Two of the most succesful professional football teams of the past decade, the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, play Sunday in Super Bowl 11.
The game, which will be televised in Washington by WRC-TV 4, starts at 3:30 p.m. (EST).
At stake is the National Football League championship, lots of money and the opportunity for one team to drop the theme song, "Born To Lose." Oakland is favored by four points.
The Raiders, who have compiled the best record in the NFL over the last 10 years, have been to only one of the previous 10 title games, losing in 1968 to Green Bay.
Minnesota, making a record fourth appearances in the Super Bowl, has lost previously to Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh.
"It doesn't bother me that we lost those other games," said Vikings' coach Bud Grant. "It's not like a business failure. It's what you do now that counts. What happened four years ago doesn't matter."
But Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler admitted, "We got it off last week when we beat Pittsburgh. But it's back - people saying Oakland can't win the big ones. It's up to us to get it done Sunday and get it off for good."
A capacity crowd of 103,424 persons will watch the game in person at the Rose Bowl, which is located in suburban Pasadena. Clear skies are forecast, after a week of rain here.
Each member of the winning team will receive $15,000; each member of the losing team will collect $7,500 to help ease the agony of defeat.
Oakland compiled the best record in the NFl this year, 13-1, but barely edged New England, 24-21, in the first round of the playoffs. However, in the AFC finals, the Raiders were back in form, thumping Pittsburgh, 24-7.
Minnesota was 11-2-1 in the regular season before turning in impressive post-season victories over Washington (35-20) and Los Angeles (24-13).
Television flacks claim the viewing audience will be more than 75 million.
With all the muscle among the "hit men" of both teams, the game will turn on what kind of day the game-breakers have. In a game often dulled by intimidating defense and play-safe offense, the attacking capabilities of the Raiders and Vikings as orchestrated by Stabler and Fran Tarkenton hold out the prospect of delicious excitement.
Bearing the stamp of a championship-type quarterback, Stabler strikes best when the Raiders are behind, in the manner of a cobra backed into a niche in the rocks. He has the fastest left arm since Sandy Koufax and can, with a few snaps of the wrist, wipe out an opposition lead.
Tarkenton, grubs and scrounges a first down where he can, counting on a wise old defense to hold an opponent within range until perhaps a defensive back blinks his eyes while Ahmad Rashad or Sammy White is pretending merely to run out a deep pattern. Then, touchdown!
If the Vikings have an edge, it resides in the multiple skills of Chuck Foreman, who can turn a short run into a long run or a short pass into a long score. Nor is he a prima donna averse to the dirty work of blocking.
He gets better as the suspense escalates and will be especially motivated because he wants a glittering performance chart this season to justify his claim for a renegotiated contract. He already has regular-season statistics to argue from - 1.155 yards rushing and a club-leading 55 receptions.
Stabler has better receivers: world class sprinter Cliff Branch, Fred Biletnikoff, who has glue all over his uniform, and tight end Dave Casper, who once caught a fish with his bare hands.
Mark van Eeghen rushed for 1,012 yards with the Raiders, but despite a 4.3-yard average he is more of an advertisement for the efficiency of the Raider's offense line than a virtuoso.
Since it is plausible that the game will be decided by the quarterbacks, their absolute physical fitness has to be figured in the handicapping.
Grant has proclaimed Tarkenton fit for the finale. Likewise. Raider coach John Madden says Stabler completely recovered from a rib injury that sidelined him for the fourth period in the AFC title game against Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Tarkenton averaged 7.19 yards per completion, Stabler 9.41. Dropback passer Stabler has not been that much safer behind a line that sets up a bastion for him than Tarkenton has been witha combination of moving pass blocks and his own mobility - before his knee injury. Stabler was sacked 28 times for losses of 290 yards; Tarkenton 31 times for 262 yards, indicating he cuts some of his losses with his twinkletoss.
And, despite all the talk about the "contract" men in the Oakland defense and the old age of the Minnesota defense, the Raiders had only an edge of one in quarterback sacks, 46 to 45.
The Vikings are not as likely to block punts against the Raiders, particularly since Ray Guy is regarded as the best. If it comes down to the game being settled by a place-kicker, Fred Cox of Minnesota has the better average, and experience with pressure after 14 seasons.
He has converted 19 of 31 field goal attempts and 32 of 26 extra point trics.
Before being sidelined by an injury, rookie Fred Steinford of Oakland made four of eight field goal tries, 16 of 19 extra points. Errel Mann, a veteran of nine seasons with Detroit, Green Bay, and this season with Oakland, has connected on only eight of 21 three-point attempts, another reason why Stabler thinks touchdown, even on long yardage. Mann has hit on 35 to 37 extra point tries.
The Rose Bowl field may be a slow track after three days of rain, but it was drying today; no rain was forecast before kickoff and gusts of wind are predicted with temperatures in the 60s.