You sat there trying to sort it all out, trying to listen to Mike Ditka while contemplating Saddam Hussein, trying to understand how television could offer the strategies of George Bush and George Seifert almost interchangeably.

This weekend was bizarre, almost chilling. One minute they were talking about the Road to Tampa Bay. Another they were taunting us about Dateline in the Desert.Sports and politics haven't been so intertwined since an indelible Sunday in 1963 when a nation mourned the assassination of its president, and the National Football League went on with business as usual.

Nobody knew quite what to say this time, which was understandable. How do you preview the conference championship games, attempt to make them seem important, and then toss in a few asidesabout an impending battle in the Mideast?

It took Marcus Allen of the Raiders, that man of dash and class, the wise man with a Heisman, to put it all in perspective.

O.J. Simpson, who moments earlier had suffered the slings and arrows of a seemingly flippant Bo Jackson monologue, accosted Allen, a longtime friend, and shoved a microphone in Marcus' face.

Bo had left the game early with a hip injury. Allen, who normally shares time at running back with Bo, thus played most of the game. And O.J. wondered if the requirement to carry so often was pressure.

Allen never hesitated. "No," he said quietly. "Now the Gulf crisis, that's pressure. This is not pressure."

This was football. This was more than football. We've got the Giants coming once again to play the 49ers. We've got the Raiders going again to play the Buffalo Bills. And we may have something else.

Did you see the sign Saturday hanging for a brief while from the front of the rollout stands at Candlestick Park, the ones across from the pressbox? It wasn't one of those obnoxious religious messages, or a greeting to buddies back in Virginia.

No, this one, the network call letters in capitals, the better to inveigle the cameramen, literally was a sign of the times:

"Please - Compromise Bush Saddam."

Never had I seen anything like it. Never. And I've been attending sporting events since the late 1940s.

At least someone in the 49ers' second-largest home crowd in history, 65,292, was aware of life beyond the stadium rim.

Football has been called the moral equivalent of war. Is war then the immoral equivalent of football?

"I've got it all figured out," advised a caller to one of those sports talk shows on radio. "At halftime of the Super Bowl, Hussein and Bush will go on the air and settle the Kuwait issue."

The guy seemed enlightened, until he went on.

"Do you think it might delay the game?"