They have been together for 10 years, one an understated disciple of down, distance and detail, the other a wacky wizard with a wandering wand known as a telestrator and a vocabulary -- BOOM! DOINK! SPLAT! -- that at times seems more suitable for cave dwellers than network telecasts.

But after all those play-by-plays, all those quarters and halves and introductions to "60 Minutes" and "Murder . . . , She Wrote", Pat Summerall and John Madden, the finest football announcing team in the history of the game, still cherish every precious moment of their joy ride through the NFL on CBS.

"Hell yes, when it's not fun, I'll know when it's time to get my hat and leave," Madden said the other day.

"Couldn't do it if you didn't love it," added Summerall, as always saying lots by saying very little.

The two were in Washington last week to prepare for Sunday's nationally televised Redskins-Bears game, a typical performance that offered yet another reminder as to why Merlin Olsen, formerly the lead analyst at NBC and now working games for CBS, has said, "Pat and John set the standard for all of us."

And preparation is one reason why. Both men were in town on Thursday to speak at a United Way luncheon. Most of the remaining hours were spent in their hotel rooms, poring over press releases, statistics and rosters from the teams, studying clippings from Washington and Chicago newspapers, watching network videotapes of the teams' last games and coaches' tapes provided by the Bears and Redskins with sideline and end zone views of all the previous week's action.

Production meetings and taping sessions took up most of Friday, with time out in the evening for what has become a traditional dollar-limit poker game with the two announcers and four or five other members of the CBS crew, from producers to production assistants.

"It keeps us together," Summerall said. "We have no star system; it's a unit. During the course of the game {dealer's choice, usually seven-card stud}, we'll tell stories, we'll talk about things we might do on Sunday. It's a get-together to spend time with each other, and there's a little competition too."

On Saturday, Summerall and Madden began their day at 7:30 a.m. with a ride to Redskin Park. They watched the team's final practice, then worked the field and locker room talking to the principal players, with another private session with Joe Gibbs, who coached with Madden at San Diego State in the early 1960s. Later, they visited the Bears' Virginia hotel, meeting players and spending time in Mike Ditka's suite. Then it was back to the hotel, more production meetings, a final review and a room service meal.

"It's a lot different now than when I first started doing this," said Summerall, 60, who began his broadcasting career with WCBS radio in New York even as he was winding down a playing career as a kicker with the great Giants teams from 1958 to '61. "Back then {in his early television days}, I'd get to a game Saturday night and the only time I'd talk to people was on the field before the games. It's so much more thorough now, there's so much more technology, so why not take advantage of it?"

"It takes me the whole week to absorb everything," said Madden, 54. "I go in with no notes. Pat's pretty much the same way. I've seen guys come into the booth with suitcases of stuff. He has nothing. My feeling is the more you know, the less notes you need. It's like the guy who gives a speech with 20 pages of notes in front of him. Hey, you know that's gonna be boring. . . .

"Nah, we never quiz each other. We do no rehearsing whatsoever. We'll go over the opening 15 or 20 minutes before the game just for time. But we have never in 10 years said to each other, 'Okay, I'll say this, you say that.' Pat's the guy who makes it easy. I'm no day at the beach. I'm off the wall. He's the sanity in the operation. I can go in any direction, and he'll get me out of it. Without him, I couldn't have the freedom to do what I do best."

And that is exactly why their telecasts seem nothing less than two old friends (they are) carrying on a perfectly ordinary conversation about a subject that is still fascinating to both of them.

Madden's insights are still precious after all these years. Early in Sunday's game, he noticed Darrell Green getting ready to return a punt and said, "When Joe Gibbs knows it's a big game, Green is the punt returner." Later, describing the blocking on a screen pass, Madden isolated on Jim Lachey and Bears all-pro defensive end Richard Dent, pointing out that Lachey purposely went low in an attempt to knock Dent off his feet, thereby preventing him from using his outstretched arms to knock down the pass.

The camera work added to the commentary on that play, and then again later on when Darryl Grant forced the game-turning fumble by raking the ball out of Brad Muster's hands.

Madden has no qualms about questioning officials' or coaches' decisions. He wondered along with many of us why Gibbs called a pass by shaky Mark Rypien on third down late in the game when a safer run might have shortened Chip Lohmiller's kick. Lohmiller missed the 54-yarder by inches, though Madden, to his credit, didn't dwell on the second-guess.

Nor did he and Summerall harp on all the talk during the week about Joe Theismann's published criticism of Gibbs. In fact, they didn't mention it, a mistake on their part. But that's not their style. If you like hard news; or the rumor and innuendo that often passes as such on other telecasts and pregame shows, you've come to the wrong place.

"John and I talked about that the other day," Summerall said. "When that stuff becomes necessary, it's time to hang it up for us. Sure we hear things, we discuss things among ourselves, but not on the air. We both prefer to concentrate on the football."

Clearly, it shows.