Buddy Ryan watches "M*A*S*H" because it's funny and poignant and smart- alecky, and not because the show reminds him of his days in Korea , as a young, tough infantry sergeant.

"That's more of a hospital scene," Ryan said. "I was only in the hospital one time. With frostbite.

"I remember riding in the meat wagon, with guys who'd been shot, bleeding, their guts hanging out.

"I felt like bleep. Lying there with a cold toe."

Ryan 's memories of Korea are like shrapnel, sharp, painful. The Olympics? Ryan is too busy preparing the Eagles to play the Vikings to pay any attention to the gaudy banners and the handsome buildings and the manicured streets of Seoul he does not want to revisit.

"I might enjoy the Olympics, but I wouldn't care to go back to the Far East," he said. "I was there for a couple of years, and that's all I need to spend over there.

"When I was there, everything was rubble, just about."

You took your government issue shovel and you dug a foxhole, up there in the frozen rubble of the 38th parallel.

You dug it deep enough and wide enough. Not so deep you couldn't scramble out of it. Not so wide an enemy with a bayonet glinting in the brittle moonlight could share it with you.

Ryan joined the National Guard at 17. His unit was called up while he was a student at the University of Arkansas.

"We trained at Camp Polk, La., and then got shipped to Japan," he recalled.

"I was young and dumb. It was kind of exciting. The older guys, the ones with families and responsibilities, didn't look at it that way.

"When we were in Japan, I was hoping we'd go over to Korea . I wanted to see how I'd react in that situation.

"It seemed like we trained in Hokaido forever. I thought I'd hate to have been there that long and not get to have gone (to Korea and combat). That's youth . . . and not being very smart.

"Then we got there, and we moved up, on the line, on Christmas Day.

"We went up and reconnoitered. Then it snowed that night and we couldn't even find anybody.

"I had half my platoon in a valley, protecting some tanks. We had to just dig in.

"Next day, the first platoon went out. On a sweep. That was Dan Blocker's platoon. The guy, Hoss Cartwright (on television's "Bonanza").

"They got shot up. Some guys you'd just been playing volleyball with the day before, and now they're lugging 'em back, draped on tanks. That was a rude awakening."

Ryan tilted back in his swivel chair, glancing at the big television screen, frozen with the Bears on defense against the Vikings. Korea was a million miles away.

"It'd get boring," Ryan said bluntly. "I'd volunteer for an ambush patrol. If you caught a Chinese guy, you got to go on R & R.

"You'd go out, sit around in white snowsuits, freezing to death, for five or six hours.

"Most everybody was young. That's who fights wars. Young guys.

"My company commander was 21. Bud Garrison. That's the way it was. They didn't have enough officers to go around.

"I got my third rocker (master sergeant) in Korea. Guys responded to me. If I volunteered for something, they'd say, 'I'll go, I'll go.'

"I don't know how to explain it, it was just there.

"I know that when we had training, I worked at it. I wanted to know everything that was going on. I wanted to make sure I'd come out alive.

"If we had bayonet training, I wanted to be sure I could win.

"You'd be up on the line 45 or 50 days and then they'd take you back and you'd train for maybe 30 days. We'd hitchhike to Seoul.

"Wasn't much there. It had been overrun and overrun and overrun, back and forth. Argggh, that was 100 years ago."

It was 37 years ago and the memories will stay with Ryan forever, coloring his language, channeling his thinking.

"My company commander told me," Ryan recalled, " 'You ought to stay over here, we're gonna have a great outfit, you can take a commission.'

"Hell, I just wanted to go home and play football. Then he got shot and he left before I did.

"I always wanted to be a football coach. Even when I was going to high school. Why, I don't know. I just did."

Ryan doesn't compare football with war or losing with death.

"Nah," he said. "You've got another day, you've got another game to get ready for.

"Nobody likes to lose. That's the name of your business. People who lose are people who are not in this business very long.

"Football is a lot like bridge. That's a thinking man's game. It's physical, yet you have to be mental.

"Poise and execution, that's the name of the game. The veterans are the ones with poise.

"Randall Cunningham, he has poise beyond his years. That's unusual. A lot of young guys get wound up and they're out there, going whew, whew, whew."

That's the noise the Eagles made in the first quarter against Washington. Whew, whew, whew. Windburn, Ryan called it.

"They shook it off," he said on Monday. "That's the way it is when you're young. It's like the Army, you're young, so you keep on charging.

"That's the way I want 'em. I don't want 'em hanging their heads, kicking at rocks.

"I'm a patient guy. You've got to be. Sure, it'd be great to bring guys in and let 'em sit for two years, learn to play defense, learn to play offense. And when you put 'em in they wouldn't kill you.

"I remember when I was with the Vikings. We had Matt Blair and Fred McNeill, two great linebackers.

"They came up the year before I got there and sat that year. They sat my first year. We had two old linebackers playing ahead of 'em.

"Bud (Grant) didn't want 'em to play until they were ready, where they wouldn't hurt us with mistakes.

"When you've got that kind of team you can do that. Deep, like Washington.

"We've got to let our guys play, get experience on the move. But that's OK, because we've got some great young people."