Defeat isn't crushing, but the frustration is familiar at Club 4100

November 28, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

The crowd at Club 4100 went silent.

"This is stupid football!" someone shouted. "Stupid!"

"Is Tagliabue in the stands somewhere?" Chris Cheswick cried, floating the conspiracy theory immediately.

Lui Passaglia kicked a field goal as time expired, and B.C. edged the Baltimore CFLs for the Grey Cup, 26-23.

Defeat stung. It always does.

But at Club 4100, a bar-restaurant in Brooklyn, this didn't quite match the crushing despair of Super Bowl III.

"When I was a kid and that happened, I cried for a week," Cheswick said. "This, I feel sorry for the Baltimore guys, but . . ."

"I'll eat tonight," Bob LeMaster said. "It was hard to eat after a Colts loss."

And so it was last night, when Cheswick, LeMaster and approximately 50 others gathered at an institution that is part of Baltimore Colts lore.

They stood and clapped and hollered, but when it ended, they felt helpless. The way they did when the Colts left, the way they did when the NFL expansion franchises were awarded, the way they always do around here.

It's always something, eh?

Club 4100 was part of the magic, part of the tradition, part of what made this a football city like no other. The fire burned again last night, a dying, but enduring flame, if not a full, five-alarm blaze.

"I hate the feeling I have right now," said Cheswick, 39, a seventh-grade English teacher at Lansdowne Middle School. "We're getting it from the NFL, the CFL, everybody."

Cheswick knew the game-winning kick went off on time, but there were other questionable calls. The frustration in Club 4100 was palpable. And familiar.

In keeping with Baltimore's recent football tradition, the CFLs came so close, only to fall short. To think, Club 4100 erupted in joy with 1:13 left, when Passaglia's field-goal attempt with the score tied 23-23 went wide right.

"Run it out!" Tom Conley screamed. "Run it out of the end zone!

"We get a point!" someone shouted when Charles Anthony followed Conley's instructions.

"No, they don't get a point," Conley corrected.

As time wound down, the fans debated the CFL's overtime rules -- no one knew them. And shortly after Passaglia made his kick, the post-game analysis began.

"If Tracy Ham don't fumble at the goal line, we win," Conley said. "Tracy Ham had a miserable game."

Always something, isn't it?

Ham was the goat, but no one will put him on the same dart board with Robert Irsay, Paul Tagliabue, Jack Kent Cooke and all the other NFL devils.

Heck, Club 4100 was nearly empty at kickoff, except for a corner in the back where a half-dozen members of the club's updated Colts Corral -- Sports Club 4100 -- had gathered.

The co-owners, Manny and Dino Spanomanolis, sat at the bar, eyeing the television. Manny had two bottles of champagne ready, but never opened them.

Grey Cup Sunday.

It wasn't a Colts Sunday.

Not even close.

Years ago, Manny and Dino would keep the kitchen open late for the Colts players who wanted to stop in for a bite after flights home on Sundays.

One time, Manny remembers, 23 players came in after returning from Los Angeles. The place stayed open until, oh, 5 or 5:30 a.m. Someone called the police.

It was after hours, right?

The cops banged on the window.

"Come right in," Manny said.

"Their eyes got that big," he recalled, laughing. "They saw who was there. And they got a piece of paper to get everyone's autograph."

Those were the days.

Three bus loads to Memorial Stadium for home games. All-you-can-eat $1 buffets for away games. Abbreviated masses at St. Rose of Lima, so as not to interfere with the business at hand.

"I miss it," said waitress Madge Stanley, saying each word slowly for emphasis, recalling the best days of her 30 years on the job.

The wood-paneled walls feature Christmas decorations, American flags and a large black-and-white framed photograph of Johnny Unitas.

Like all of us, the members of Sports Club 4100 long for the past. They chartered a bus for the CFL games this season. Usually, 35 or 40 fans climbed aboard.

Of course, many of the sports club members are also Maryland football fans. When a conflict arose, Manny Spanomanolis said, the preference usually was Maryland.

The emotional ties just weren't there.

"I went to the first game against Calgary," Cheswick said. "I was so pumped up, but I left before the third quarter was over. It wasn't the passion I remember with the Colts. It just wasn't the same."

"The day the Colts left, I cried -- I cried like a baby," LeMaster said. "I couldn't cry if this team left."

Yet, LeMaster sat riveted last night, sat to the very end.

"This is what football's all about!" someone shouted with the score tied 20-20 in the third quarter.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.

All anyone knew is that Baltimore lost again.

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