Officials convert, embrace their new football club

Football: Transplanted New Yorkers in Baltimore government pledge allegiance to the Ravens.

January 26, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Back in July, so many New Yorkers were joining the top ranks of the Baltimore Police Department that jokes flew about pinstripes being added to the uniforms.

Now that the New York Giants are this city's arch-enemy in the Super Bowl, are the armed protectors of Charm City dedicated enough to change their football allegiance? Or will they endure the wrath of purple-bathed City Hall and secretly carry a Giants banner?

"Absolutely the Ravens," says the top New Yorker in charge, Commissioner Edward T. Norris, a former college football player who acknowledges liking the Giants.

No, police cars won't flash purple lights. But the East Fayette Street headquarters building is illuminated with the Ravens colors. And Norris has been to more Ravens games (nearly every one at home) than Giants games (only one, a Monday night matchup last year against the Dallas Cowboys).

Norris says he was at first ambivalent. He cheered for the Giants against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC playoff game. But his friends began to cause trouble.

"Everyone from New York called me and tortured me, how the Giants are going to kick our butts," Norris says. "They kicked me right off the fence as to who I was rooting for."

Keeping with the political jousting, Norris has bet New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik 10 pounds of crab cakes from Angelina's (where a half-pound of the Maryland delicacy sells for $16.95).

Kerik put up 10 pounds of pastries from his favorite dessert shop, Vinieros in the East Village.

But Norris isn't the only New Yorker on the force. There's John Stendrini, his chief of staff; John Pignataro, who heads the technology section; and Ellen Kay Schwartz, chief of Internal Affairs.

Stendrini, the boss says, is rooting for the Ravens. Or rather, Norris adds, he's rooting against the Giants because he's a Jets fan.

Pignataro, Norris says, "doesn't even know who the Giants are." He is a computer guy, the commissioner says. Schwartz's allegiance is a mystery, Norris concedes.

Jumping aboard the Ravens bandwagon is almost mandatory. Jan. 12 was designated "Raving Ravens Day" by Mayor Martin O'Malley, who allowed city staff not required to wear a uniform to dress in casual football attire.

City schools chief Carmen V. Russo, another New York transplant, is also on board with her new home team.

"Who else would she be rooting for?" asks spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt.

But not everyone can hang purple banners and cheer. Police officers will have to work. Although Sunday's game is in Tampa, Fla., celebrations in Baltimore are expected to be intense, with packed bars and droves of fans taking to the streets.

"We'll be prepared," says Norris, who was a defensive back for the Division III team at the University of Rochester.

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