Since Baltimore is devoid of pro football, the Emerald Tavern, and places like it, provide a vicarious setting for entertainment, excitement and enjoyment. So this was a typical Sunday afternoon. The crowd was responsive as it suggested a mood that might otherwise be found on a stadium 50-yard line. You don't need a ticket, but it's always standing room only.
Behind the bar, helping to dispense the cheer, was Bill Saul, a one-time linebacker for the Colts, who never saw a ball carrier he didn't want to decapitate. But he's especially gentle and accommodating to all the customers, explaining how it is to be the lead man in a blitz or to drop back to play pass defense.
Five different games were on as many television sets, including the NBC and CBS offerings and three others via satellite. "I come here at noon and stay until almost midnight," said Randy Latimer, who on other days of the week manages a bar called Memories.
Nancy McCleary, who is employed in the financial department of a law firm, explained her presence by saying the primary inducement offered at the Emerald is a chance to see five games at one time. "My parents got me hooked on the Colts," she said. "When they were here and on television my mother would plan dinner during halftime intermission."
Besides the Emerald bill of fare, there was a full menu of football. The tavern in Northeast Baltimore County had the technical capacity to show the Vikings-Lions, Chiefs-Seahawks, Colts-Patriots, Dolphins-Jets and Falcons-Bears, simultaneously, on television sets in various parts of the room. Then later came the Giants-Rams, Broncos-Chargers, Packers-Raiders and 49ers-Cowboys. Nine games in all.
"Watching five different early games is what brings everybody around," said Cole Warner. "If you tire of one you turn to another." And Tom Eubert, a member of the carpenters' union, #101 AFL-CIO, insisted, "The Emerald is for football fanatics. You don't see any trouble here. We're all intent on the games. I don't even play thepools; I just love the sport."
This all seems small compensation, the opportunity to see five games, while being deprived of a Baltimore birthright, the Colts, who went off to some place called Indianapolis. The owner of the Emerald, Harvey Myers Jr., says, "When our team left in the middle of the night, I called up a friend in Salisbury, and, even though we were grown men, we cried. My life hasn't been the same since they left. I had season tickets and even traveled to a lot of road games. The Colts were my life. There's zero interest in the Redskins. None at all."
There's a Green Bay Packers' fan club, headed by Scott Mummey, who says, "I come here because it's the place to be. My mother and father grew up in Green Bay and I inherited their interest in the Packers. I come to the Emerald, wearing my Packers jacket, because I can be sure their game will always be available. I never miss."
"I have a customer named Carmine, who is from Minneapolis," said Myers. "He tells the folks back home that even though he's in Baltimore, he hasn't missed a Vikings game in three years. There's a football atmosphere all the time, especially weekends when Bill Saul is here. Interest in the Colts hasn't died. Not as long as those uniforms and helmets are on TV to remind us of how much fun they were when they belonged to Baltimore."
To illustrate how important football is for business at the Emerald, the owner cites the regular Sunday afternoon/evening consumer statistics: Twenty-four cases of bottled or canned beer, five kegs of draught and a complimentary buffet at 7 p.m. And he offers a 16-ounce glass of beer for $1.35, which is important to the predominantly young crowd that gathers for the multiple kickoffs.
So thirsts and appetites are amply satisfied. If you're curious, Sunday afternoon football pulls more than Monday night football. Parking spaces evaporate in that light business/residential section of Harford Road, but even the best of pro football Sundays don't challenge St. Patrick's Day.
That's when everybody is Irish, for the moment, anyhow, and if you can't be on the Emerald Isle then the invitation is extended to celebrate at the Emerald Tavern. It's the only social occasion that outdraws the crowds that find their way inside on a Sunday in November.