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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Showdown befits the Bills

At this hour, one can make a case for the Patriots and Cowboys as the best teams in their respective conferences. In this spirit, let's step into the time machine and see what lies ahead.

MIAMI (Feb. 4, 2007) -- You can call it Super Bowl XLI. We know it's Bill Bowl I. No more. No less.

It's hard to believe that after everything that's happened over the last 15 years that we'd come to this: the Dallas Cowboys against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Bill Parcells vs. Bill Belichick. Father vs. son. Guys who won championships together in New York. Guys who both served as HC of the NYJ. Guys who opposed each other in a playoff game on New Year's Day in Cleveland in 1995 (Belichick's Browns beat Parcells's Patriots).

It's Kill Bill I and Kill Bill II. We've got the Big Tuna against Coach Chuckles -- a guy who bailed on Bob Kraft against a guy who pledged allegiance to Bob Kraft. The only way this can get any better is if Drew Bledsoe relieves Tony Romo in the second half tonight and gets picked off three times by Asante Samuel (cutting in front of Terry Glenn). Samuel, naturally, will credit Belichick's diabolical Drew-busting schemes and claim, "Bill got into Drew's head again."

Bill Bowl I is really Hate Bowl I, underscoring all the traditional Boston themes of politics, sports, and revenge. The Krafts hate Parcells almost as much as Bledsoe hates Belichick. Fanboy bloggers (i.e. sycophants) hate Parcells and love Belichick. And a legion of lathered-up Patriots fans still haven't forgiven Parcells for "ruining our Super Bowl" in the limp loss to the Packers in New Orleans 10 years ago.

It's been hilarious listening to both coaches this week. Parcells keeps telling us, "You are what your record says you are," and mumbling something about buying groceries. Belichick, meanwhile, has managed to stand at the podium for a grand total of 2 hours 10 minutes without ever mentioning Parcells's name. It's Mangini Syndrome. Mangini Squared.

When asked about Parcells, Belichick snorted and said, "We have a lot of respect for the way the Cowboys play football. They are what they are. It is what it is. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. I am the eggman. I am the walrus. And as Robert DeNiro said in 'The Deer Hunter,' 'This is This.' "

Kraft dodged all Parcells questions during his two-hour session of Tuesday's media day. Reminded that he called Parcells "the greatest coach of the modern era" in the electric minutes after the 1996-97 Patriots beat the Jaguars at home to win the AFC championship, Kraft said, "It was a Rick Pitino moment. That's how I felt at the time."

Kraft's eldest son, Jonathan, has been quiet most of the week, and denied charges that he painted mustaches on Parcells's image on South Florida billboards.

"Parcells treated me like some rich kid who knew nothing about sports," said the younger Kraft. "He said I was born on third base and thought I'd hit a triple. Well, we certainly showed him we don't need any stinkin' Tuna around here. We won three Super Bowls and built a stadium without the guy. I just can't figure out why we can't get any coverage in the Globe."

For the record, the Globe has 80 reporters and photographers working on Super Bowl coverage in southern Florida. Free papers, featuring a daily 64-page, full-color Super Bowl section, have been distributed in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

"Not enough," said Kraft. "They still like the Red Sox better than us."

Cowboys kicker Martin Gramatica has been diplomatic about his summer tryout with the Patriots in 2006. The once-controversial Glenn has also refused to take the bait.

"I did enjoy my time with the Patriots," said Dallas's speedy wideout. "That's did. D-I-D. But nobody pays attention to anything I say or do anymore. We got Terrell Owens."

Bledsoe has also taken the high road.

"People always tell you to act like you've been there before," stated Drew. "Well, I have been here before. Both of these coaches replaced me with a younger quarterback, then took off and went to the Super Bowl. What can I say other than it is what it is and you are what your record says you are? Even though I was dumped by both Bills, Bob Kraft and Jerry Jones treated me like a son."

"We just hope Bill Parcells takes the plane home with our team after the game," Jones said after a lengthy meeting with Kraft.

Parcells's critics have long noted that the Big Tuna never won a Super Bowl without Belichick. Tonight he has a chance to put that to rest by winning one against Belichick.

Patriots vice president/player personnel Scott Pioli finds himself smack in the middle of Bill Bowl I. Pioli is Belichick's right arm on all personnel matters, and is married to Parcells's daughter, Dallas. Pioli has repeatedly denied rumors that Belichick asked him to have his wife change her name to Foxborough.

Patriots vs. Cowboys. Super Bowl XLI, Bill Bowl I. We can't wait for that phony postgame handshake at midfield.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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