Better we had stayed home and read a bad book. Those weren't the Cowboys of hated memory. Those weren't the Redskins that make our hearts go pitter-patter. Dallas won, 17-3, at RFK Stadium last night in a game so dull, so lifeless, so blah, it seemed choreographed by plumbers, not the imaginative artists that have made a decade of Dallas-Washington games memorable.

Where have you gone, Roger Dodger? Come off the farm, John Riggins. Even with Harvey Martin and Ed (Too Tall) Jones working the ends of the Cowboys' defensive line with ferocity . . . even with Tony Dorsett creating one masterpiece of a run . . . last night's game was so forgettable that one must sit real quiet and think real hard to be certain it was even played.

The Cowboys and Redskins in 1980 at RFK? Let's see. Hmm. Oh, yes. That one. That one where the Cowboys' last touchdown drive was 12 plays, the last 11 of which were runs, eight of those runs being off right guard. Wowee, pass the No-Doz. The 1980 season opener at RFK? The Redskins had a five-yard punt, a 10-play drive that ate up a whole 21 yards, a leading rusher with 39 yards and -- who will ever forget it? -- a fullback who cost two No. 2 draft choices and returned a dividend of one yard rushing in two carries.

Better we had stayed home and played Parchesi. Joe Theismann was 19 for 34 for 190 yards, none of it amounting to anything. Trying to get into the game late, Theismann threw deep for a change. That was nice. Only his receiver, John McDaniel, stopped running. He pointed at a Cowboy. Interference, McDaniel claimed. Which is a real good thing to do after the ball hits the ground but not before.

The Redskins were ineffectual, a symphony without music, a portrait done in invisible ink. So desperate grew they that by game's end they had taken to hugging Harvey Martin and Too Tall in an effort to keep them from falling on Theismann.

Better the Redskin linemen had stayed home and done to Harvey Martin what John Harding did.

And you thought Harvey Martin was snips and snails and puppy dog tails, all stirred toghether in a caldron of ugly. What he was last night, as he hung over the upper deck by his neck, was one lathe and a broken broomstick and old painting clothes. He had a wreath around his poor neck and a coat hanger through his head.

"That's no coat hanger," said John Harding, 32, the boss of the lynch party that strung up this orneriest of Cowboys. "It's an arrow."

"Custer Was a Cowboy, Too," a bedsheet banner reminded. Like the Sioux, Redskin fans don't forget. What they remember most painfully is the foul deed of last December in Dallas when Roger Staubach created a miracle victory, 35-34, after which Harvey Martin opened the Redskin locker room door and tossed in a funeral wreath.

"The funeral wreath hit Mark Moseley, and we're good friends of Marks's," John Harding said. "So my wife, Pat, and I wanted to do right by ol' Harvey and remind everyone that he is one mean dude that needs to be straightened out."

If the Redskins were to straighten out all the Cowboys as straight as the paying customers would like to see them straightened, they would reach, if laid end to end, from RFK Stadium to John Riggins' tractor in the golden retirement land of exotic Kansas.

An hour before the game, as auto headlights twinkled like diamonds in the dark on their way to RFK, the stadium was palace of the senses. You could smell hot dogs and beer, you could see the living burgundy of the Redskin uniforms traced against the emerald turf, you could feel the concrete and steel vibrate with -- with what?

"Hate," said Johnny Harding, the executioner's son, age 12.

How much, Johnny, do you hate the guys with stars on their silver hats?

"Very," came the reply of a babe.

Ten days ago , Tex Schramm sat in his 11th floor office in Dallas, looking every bit the president of the Cowboys he has been for 20 years. Behind his big desk, right there by the windows outside of which Roger Staubach once walked on a ledge to get Tex's attention, Schramm had in his hand a sheaf of papers.

It was a magazine article entitled, "Why the Washington Redskins Hate the Dallas Cowboys." The same story was copied and passed around in the Cowboys' locker room that day. What the story said, in essence, is that the Redskins hate the Cowboys because the Cowboys derserve it. The Cowboys steal candy money from orphans. The Cowboys hold dogs up by their ears. The Cowboys, goldarnit, win and then throw funeral wreaths at you.

Small wonder, then that Denise Maloney, 19, was worried about her pretty neck.

She came to RFK last night wearing a Cowboy jersey.

Not just any Cowboy jersey.

No. 12.

Roger's number.

"I've got four brothers who are Redskins fans and I couldn't take it any more," Maloney said. "It took a lot of guts to wear this."

She had a bodyguard.

John Riggins.

Well, not the famous fugitive.

"It was the only Redskin jersey I had except for Charley Taylor, and Charley's been retired longer than John," said Stan Roper, 19, Maloney's boyfriend.

"He wore that and gave me this," Maloney said, smiling as she tugged at the cursed Cowboy shirt, "because he wants to see me get beat up. We may not talk for the next two weeks."

So there they were, Roger and John, holding hands on the lawn out front of RFK an hour and a half befor kickoff. There they were with the ticket scalpers -- tickets for sale at $75 a copy -- and with born-again recruiter passing out leaflets as she insisted to obvious infidels, "The Dallas game will pass, but Jesus Christ is forever." There they were, Roger and John, with little Don Budd, 14, a ninth-grade wide receiver at Roper Junior High who clutched a bundle of dollar bills in his left hand.

"Got a ticket, Mister?" Budd said.

How much you paying?

"Thirteen dollars is what I got," the wide receiver said. "I've been saving up a long time."

What do you think about the Cowboys?

"They stink."

The aroma was palpable last night. At 7 o'clock, two hours before kickoff, here came The Brain himself, Tom Landry, alighting from a taxi.

"Booooo," came the welcome from a crowd that included Mike Greenberg, 36, very lovely in his T-shirt that said, "I Hate the Cowboys."

"Jack Pardee's wife bought 20 of these," Greenberg said. The shirt showed Phyllis Pardee's husband on a horse chasing down The Brain. A scoreboard showed the Redskins ahead, 27-0.

At 8 o'clock, given another hour of refreshment, the assembled multitude looked down from its stations and saw, on the field with its heroes, moving boldly onto the sacred turf -- yes, here came the varmints with the stars on their hats. If RFK on a Monday night becomes a living thing, a flying saucer lifting off under the humming power of 50,000 pounding hearts, at 8 o'clock RFK became a thunderstorm of booing.

Lemar Parrish loved it. He's a Redskin defensive back. Hearing the thunder -- "It's a 14-point crowd tonight," Mike Greenberg had said -- Parrish thrust both hands high overhead signaling No. 1. Cheers came down from on high for the defensive back who two weeks ago walked out of camp demanding more money. On Monday nights in RFK, reason is left at home with a baby sitter.

At the top of RFK, sitting with passing eagles, Jimmy Price, 13, said the Cowboys did not have a chance against the Redskins.

"We'll win by at least 100-0," he said.

What if the Cowboys win?

"I'll jump out of the stadium on my head," Jimmy said.