By DYLAN WAUGH and MICHAEL FROST
ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 19, 2009) - Members of Maryland's House of Delegates came to work Friday decked out in their Sunday best—purple and black football jerseys.
House rules were eased to allow legislators to wear Baltimore Ravens jerseys under their jackets in anticipation of Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens also turned up in the opening prayer, and the session was opened and closed with a group cheer, capping off an opening week in which football metaphors abounded.
"What time is it?" asked Shawn Z. Tarrant, D-Baltimore, as the assembly convened.
"Game Time!" came the response.
James E. Malone Jr., D-Baltimore County, read the invocation, which he concluded with the same amendment that another delegate had added to the Pledge of Allegiance moments before: "Go Ravens!"
At that point, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, slid on a No. 52 Ray Lewis jersey.
Many delegates had already beaten him to the punch. No. 60 Curtis S. Anderson, D-Baltimore, and No. 8 Eric M. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, both sported jerseys with their names emblazoned across the back.
Hattie N. Harrison, D-Baltimore, took full advantage of the rule change, wearing purple from head to toe.
Busch took a moment to acknowledge those who may have favored other hues.
"I know there's others who have affections for other birds," he said.
His comments may well have been directed at Richard B. Weldon Jr., I-Frederick, and Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, R-St. Mary's, who were both wearing Philadelphia Eagles hats. For his part, O'Donnell was also sporting a "playoff beard."
Busch then called on a delegate who could legitimately wear such a jersey: former NFL quarterback Jay Walker, D-Prince George's, who welcomed a group of elementary students watching the session from the balcony.
The delegates then moved on to matters of state, voting 130-5 to allow bars in Anne Arundel County to stay open an extra hour on Inauguration Day. Anderson was one of a handful of delegates who voted against the bill, prefacing his arguments by saying, "I hope you can take this seriously from a person wearing purple."
Anderson then returned to his desk, which was decorated with a purple T-shirt that read "Baltimore—The city that REEDS."
Ravens safety Ed Reed seemed to be a fan favorite in the chamber.
"Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by Ed Reed," joked Delegate Brian K. McHale, D-Baltimore.
There has been considerable peer pressure on state politicians to support the Ravens all week. Reaching across the aisle at the Maryland Joint Republican Caucus Tuesday, Delegate Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, asked Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown if he was a Ravens fan.
"I'm a Ravens fan ... today," Brown replied, which Krebs described as "a very good answer ... from an attorney."
Maryland business leaders also seemed to have football on the mind, even when discussing looming budget cuts,
"We're all going to be playing defense to make sure things we care about aren't taken away," said Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO Donald C. Fry at the Maryland Economic Development Association's Winter Conference Thursday.
James C. Dinegar, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, agreed.
"We are in the equivalent of a prevent defense," he said.
Along with a strong defense, legislators are also hoping for a little help from above: a slice of a federal economic stimulus package. "They're waiting for a Hail Mary pass," Fry said.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.