The Nemesis List (say that fast five times)

Quote of the Day: You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends.” –Joseph Conrad

TB’s had reason of late to give thought to the great dynamic duos of history, sports and fiction, and many choices spring to mind immediately. Lennon and McCartney, Ruth and Gehrig, Luke and Han, or maybe Hillary and Norgay, Trammell and Whitaker, and Dante and Randal. Really, it makes for a pretty decent list for discussion on a day when I’ve not had time to think of an essay topic. But the idea just seemed a little boring. Sure its always cool to find space here at TB to discuss Newman and Redford, Jackson and Lee or Macpherson and Ireland. But really, what can we say that hasn’t already been said repeatedly on the web about great pairs like Jessie and Frank James, Montana and Rice and Charlie Brown and Snoopy. So this post isn’t about dynamic duos at all.

Instead, at some point in thinking about dynamic duos my mind veered off course and got more interested in nemeses and all it implies for one to merit their own personal nemesis. Mainly the term implies greatness in each party, along with grudging respect and high stakes. To have a nemesis is not merely to have an enemy, for any slob can attain scores of those. Additionally, to have or be a nemesis means that one acts alone, taking up the challenge without assistance and with the knowledge that in unspoken assent he will not be faced with more than a solitary foe at the root of his battle, no matter how many pawns are in the game. It means the opposing forces marvel in the greatness of the other all the while plotting to counter each measure set forth against them with ever heightening greatness of his own. To have a nemesis is to be intimately acquainted with both victory and defeat. Many confuse rivals with nemeses but while a nemesis is surely one’s rival, the reverse does not hold true for to gain status as a rival no greatness need exist, merely enmity. Finally there is an indefinable quality that must be present for a nemesis relationship to exist, one that you simply know when you see and which in truth trumps all other attempts to describe the word and can even contradict some established characteristics of the relationship. Yes, the nemeses are far more intriguing than the partners.

Below are my selections for the greatest of nemeses.

  • Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
  • Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone
  • Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
  • Seinfeld and Newman/George and the Play Now management
  • Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe
  • Rick Blaine and Major Strasser; Col. Hogan and Major Hoffstetler
  • Gandalf and Saruman; Dr. Evil and Austin Powers
  • Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
  • Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett
  • Generals Bonaparte and Wellington; Admirals Yamamoto and Nimitz

The greatest of all nemeses are Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes. Part of the beauty of the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is that they only meet face to face in a single story and in the conclusion to that tale they both gain a measure of victory over the other as they fall to their apparent deaths. But Doyle manages to inject Moriarty ex post facto into every Holmes investigation ever undertaken and he concurrently reveals the greatness that is Holmes in exposing for the first time the detective’s brilliant observations and deductions that gradually led him to the knowledge of Moriarty in the first place. What puts this arch-rival relationship over the top is less what we know about their battles than what we do not know and that tantalyzing unknown is what makes their story so compelling. And Doyle, as I think about his nemeses today and consider returning to their story after some fifteen years away, wasn’t content at leaving only a fraction of their story told, but he also gave us only hints at what may have been one of the greatest dynamic duos of all time if only we knew more–the story of Holmes and his genius and reclusive brother Mycroft. But this post is not about that at all.

Bonus QOTD: “The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession.” –Sherlock Holmes

And a couple of excerpts from “The Final Problem” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) for your enjoyment, or at least my own.

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. Is there a crime to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be rifled, a man to be removed — the word is passed to the Professor, the matter is organized and carried out. The agent may be caught. In that case money is found for his bail or his defence. But the central power which uses the agent is never caught — never so much as suspected.”


You crossed my path on the 4th of January,’ said he. ‘On the 23d you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible one.’


“I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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41 Responses to The Nemesis List (say that fast five times)

  1. irvineredd says:

    George v. Play Now mgmt, might be better than Jerry v. Newman.

    I’m trying to think of more and have currently drawn a blank.

  2. Jessie Lou says:

    Upon your comment on rivals I wasn’t sure if my ideas would be considered rivals or nemesis – I’ll let all of you decide.

    Col. Hogan vs. Col. Klink
    Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage
    Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes
    JR Ewing vs. Anyone
    Alexis vs. Krystal

    All TV but is all I’ve got. There have been personal ones as well in this lifetime but that is the subject of another blog on another day, perhaps.

  3. JL, The wrestling arena is a good one I hadn’t thought of. I bet BR can enlighten us there if he chooses to.

    Hogan v Klink–I went with Hoffstetler because he sometimes made Hogan work pretty hard to come out on top while Klink hardly put up a fight. But its a subjective matter so I’ll not put up a fight on the issue.

    Glad you threw out a female pair. I tried to think of some but couldn’t come up with any right off. I’m sure there are more.

  4. Jessie Lou says:

    Sue Ellen vs. Kristin – Dallas – sisters and lovers/haters of the same man, none other than JR Ewing.

    Elaine vs. Sue Ellen Melchi/Mitzgee on Seinfeld – not sure if that is the correct last name. Sue Ellen was the one that went braless.

  5. irvineredd says:

    Sue Ellen Mischke

  6. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

    Generals Patton and Montgomery — despite being on the same side.

    Martin Luther and Erasmus.

    Respectfully, I think Lendl was McEnroe’s nemesis. McEnroe/Borg, in my mind, was more like watching a changing of the guard. Lendl and McEnroe genuinely disliked each other while at the same time bringing out the best in each other on the court. Their epic 5-set French Open championship match is a top ten all time tennis match.

  7. Good point TDW. McEnroe/Connors may be a better one too than Mc/Borg

  8. Jessie Lou says:

    I totally agree TDW. Makes me wonder what happened to Lendl. It is almost Wimbledon time after all.

  9. Samsmama says:

    Elaine was such a mess. Let’s not foget “the virgin” and the coworker who didn’t move her arms while walking.

    What a great contribution I’ve made today. I’m going to pat myself on the back for awhile.

  10. irvineredd says:

    Samsmama, funny that you would mention the virgin episode, we’re listening to that one in my store right now.

  11. Wendy says:

    Elaine’s dancing skills were unmatched. I’m always hopeful that I am doing better than that. I practice in the mirror on occasion.

    How about Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump as nemesis?

  12. Samsmama says:

    “Like a seizure”. Loved it.

    Rosie & Trump was a good one! As of recently, I’d like to add Letterman & Palin.

  13. Wendy says:

    Thanks SM! I have another one – The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Beep! Beep!

  14. irvineredd says:

    Good one Wendy! I’m upset that I didn’t think of that one!

    Colbert and Bill O’Reilly

    Myself and the owner of The African House, the business two doors down from mine, that lady is nuts.

    Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders

  15. Samsmama says:

    Since we’re talking Simpsons, Bart & Sideshow Bob.

    • Kristina says:

      Know one would have ever known if I hadn’t stumbled asorcs him that night on my way home from the school basketball game. Being scared of the dark wasn’t any fun and to hear those wails coming from the old shack on the back of our property had intensified the fear. Chills had gone up down my arms and it took all my strength to keep from darting home as fast as I could but curiosity had held me back. I decided to have a quick peek into the shack and then go home. I stayed as much in the shadows as I could, hoping that no one could hear my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest. I could hear my breath raggedly coming in and out. I sounded like someone fighting for their last breath. I tiptoed closer and closer until I was almost to the edge of the porch. There was window on the side of the small building but it had been covered with something. I saw a small bit of light trickling to the bare ground on the side of the shack and decide that I would try to see through the hole that created it. Slowly, I snuck over to the building until I was tightly tucked against it. I cautiously looked around, making sure that no one had seen me. The sounds in the cabin had continued but had now turned into a wild laughter.I slowly bent down, trying not to make a sound and slowly peaked through the hole. What I saw stunned me beyond words. Earl, our gas station attendant, was in his underwear and boots and was dancing around the shack. He would thrust his head backwards and then forwards and chant the same phrase over and over and then would follow it with either the laughter or the wailing. At first I couldn’t catch the phrase but then it drifted out to me.“He will know your pain, when you die.” It sent chills down my spine. That’s when I noticed Earl kept looking at something in the corner. There was woman in the cabin. She was staring at him with wild eyes and it scared me to the core. I knew I had to do something. I had to rescue the woman. That was when I decided to break into the station. I had to get the key to the shack and that was the only place we kept one.On the way, I had run into two of my friends and they had agreed to help. We had tried the doors of the station but they were locked and when the alarm had gone off, we didn’t realize it. The cops wouldn’t listen to us when we tried to explain about the woman in the cabin and the more I yelled, the less they listened. It was all I could do to keep from running to her when my parents bailed me out.

  16. Zeek says:

    Uh, …hello… Palmer & Nicklaus!!!!!

    Ike Holt and Jerry Rice, Holt was only one to ever contain him(played for Vikings).

    Bill Russell & Wilt Chamberlain

    Pete Rose & Bart Giamati

    Ted Williams & Joe Dimaggio

    Superman & Lex Luthor

    Cool Hand Luke & Prison Warden

  17. Jessie Lou says:

    IR – that one is probably only funny to me – The African House lady could be a Seinfeld episode. Reminds me of the Soup Nazi.

    SM – Letterman and Palin – love it!

    Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston.

  18. Bart and Sideshow Bob for sure. I thought about a few of the others and have no argument with Arnie/Jack, Superman/Lex, RR/Wil. E , Colbert/O’Reilly and a couple of the others. I discarded Williams/Dimaggio reluctantly because Williams never won.

    Jolie/Anniston is a nice call.

  19. Harmony says:

    Stewie Griffin & Lois Griffin

    Jacob & Whatever is inside Locke’s body

    Or for that matter, Ben Linus & Charles Widmore. Lost is full of easy pickings for this though.

    Eminem & Triumph the insult comic dog (hehe)

    Tyler Durden & himself

  20. Samsmama says:

    Tyler Durden for the win! (I typed “wine”. Geez.)

    Well done, Harmony!!!

  21. quail09 says:

    Billy Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs

  22. Sweet says:

    Nice DW on the Generals. Another Looney Tune is Sylvester and Tweety (not to be confused with Tweeting)
    Cheney and waterboardies
    Harmony, Locke is my boy
    MD and global warming
    Nair and hair
    Favre and retirement
    most anybody and insurance

  23. Zeek says:

    LL Cool J & Kool Moe Dee

    Notorious B.I.G & Tupac

    David Lee Roth & Sammy Hagar

    Lynrd Skynrd & Neil Young

    Ice T & Tipper Gore

    Yankees & Red Sox

    Del Norte Devils & Pinecrest Pinecones

  24. RockStarRambler says:

    Obi-Wan Kenobi aka Baen and Darth Vader

  25. irvineredd says:

    Batman and the Joker

    Inspector Gadget and Dr. Claw

    Carl Spackler and the Gopher

    The Chicken and the Egg

  26. Samsmama says:

    Drew Carey & Mimi

    Sam Malone and the upstairs eatery owner

    Me & my ovaries

  27. irvineredd says:


    Plaxico Burress and Himself

    Ann Coulter and Single Moms

    Also, kudos to Harmony for Tyler Durden, that may be my favorite so far.

  28. Harmony says:

    Ha! The chicken and the egg…Love it!

    Samsmama tell those bitch ass ovaries to get in line!

    Plankton and Mr. Krabs

  29. quail09 says:

    Zeek…..good one….skynyrd and neil young

    Union vs. The Noble Cause

    LSU vs. Everybody

  30. quail09 says:

    R. Kelly vs. 14 year-old girls’ parents

    Oprah vs. donuts

    Custer vs. Sitting Bull

    Pascagoula vs. Moss Point

    Rocky vs. Apollo Creed

  31. Samsmama says:

    HA!!! The Oprah suggestion is excellent! I was going to nominate Kirstie Alley vs. food.

  32. Jessie Lou says:

    And the food angle can go the opposite way – although in poor taste but I’ll say it anyway

    Karen Carpenter vs. Food

    Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill

  33. coachteajay says:

    Hawkeye/Frank Burns
    Charlie Brown/ Lucy
    OJ/Goldman Family
    Nancy Grace/Casey Anthony
    Andrew Jackson/American Indians
    Abraham Lincoln/ Stephen A. Douglas
    Eric Clapton/George Harrison
    Red Sox/Yankees
    TJ/Brown whiskey

  34. Rock Star, I can’t believe I neglected the Star Wars universe. Yoda and the Emperor certainly should be added to the list.

    You have all saved the blog this slow week, bravo to all for some good, some funny and even some absurd selections!

  35. larry says:

    Bandit Darville/Buford T. Justice

  36. Jessie Lou says:

    TJ – Your #2 and the last ones are the best.

    Larry – your one selection nailed it.

    • Esme says:

      Silent Secret’s Steal door’s closing bihend me, the embarrassment of deputy Brian finding me hidden in a dark corner of Mr. Johnson’s gas station, that I had broken into, the look on my friend’s face’s when they found out I had lied to them to get them to help. I would re-live all of them again to avoid the crying of mom and the silence of dad, on the drive home.Looking out the window, we pass the school. I imagine what the morning will be like, teacher’s staring, student’s laughing and giggling, and my friend’s, well, I probably don’t have many now. If I had known all of this would happen, I would have done it anyway.Arriving home I started up the stair’s and was stopped by my father. Go to the living room, Frank is coming over and you’r gonna explain to all of us why you broke into his station! What would I say? I could not tell the truth, the future would be destroyed. I knew Mr. Johnson was probably disappointed with me. His son Joey and I had been best of friends since first grade and his family was like my second.Sitting on the couch I heard Mr. Johnson’s wrecker pull up in front of the house. He had been on a road call when I broke in, Joey was with him.All of us in the room, mom still crying, dad standing with his hand’s on his waist, Mr Johnson sitting, disbelief on his face and Joey just looking at me. Well let’s hear it, what was you thinking? asked my father. I don’t know . What? I don’t know! . I answered, with tears running down my face. You don’t know, Frank you have anything to say to him?’ asked dad. Shaking his head no dad ordered me to my room.As I lay in silence, I could only think of the promise that Joey and I had made to each other. He wanted to be a dancer and go to Broadway, I wanted to be a journalist and travel the world. We both knew our parent’s had different plan’s for us. He would take over the station, I, I would work in the mill like my father and his father before him. Hour’s we would spend practicing on each other, no one else knew or could they until the day we would leave, to chase our dream’s. If Joey had not forgotten his dance paper’s where his father might find them, if he had not gone on the service call, if I had not given my promise of silence. This would be only a nightmare for me now.

  37. larry says:

    One more

    Bo and Luke Duke/Boss Hogg – Rosco P. Coltrane – TV show version

  38. irvineredd says:

    Apparently one good pair is Hitler and Ole Miss

  39. Zeek says:

    Bravo on the Bandit, Larry.

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