WASHINGTON -Congress may be out of session this week, but harsh words are still flying between politicians.
In anticipation of Saturday’s NCAA Final Four basketball match-up between the University of Maryland Terrapins and the University of Kansas Jayhawks, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, told his colleague from Kansas to “fear the turtle.”
Hoyer, a Maryland graduate, backed up his words with a wager of two pounds of Maryland crab on the game. If the Terps are successful in this year’s semifinal, Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kans., will have to cough up two pounds of Kansas City ribs.
Other politicians’ support for Maryland’s successful run was muted. Neither Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening nor Kansas Gov. Bill Graves had weighed in with a wager by Thursday, and calls to other Maryland offices on Capitol Hill were a mixed bag.
“The Terp temperature has been rising all week,” said Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md. While the senator is out of the country, his staffers are wearing red to work and the office is decorated with a giant “Fear The Turtle” sign, Jacobs said.
Other offices answered the phone with “Go Terps,” but no other politicians had put their crabs where their mouths are by Thursday.
The Hoyer-Moore bet is small potatoes compared to the estimated $60 million to $70 million that is legally bet on the NCAA tournament each year, according to the National Gaming Association. Illicit gambling is far higher: The FBI estimated that $2.5 billion was illegally bet on the 1995 tournament.
Even though Las Vegas bookies have predicted Kansas will win with a slim margin, Hoyer is confident his team will pull through.
“I want to congratulate the Jayhawks, who’ve been flying high all year long,” Hoyer said in a prepared statement. “But the Terps are going to bring them down to Earth when they clip their wings on Saturday.”
Moore made his own boasts.
“The Jayhawks are going to feast on the Maryland Terrapins Saturday,” he warned. “And I can’t wait to feast on some fine Maryland crab, courtesy of my good friend Steny.”
Both men are alumni of their state schools, which lie in their respective congressional districts.
Hoyer’s wager is a safe bet compared to last year, when he challenged a congressman from North Carolina. After Maryland lost to Duke in the semifinals, Hoyer was forced to recite an “ode of praise” on the floor of the House, while holding aloft a Blue Devils jersey.
“It was very difficult for me to sing Duke’s praises last year on the floor of the House, but this year I am confident that the Terps will enjoy the fruits of victory, as will I.
“Dennis should have remembered that old fable of the hare and tortoise,” Hoyer said of Moore. “You should always fear the turtle.”