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'The play's the thing'

In the end it was just another football game. One team - the Los Angeles Raiders - played well and won; the other - the Washington Redskins - played poorly and lost.

It had all the significance of one championship game. No more, and no less.

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It was not the greatest game ever sold, despite days of relentless pre-game hype.

Most of all, it was not indicative of anything beyond the playing field. Its outcome does not, for example, foretell which way the stock market will go this year, despite some absurd claims that the results of the Super Bowl are an accurate barometer.

Neither does it presage the future of US-Soviet relations, nor the makeup of White House staffing, nor the likely outcome of the November election, despite efforts of some Washington pundits to link those issues to the hometown Redskins' performance.

The curious halftime effort to mix entertainment and political personalities produced a bicoastal, Disneyland production that, like the preparatory ballyhoo, was long on color but short on substance.

Neither football nor any other sport is a substitute for substantive national or individual action.

Sports is a metaphor for human existence and a form of entertainment enjoyed by many. Those who excel in sports deserve admiration for their achievement, as do persons who achieve in any field.

But sports must be kept in perspective: None should try to make more of it than is there. As Shakespeare said in another context, ''The play's the thing,'' and Sunday the play was on the football field in Tampa.

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