Bert Brilliant writes a column for The Daily Planet. Norman Naive is one of the young up-and-comers who sits a few desks away. Every few days, they go have Chinese food and good Dutch beer and figure ways to make the world a perfect place.

"Well, never fear, Norman. Just a few more days, and I'll be like a pig in slop again."

"(Munch, munch) You want to clarify that, Bert?"

"Certainly, youngster. Clarity is my business. I'm talking about the beginning of football season."

"(Gulp, swallow). You know, Bert, I hope that when you die, you'll donate your brain to science. Only a learned laboratory expert could explain the damage that egg rolls have caused to your thought processes. It's July, Bert. It's 95 degrees outside, Bert. It's the middle of baseball season, Bert. Football doesn't start until September, Bert."

"Norman, I happen to be holding in my hand the official Washington Redskins practice schedule. May I quote from it?"

"Something tells me I can't stop you."

"Something tells me you're right. Listen to this: 'Rookies and selected veterans due at Carlisle, Pa., training camp on July 18. Full squad due July 27. First game Monday night, Sept. 9, in Texas, against the Dallas Cowboys.' I'm telling you, Norman, I can't wait to see Riggins smashing through that line again, to see Theismann throw a few, to see . . . ."

"Waiter, no more beer for this man."

"Dammit, Norman, not everything can be explained by alcohol levels. We're talking passion here, son! We're talking the intricacy of a power sweep, the majesty of a post pattern! And what are you going to do on Monday night, Sept. 9, you passionless wretch? Probably play video games and listen to some rock star with purple hair."

"Maybe on Sept. 9 I'll be interested in football, Bert. But that's just the point. Here it is the middle of July and you're raving about football as if it were just around the corner. Who cares about training camp, anyway?"

"A true fan cares. A true fan who knows that what happens on Sept. 9 begins to be determined on July 18. A true fan who wants to see the Redskins come up with the very best defensive tackles they can find. A true fan who knows that in the sweat of Pennsylvania will be found the men who carry the day in Texas."

"Bert, 16 nations have nuclear weapons. Famine rages out of control on two continents. There's no cure for cancer. And you want me to get excited about defensive tackles?"

"I do, son. There isn't much that guys like you and me can do about nukes, famine or cancer. But don't you think you'll feel better in September when the defensive tackle you liked back in July nails Tony Dorsett for a three-yard loss? Don't you care that the whole town will be saying, 'Hey, howzabout that Grimsley!' And you'll be able to say, 'Yeah, I knew he'd be a good one way back in July when he was up in Carlisle.' "

"I dunno, Bert. I can't tell much about linemen, anyway. All they ever seem to do is push and shove and fall down."

"And I suppose the only thing basketball players do is run up and down a court. And the only thing baseball players do is knock the dirt out of their spikes with a bat. Norman, for such a brilliant journalistic talent, you show an amazing reluctance to dig beneath the surface. Art Monk may score the touchdowns. But six guys named Joe do the blocking that makes that touchdown possible."

"Tell you what, Bert. Let's take a trip up to Carlisle in August. Maybe you can infect me with some of this spirit. Maybe standing around a steaming practice field will persuade me that football fever deserves to start before Labor Day."

"You're on, sonny. There's just one thing."

"What's that?"

"You won't make fun of me, will you?"

"Make fun of you? How?"

"Well, whenever I go to Carlisle, Norman, I like to get in the mood, see? So I get dressed up."

"You get dressed up? You mean you wear your weddings-bar-mitzvahs-and-funerals suit?"

"No, Norman. I wear . . . . Gee, I don't know if I can tell you this."

"Come on, Bert. I'm not as far over 21 as you are, but I'm a big boy."


"Yes, Bert?"

"Norman, I simply cannot go to Carlisle without wearing my Official Hogs T-shirt, my burgundy and gold pants and my KILL DALLAS sun visor. I know that shatters your image of me as a thoughtful shaper of public opinion. I beg your understanding."

"You have my understanding, Bert. It's a little kinky, but, hey, I'm from the hang-loose generation, remember? If I wear my best jeans, will that make you feel better?"

"It will. I knew you could be trusted, youngster."

Just then, the fortune cookies arrived.

"Next Thursday?" asked Bert.

"Next Thursday," said Norman.

And they shuffled back to the office.