You wonder: has there ever been a nice Bear? Any Bear even close to cuddly? A Bear not inclined to bite the hand that feeds him -- and also the neck? Has there ever been a Bear not ideally named for pro football? Aren't they all Bronko or Butkus, Ditka or Blacklock, Hunk or Bulldog?

It's too late to shoo the women and children out of town. Or unlock missile silos. The Monsters of the Midway are already here. Pray that all they'll want to do is limp back to Chicago after losing in RFK Stadium today.

I like the Redskins, which is exactly what another esteemed prognosticator, Shirley Povich, wrote shortly before kickoff the first time the Redskins and Bears met in Washington for anything important.

The Bears narrowly prevailed, 73-0.

For a lot of reasons, it's about time these teams are getting together again in the playoffs. Forty-one years is a long enough absence of postseason malice between such storied franchises (the Bears won that 1943 meeting, 41-21, in the league championship game).

A Bear, George Halas, was a major figure in founding the National Football League; a Redskin, George Preston Marshall, was a major figure in making it popular.

Sammy Baugh made fancy passing the passing fancy in football during that 28-21 Redskins victory over the Bears for the league title in 1937; the Bears beat him up in the second quarter -- and then picked a fight with him in the game's final minutes.

The Bears popularized something called the T-formation during that 73-0 mind-blower in the 1940 championship game here. A pregame sport called scalping became fashionable for Redskins fans that week.

It was big stuff back then, Washington hosting its first NFL playoff, and tickets days before the grand event in Griffith Stadium were fetching 2 1/2 times face value -- a sinful $5.50.

"The players . . . will slice up the biggest financial melon ever to endow a playoff," a pregame story boasted. Which meant the winners would each get about $950.

Also, the Bears and Redskins were vying for the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, "symbolic of NFL supremacy." No fancy presentation ceremonies in those days, even though the game was broadcast over 115 radio stations.

The trophy the Redskins won that frozen, bloody afternoon in Wrigley Field in '37 didn't arrive in Washington until a week later. Marshall figured that first season in Washington netted the team a $20,000 profit.

Before the 73-0 licking, Marshall said the Bears "fold when the going gets tough." That sort of ill-timed arrogance may pass with the franchise, for Jack Kent Cooke was saying just before Super Bowl XVIII that what he feared most was Super Bowl XIX.

Naturally, the '84 Bears have the top-rated defense in the NFL, though the Redskins insist theirs is better. In the history of the NFL, no team has been tougher longer than the Bears. Or more cunning. Papa Bear could be a mean ol' cuss.

Glimpse at a headline from the 1924 season: "10,000 Witness Bears in Victory; Referee Banishes Two for Slugging."

Of the John Riggins of the '30s, Bronko Nagurski, Giants Coach Steve Owen said: "He's the only man I've ever seen who runs his own interference." Five decades earlier, he was exactly as tall as Riggins and just two pounds lighter.

Somebody always seemed to want to repay a Bear for something impolite, such as a forearm that caused a man to fumble the ball and his teeth.

"After Ed Meadows had knocked out (Bobby) Layne," Lion Lou Creekmur admitted, "I broke Meadows' nose and his jaw a few plays later. When he swung at me, on the next play, the ref kicked him out of the game."

Joe Perry of the 49ers suffered two broken ribs during what he regarded as a cheap shot by the Bears' George Connor. He waited two years for revenge, until a trap up the middle suddenly left only Connor between him and the end zone.

With the entire field to maneuver, Perry chose the straight and narrow path that led to Connor, lowering his head and laying the Bears linebacker cold. Perry stumbled a few yards and was tackled from behind.

Hell, he figured later, you can score a touchdown lots of times; moments for sweet revenge are rare.

"They make it look rougher," Baugh said of the Bears, "because four or five of 'em hit a ball carrier at the same time. A lot of 'em get the same idea at the same time about making a tackle, and you can't condemn 'em for that."

What the Bears of the '80s do is attack at times from places that stagger the imagination.

"I've never really seen a defense like that before," Riggins said. "Whether that'll be a problem, we'll just have to wait and see. If we all do our jobs -- and that's a big if -- and the game plan's as good as I think it is, I think we'll do all right.

"What it gets down to, more than anything, is who wants the game the most."

Hasn't it eternally been that way, even before Bronko? Doesn't it always boil down to a cliche? Today, especially, with so many memories, so many ghosts, such lore from long-ago collisions.

Hall of Famers Cliff Battles and Nagurski battled in that '37 game; future Hall of Famers Riggins and Walter Payton are the featured runners today. The only quarterback since Baugh to lead the Redskins to the NFL title is Joe Theismann.

If the clock were turned back nearly a half century, Riggins and Payton really would be battling each other. Probably, Riggins would be at tackle on defense; Payton would be a linebacker.

In '37, the game was billed as East vs. West, for Chicago was how far the NFL stretched. It's a daintier game now, and swifter. But the essence still is toughs arguing over turf.

Somewhere, Halas and Marshall might watch the game side by side today. If they do, Halas surely will say of Riggins: "My kind of guy." Marshall will notice the pomp and religious-like devotion and exclaim: "My kind of game."