphere is like trying to catch Mike Nelms on a tear. That's how a court found it yesterday, and it's where one might well drop the matter. The play's the thing. It can't start too soon.