The War of 1812 is still as yet over

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January 17, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

When Martin O'Malley takes the oath of office today, he will bring an end not just to Maryland's brief experiment with two-party politics. He'll also conclude our long, national history lesson on the War of 1812.

O'Malley's inaugural address contains a shocker, according to a copy leaked to The Sun, and it is this: There is no mention Fort McHenry.

Maryland's new governor has been in a star-spangled rut since at least 2002, when he unfurled his 19th-century battle shtick at a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. "If our city had waited for advice on self-defense from Washington in the War of 1812," he said, "all of us would be singing `God Save the Queen.'"

It was a handy metaphor in the post 9/11 era, allowing the mayor to brag on his city's historical self-reliance, while also knocking the feds for skimpy Homeland Security cash.

Like any good metaphor, it grew up to be a cliche. Government Executive magazine's March 2004 profile of Hizzoner began this way: "Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is talking about the burning of Washington." Now there's an understatement. Google "Martin O'Malley" and "War of 1812." You'll get 1,340 hits.

Over time, O'Malley wove in some racial politics by adding a line about the Baltimoreans who beat back the Brits.

"The people of Baltimore - 60 percent of us immigrants, one out of five of us free black citizens of a still as yet very imperfect country - successfully defended the United States of America on our own," he said on countless occasions, including the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The City Hall press corps and mayoral staffers can, and do, recite that "one out of five" part by heart - right down to the doubly qualified "still as yet" bit.

First in war, first in peace, first in Annapolis

So why is the new governor, who has dressed up as a militiaman on Defenders' Day and played an "avid historian" in a 2004 History Channel program on the War of 1812, deep-sixing his trademark historical reference on the biggest day of his political life?

Martin O'Malley is moving even further back in time.

To 1783, to be precise, when a certain general resigned his commission in the old Senate chamber of the State House. The inaugural speech makes more than one reference to George Washington, and even quotes the first president. It's a snappy passage that uses "diffidence" twice. Not quite as catchy as the "cannot tell a lie" thing, but now that O'Malley's gotten ahold of it, the lines should soon feel familiar.

So it's out with Francis Scott Key, in with George Washington. A smart switch, perhaps, for someone on the songwriter-to-statesman career path.

Not in that shirt, you don't

Jim Brady wanted to root for his beloved Ravens Saturday in a shirt honoring the most celebrated name in Baltimore football. But U-N-I-T-A-S on his back didn't get him in the door at Della Rose's in White Marsh. That's because the letters were on a Colts shirt.

It was a BALTIMORE Colts shirt from the 1970s, so Brady was in disbelief - especially since he could see people inside wearing those fake purple Unitas jerseys.

"I thought they were [joking] at first," said Brady, a 57-year-old courier. "I started laughing. And the bouncer pushed me back. He said, `No, you're not getting in.'"

Owner Joe Della Rose stands by the decision and says the same goes for Steelers shirts.

"We just thought it was best not to have any blue and white in there that day," he said, "just for everybody's protection."

Yeah, it must have been the frozen novelties

Little bits of pineapple and raspberry. That's what did in the Ravens.

For good luck before a big game, Pat Modell usually has a frozen ice cream treat on a stick. (Yes, "Popsicle" is a trademark and that pesky copy desk won't let us use it unless we really mean Popsicle-brand treats.) The superstition took root last fall, Modell told The Sun's Liz Bowie, when she and her husband, Art, went to training camp. She noticed that if she ate a frozen ice cream treat on a stick, the team won. If she didn't, they lost.

She was determined help the team beat the Colts, but all she could find were frozen ice cream treats on a stick with bits of fruit. She usually has the plain variety. She dug in anyway, eating not one, but two.

Then, as usual, Modell wrote a message on the sticks and sent them on a plate to coach Brian Billick.

"I did my job," she wrote. "Now you do yours."

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