For the second consecutive January football temporarily has substituted itself for politics as Washington's top attention getter. The rest of the year politics, and the national and international news which in part derive from it, are both the local news and the topic of backyard conversation in the nation's capital.
But not now. Reason for the January switch? Next Sunday Washington's locally revered Redskins compete for the second straight year in the Super Bowl, a kind of pre-Valhalla madness which determines the year's National Football League champions.
Last year the 'Skins won it. That they did still astonishes former Washingtonians who suffered through the ''can't anybody here play this game?'' days of the '60s, and the perennial-bridesmaid era of the '70s.
No one should be singing the team's anthem, ''Hail to the Redskins,'' more loudly than President Reagan, a former sports announcer who played a football hero in one of his best-known movie roles. If the team had been losers in the regular season, it would have stopped playing last month, and Washingtonians now would be knitting their brows over the budget deficit and administration policies in Central America and Lebanon.
But the 'Skins are winners. Their success thus far and speculation about the coming Name have combined with Congress's January absence to give the President an almost month-long breather.
The last week of the month that other game - some would call politics more of a circus - begins in earnest, with the President's State of the Union address, his budget for next year, and his reelection announcement. Then he will command the city's full attention.
But right now he's fortunate to get any of it.