They're only talking about one hour, but they've been arguing for days.

It began June 23, when the Foxboro (Mass.) Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to deny the New England Patriots' request to play a Monday night football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sept. 21 at 9 o'clock, instead of 8.

The selectmen -- Chairman J. Neil Forster, Peter D. Stanton and R. Lawrence O'Donnell -- said the town would license no game starting after 8 p.m. They cited fan rowdiness and drunkenness at Foxboro's Schaefer Stadium as the reason.

"It's basically been a problem of frustration," said Andred Gala, town administrator and spokesman for the selectmen. "There is a problem with fan control and behavior. The board of selectmen has been trying to deal with this for years."

Now, after lots of hype in the local media, the 60-minute war is raging. On one side is Foxboro, a town of 14,000 located 23 miles southwest of Boston.

On the other side are the New England Patriots, the National Football League and ABC Sports. The town of Foxboro is a six-touchdown underdog.

"My feeling is that reasonable men can reach reasonable decisions," William H. Sullivan Jr., president of the Patriots, said. "We haven't gone in wearing boxing gloves. This thing has been blown out of proportion by all of this undue publicity.

"There has been no bad blood developing between us and the selectmen. They are not putting pressures on us and we are not putting pressures on them. We want to live in the community and we feel that we have been good corporate citizens at a time when Los Angeles is offering (Oakland Raiders owner Al) Davis millions to get him, and Oakland is offering him millions to stay."

The Patriots requested a chance to appeal the decision to the board and were granted that request. The appeal will be heard Tuesday.

How bad is the situation at Schaefer Stadium on Monday nights?

"Last year," John P. Gaudet, Foxboro police chief, said, "we had a total of 128 arrests at Schaefer Stadium (over eight games). On the one Monday night game last Sept. 29 against Denver, there were 49 arrests.

"Everyone has his own philosophy on why it's worse Monday night," said Gaudet, who has 25 full-time officers. "Mine is that you take the average guy getting here at 7 o'clock Monday night and he is hustling from work and he probably drinks half his dinner on the way here. Monday night, there is more of a young, virile group than on Sunday, when you have mostly season ticketholders and people coming on their way from church.

"I think one hour might make a difference. Any policeman knows most crimes are committed after dark. It's all behavioral things, like fighting, drinking, assaults. No felonious crimes. This is just fan misbehavior."

Gaudet said he employs 200-225 officers at Schaefer Stadium for a normal game. "I appoint police officers from surrounding towns and then there are extra security officers, too, besides my own staff."

Stadium logistics are a problem. Schaefer Stadium depends on only one major thoroughfare (Rte. 1) to deposit patrons into its parking lots and the satellite parking lot at the Foxboro Harness Raceway across the street. Gaudet said a main concern is the drinking in the parking lots before and after games.

"I think that when we present our case, this will be straightened out," Sullivan said. "One of the selectmen had said that if come up with a better security plan, then he would be satisfied. Well, we have devised a plan and we feel it is complete.

"We also plan to bring a letter from the commissioner (Pete Rozelle). The gist of the letter is that the league requested this date and time months ago and to change it at this late date is unfair."

Sullivan said he believes the Patriots already have suitable security. He added, "Under our contract, ABC is entitled to our game and is entitled to have it played at 9 o'clock."

Jim Spence, vice president of ABC Sports, said: "Let's just say that ABC Sports has an agreement with the NFL that calls for a 9 o'clock start. We hope that the Patriots and the board will work this out."

Sullivan hopes so, too. And he also wonders why such a fuss has been made.