In the annals of time, there have been precisely nine mano-a-mano duels of unmatched sound and fury: Samson vs. Delilah, capitalism vs. communism, Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr, creationism vs. evolution, Coke vs. Pepsi, Burt Reynolds vs. Loni Anderson, Beta vs. VHS, the Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote and Ted Turner vs. Rupert Murdoch.
And, now, of course, Jerry vs. Jimmy.
Here are brief profiles of the two principals in Sunday’s Cowboys-Dolphins cataclysm:
Jerry Jones, 54: smooth talker, slick salesman, big ego, perpetual winner, loves the camera and the sideline, played football at Arkansas, fired Tom Landry, “owner monster” in George Steinbrenner mold, would run for governor of Texas if he thought he had the votes, likes oil.
Jimmy Johnson, 53: smooth talker, slick salesman, big ego, perpetual winner, loves the camera and the sideline, played football at Arkansas, succeeded Tom Landry, “coach monster” in Pat Riley mold, would run for governor of Florida if he thought he had the votes, likes mousse.
In this fairly even matchup of redoubtable rascals, the Cowboys have the edge - they are the better team, plus their coach, Barry Switzer, and many of Johnson’s former charges would love to tattoo his tail. In fact, if the Cowboys win, they might carry Switzer off the field. (If the Dolphins win, Johnson will carry himself off the field.)
Somebody’s got to lose.
But, believe you me, it ain’t gonna be Jimmy.
If Johnson were to lose this game, he’d waive every Dolphin - Dan Marino included - by midnight. He wants this victory more than JFK Jr. wanted a pre-nup. These days, Jimmy looks at Jerry the same way Peter Graf looks at the tax man. The Dolphins are three-point underdogs at home. I’ll double-down on Miami and take the points.
(Coaching Fodder: Interestingly, when the Bengals’ Dave Shula got the call Monday to tell him he was fired, he was on the other line with DePaul’s Joey Meyer.)
(Coaching Folly: Rick Venturi? He was 1-31-1 at Northwestern and 1-10 with the Colts. I guess he interviews well.)
(Free Tip to NFL Teams: If you hitch yourself to Jeff George’s wagon, expect a flat tire.)
As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:
Panthers at Eagles (-3-1/2): Novelist Anatole France once wrote, “It is human nature to think wisely and act foolishly.” Which somewhat explains how The Man, on the one hand, believes that tax-free municipal bonds are the safe way to go while, on the other hand, runs down the middle of the street bug-eyed and bare-chested shouting, “Carolina is Super Bowl-bound!!!” Pick: Panthers.
49ers (-5) at Oilers: To celebrate George Seifert’s 100th coaching victory Sunday, 49ers dumped bucket of ‘94 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay on his head… . Sparing no expense in signature Eddie DeBartolo fashion, 49ers now script all plays on cloth napkins. Pick: 49ers.
Buccaneers at Packers (-18): Tampa Bay WR Alvin Harper lost a portion of the tip of his left middle finger when an assistant trainer inadvertently cut him with a pair of scissors. This is what medical consumer groups would call “a bad referral.” Pick: Buccaneers.
Jets at Cardinals (-4): Say what you will about Rich Kotite - and, frankly, the word “loser” pops to mind - but you can’t go 3-28 over your last 31 games unless you’re in there fighting for every three-, 10- and 21-point defeat. Pick: Cardinals.
Chargers (-1) at Seahawks: The good news is that Seahawks offense has embarked on a 12-step program to reduce mistakes. The bad news is that most Seahawks linemen can only count to 10. Pick: Chargers.
Rams at Ravens (-6): You can’t turn a soprano into a tenor. Likewise, you can’t turn a penalty-plagued, sack-filled, offensively challenged, poorly coached St. Louis team into a winner. Pick: Ravens.
Bills at Patriots (-4): Patriots to abandon huddling in favor of “video conferencing.” … Bills QB Jim Kelly was taken aback Tuesday when he visited a wax museum - and saw himself. Pick: Patriots.
Jaguars at Bengals (-3): Dave Shula exits with 19-52 record; Bruce Coslet enters with 26-39 record. This is like trading in a Ford Pinto for a Dodge Dart. Pick: Jaguars.
Steelers (-5) at Falcons: If Jeff George is the biggest reason for Falcons’ 0-7 start, June Jones is at least an “unindicted co-conspirator.” Pick: Steelers.
Giants at Lions (-11): Giants are so beleaguered, at halftime they don’t go to locker room, they retreat to fallout shelter. Pick: Lions.
Colts at Redskins (-3-1/2): When Colts QB Jim Harbaugh drops back to pass, he draws tacklers like an outhouse draws flies. Pick: Redskins.
Chiefs at Broncos (-3): I swear - if Marty Schottenheimer won Super Lotto, John Elway would still cash in the ticket. Pick: Broncos.
Bears at Vikings (-7): You’ve got to figure that Bryan Cox likes to eat jerk chicken. Pick: Bears.
Last week: 4-8.*
Season record: 55-51.
(* - This brings to mind the 1974 film “The Gambler,” in which James Caan drops $44,000 in one night and goes to his mother for a loan. She asks how he could lose that much money. He replies: “I gambled and I lost.”