For want of a better name, it will go down as the Super Bowl of the Right - two world champions of conservation fighting among themselves over what is best for the people of Panama.
On the left surprise, is William F. Buckley Jr., tongue darting, eyebrows runnig amok, arguing the case for Senate approval of the Panama Canal treaties.
On the right, jaw jutting, hair slicked down and Clifornia tan, is Ronald Reagan, arguing against approval of the treaties.
In the middle, holding them apart with his assuring sphorisms, is the country lawyer from North Carolina, former Sen Sam J. Ervin. His face still wears that bemused look of a lighted pinball machine.
Buckley has men on his bench: Ellsworth Bunker, the diplomat who helped negotiate the treaties; retired Adm. Elmo Zumwait; James Burnham, academic and writer; George Will, the columnist.
Backing up Reagan are retired Adm. John McCain, former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific; Roger Fontaine, Latin American studies specialist from Georgetown University; Patrick Buchanan, cloumnist.
Now, in the pantheon of the right and the righteous, this is a Zanuck cast. The only thing is that they're arguing, very earnestly, among themselves. Rather like another tiff in the locker room of the New York Yankees.
The arena is a theater at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, with cameras of the Public Broadcasting System poised to carry the two-hour show live Friday night. (It will be shown in the Washington area at 4 p.m. today on WETA-TV, Channel 26.)
Cameras are running. Buckley gives his side. Witty, rapier-like, observing the anomaly of disagreeing with his favorite politican. Super-sure of himself, he says, "I fully expect that someday I'll be wrong about something."
Moments later, he is. He is wrong about something basic, but the opposition misses it. He says Cortes crossed Panama and was the first to espy the Pacific Ocean. It was Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
Buckley says approval of the treaties is important for American dignity, Panamanian pride and for defense reasons. In a conventional war, he says, it will be important to have a Panamanian ally running the canal. In a nuclear war, forget it.
Reagan isn't buying that piece of pudding. He is dramatic, jaw firm, looking straight into the camera. He pours out the facts, reciting history, mispronouncing soft words and names with pidgin-Spanish.
He says the treaties are "flawed" beauce the talk of security guarantees and Panamanian neutrality are not much more than that - just talk. He doesn't trust Gen. Omar Torrijos the Panamanian leader; he says Panamanians are too inept to help the canal running efficiently.
He says he favors additional negotiations to work out a more negotiable treaty arrangement. He said the United States do more to provide material aid to Panama for development.
But what bothers him just as much is the atmosphere. Treaty talks began after students rioted in 1964. Treaty talks end as Torrijos warns that failure could lend to guerrilla warfare and sabotage.
"Let us negotiate as a great nation should and have no more yielding to threats of blackmail," the farmer agrees-idol thunders. He got long applause from a studio audience that clearly favors his position.
After this, Reagan wonders why Buckley hasn't seen the light and rushed across the room to join him.
"The force of my illumination would blind you," Buckley answers.
More questions, more answers. Supporting actors join in. Neither side is budging. "We are all struck by how narrow are our differences here," says George Will.
Each principal has 10 minutes for closing. Reagan isn't sure he needs 10 minutes. Buckley takes almost 10, says he agrees Americans are tired of being pushed around. But, he adds, saying "no" to Panama is not becoming to a superpower.
"We ought to be mad not at Panamanian students . . . but at our own leaders for screwing up the peace which they have screwed up during the past 25 years," he says.
Ervin wraps it up. "As long as this can go on in America, America will remain free. Tonight we have seen America at its finest," he says.
Then America at its finest etches another fingerprint on history. They have finished 90 seconds early and no one - not a Buckley, a Reagan, and Ervin - can think of anything else to say. Another first for the Guinness Book of Records.