Poetic Justice

It's time for Super Bowl fans to settle their bets. In D.C., that means Hillary Clinton eats humble pie while Barbara Mikulski flaps her wings for her favorite team.

January 31, 2001|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - New York's senators have their limits. They will keep a bet, even read in verse, but they don't do bird imitations.

New York Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer made good on their Super Bowl wager with Maryland's senators yesterday afternoon, reciting the 108-line Edgar Allan Poe poem "The Raven" to mark Baltimore's triumph over the Giants.

But while an excited Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski punctuated their performance by repeatedly attempting flight - whipping her arms and bobbing up and down like a raven - Clinton and Schumer stuck to the script and remained decidedly earth-bound.

It took 10 long minutes for the New Yorkers to pay their debt.

"This goes longer than the game," Clinton lamented at line 66 of the drawn-out poem. "Yeah," moaned Schumer. "God Almighty."

For sheer entertainment value, it might have been hard to beat Mikulski and fellow Maryland Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes high-kicking on the Capitol steps and belting out the Frank Sinatra classic "New York, New York" - their punishment had the Ravens lost the big game. But the Ravens' decisive triumph put the burden on New York.

"They outplayed the Giants," Schumer said of the Ravens, inside the packed Senate Radio and TV Gallery in the Capitol. "They are Super Bowl champions, and no one can take that away from them."

Clinton, herself a newly minted New Yorker, furrowed her brow. "It's so painful," she said. When Sarbanes brandished the letter the New York senators had sent him proposing the wager, she leaned in and joked, "Did I really sign it? Is that really my signature?"

While Schumer waved around a Giants T-shirt, Clinton stopped herself from donning Giants gear - perhaps mindful of the last time she declared herself a New York fan, when she drew sneers as an outsider for posing in a Yankee cap at the start of her New York Senate bid.

Still, Clinton showed some New York pride, pointing out that Poe, who was buried in Baltimore, wrote the poem while living in New York.

Clinton bemoaned the length of the poem, insisting, "Woe is us. We didn't expect we'd have to read it." Now she and Schumer will send the Maryland senators Peter Luger steaks and Junior's cheesecake - two New York favorites.

But the big payoff was the poem. As the senators read it - Schumer inserting random Giants references in a hammy baritone, Clinton using the methodical cadence of a librarian at story hour - a purple-clad Mikulski gloated while Sarbanes read along silently and sported a Ravens tie. The Marylanders served up a piece of "Raven Humble Pie," and while they nibbled on the purple-iced cake, they were anything but meek in victory.

"We had to put up with their trash talk," Mikulski said, before launching into an attack on New York's "dainty" team.

More Maryland chutzpah: "I never even took a look at `New York, New York,' " Sarbanes said. Using the poem's famous refrain, he warned New Yorkers would escape the Ravens' shadow "Nevermore."

Beyond Capitol Hill, victory celebrations continued. President Bush called Ravens coach Brian Billick Monday night to congratulate him, and a gaggle of New York politicians were making good on their debts.

New York Gov. George Pataki prepared to ship a bushel of Long Island Little Neck clams to Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. And New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani planned on bathing City Hall in purple light tonight, as well as sending Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley a case of Brooklyn lager, two tickets to a Broadway show of O'Malley's choice, a case of bottled New York tap water, fresh fish from the Fulton Fish Market, two dozen knishes and an encyclopedia of New York.

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