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Volume xviii, Issue 13 ~ Apri 1 to April 7, 2010

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a Bay Weekly Exclusive

Eastport 2020?

Maritime Republic destined to host 2020 Olympic Summer Games

by Mark Burns

No one knows exactly who slung the idea out there. It might have been Andy Terry, Minister of Athletics for Life. Or Kevin Brooks, a founding father of the Maritime Republic of Eastport and one-half of Them Eastport Oyster Boys. But it was probably the last few onion rings that lay spread across the platter in that tell-tale interlocking pattern of five. They and other members of MRE’s Revolutionary Council silently studied the curiosity until the clack of colliding curling stones on the bar’s flat screen cued a group epiphany.

Call it 2020 foresight.

“It is pre-ordained,” says Maritime Republic of Eastport Minister of Propaganda Wendy Marxen. “It is our destiny that we host these Olympic games.”

Drawing on a Proud Sports Heritage

Eastport is a jut of land bristling with docks and piers, lunging for the open Bay yet barely tethered to bothersome mainland by a pinch of earth between the headwaters of Spa and Back creeks. You need only see the forest of masts piercing the horizon to realize sailing is Eastport’s id. A competitive regatta scene attracts yachters from the world over. Most famously the Republic claims involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Eastport’s athletes aren’t strictly a waterborne crowd. The Republic’s annual 0.05K Bridge Walk/Run is a famed endurance event across The Bridge of Our Glorious Victory leading to neighboring Annapolis.

Nautical sport informs the Republic’s character, yet Eastport’s athletes aren’t strictly a waterborne crowd. They can lub leeward with the best of them.

MRE’s annual 0.05K Bridge Walk/Run, coming up in May, is a famed endurance event across The Bridge of Our Glorious Victory. What should be a simple course is fraught with challenge, whether tripwire dog leashes, cumbersome baby strollers, or an ill-timed opening of the draw span to freeze would-be champions.

Minister of Athletics Terry is a veteran of the 2003 Red Bull Flugtag in New York and leads the home field in barstool gymnastics. “I can mount a barstool in a single bound,” he says. “Not everybody can do that.” Founding father Brooks, a fan of canine sport, would like to include Crabador retriever, his invention, as a demonstration event: Get your Lab to roll around on a sun-warmed chicken neck and send him into the water to fetch a ball or stick; see how many crabs he brings back clinging to his fur.

Eastport’s love of sport embraces all. But there is one game, the national sport, that beats at the heart of MRE pride.

“Here, when boys become men, their parents give them a piece of rope and send them to the backyard to practice.” Mark Travaglini, former premier of MRE, muses duskily at the pub table. He sets aside his glass and rubs calloused paws together in reflection. His first length was a frayed hempen cord, which he credits with toughening his grip. Indeed, those paws seem awkward handling a menu, but put a rope in them, and his hands meld with braid in a vise-tight fusion of flesh and fiber.

Tugging is in Eastport’s blood. It began as pastime in the late 19th century and grew in complexity as itinerant dockworkers formed leagues and organized competition in series of heats. The peninsula was host to eight teams at peak, but the sport began a steady decline with the advent of radio. It was finally banned in 1951, when Annapolis annexed Eastport and sought to stamp out the sport’s associated intemperance.

The Maritime Republic of Eastport is passionate about sport, routinely trouncing Annapolis — Westport — in the annual Slaughter Across the Water, the world’s largest tug of war over a body of water.

Now the Republic looks to show the world its metel, introducing new Olympic events like barstool gymnastics. Said Minister of Athletics Andy Terry: “I can mount a barstool in a single bound. Not everybody can do that.”

Competition moved underground until 1998, when the Maritime Republic of Eastport succeeded in breaking free of Annapolis’ oppression. Tugging came to light once more, riding a high tide of pride that galvanized Eastportoricans behind a national team. Newly independent Eastport reached out to slap Annapolis with a gauntlet, and the tyrant, with bloodied nose, readily accepted.

So was born Slaughter Across the Water, the world’s largest tug of war over a body of water, an annual contest between teams of 20 to 30 people on either end of a specially made 1,700-foot-long rope. Eastport has dominated Annapolis, and in its storied victories has laid claim to naming rights for the drawbridge to Annapolis (named above), the Annapolis Harbor (now Gulf of Eastport) and even the City of Annapolis itself (now known to MRE as Westport).

The Republic, then, is passionate about sport, and it aims to see its homegrown events lavished in the international spotlight as new medal events or, at the least, demonstration. This is no pipe dream to Eastport’s Olympic committee. This is real. Because if that clack of curling stones proved one thing, it’s that anything — and anyone — can become the next overnight Olympic sensation.

The Promise and the Challenge

Maritime Republic of Eastport is eager for that moment. The proud and sovereign city-state is perpetually harangued by the taunts and lingering legacy of Annapolis, its former oppressor. Even 12 years in from independence. The latest sting was delivered by the November 2009 election of Josh Cohen as mayor of Annapolis.

“We’ve got to get something straight here,” explains Cohen, from his smartly appointed niche in the quaint brick halls of power. “Annapolis does not recognize the Maritime Republic of Eastport as a sovereign entity. Even though I was a founding father of the upstart republic, I have been seduced by the dark side and am now part of the empire, the City of Annapolis. The only way the City of Annapolis will recognize this mere upstart will be in the same manner as someone slaps a fly buzzing around one’s head.”

If Annapolis’ manipulation is devious enough to turn a favored son against his own cause, it can certainly poison perspective among the community of nations. As it has. NATO didn’t bother to answer MRE’s attempt to join (for the cash stipend), and most governments still do not recognize Eastport’s sovereignty. Only the Conch Republic of Key West has extended full diplomatic relations.

Enough is enough.

“We are the foremost emerging economic powerhouse micro-nation of the world,” says Marxen. “It is time we demonstrated our superior greatness to the rest of the planet in a grand display of wealth and invincibility that will bring tears of shame to the eyes of our former oppressors — namely Mayor Josh Cohen and The City of Annapolis.”

It can cost a lot to impress the International Olympic Committee, let alone the world. Prep work and prettification quickly add up to one massive tab: China spent a whopping $44 billion on the Beijing extravaganza. Though relatively cheap, London’s 2012 games are still officially budgeted for close to $14 billion, and Rio de Janeiro has pledged a similar sum for 2016.

How does MRE’s bid compare? “If you must know,” contends Marxen, “we have in excess of $10,000 in the coffers of our national treasury.” In other words, she says, plenty. Minister of Athletics Andy Terry notes that their committee would stretch a dollar by using existing venues: Eastport Elementary’s playground for athletics; the pool of a local condo for aquatics; the ‘Chesapeake Raceway’ street loop for track and cycling. MRE’s Minister of State has struck a deal with the Conch Republic to lend a few cruise ships to help form the core of a main venue in the Gulf of Eastport. “A raft-up configuration is planned to unite our floating Olympic village,” says Marxen. “It will be a masterpiece of maritime engineering, the envy of all past and future Olympic hosts.”

Reached for this story, the U.S. Olympic Committee declined to comment on Eastport’s bid.

Cohen’s Annapolis, a bit surprisingly, is all for the effort. But there’s a catch. His City Hall views Eastport as China does Taiwan and would polish Annapolis’ apple with MRE’s success. Thus Cohen predicts Annapolis will ultimately benefit from Eastport’s grab for Olympic gold.

Former MRE premier Mark Travaglini grew up pulling rope. He believes Eastport was destined to host the Olympics.

“I think it is certainly a wonderful idea for the city of Annapolis to host the summer Olympics of 2020,” Mayor Cohen told Bay Weekly. “I only hope that upstart across the bridge does not spoil the experience for everybody else.”

Tugging for the Win

Minister of Propaganda Marxen vows to make Cohen eat his words. “The Olympic torch will be fueled by the burning despair of our former oppressors, the City of Annapolis, as they finally concede their inferiority to our Glorious Republic.”

That’s figuratively speaking, of course. Literally, the torch relay will deliver a burning sock to the floating stadium, where it will ignite a cauldron heaped with socks in vibrant ode to the local tradition of burning winter’s socks at the start of boating season. Terry, Marxen, Brooks and Travaglini already feel the warm glow of socks on their faces.

They and the other members of MRE’s Olympics Committee are at this very moment working hard toward meeting Olympic destiny. Them Eastport Oyster Boys are composing an Olympic theme. The Crabador retriever is being nominated as mascot, and the Olympic logo, derived from original inspiration, is in design. Radio broadcast rights for the 2020 Games have already been sold to 103.1 WRNR, and talks are presently underway with the Sailing Channel to televise. MRE’s Royal Navy has been directed to work out the logistics for a boat parade of nations. And this year’s contests — May’s 0.05K Bridge Walk/Run and November’s Slaughter Across the Water — will serve as Olympic trials to help establish MRE’s athlete delegation.

Andy Terry is confident MRE will prevail, and he is eager to usher Eastport’s sport onto the world stage. After wondering aloud about the possibility of adding Welsh-style bog snorkeling to the roster of games, he walks back to his barstool. He approaches in poise and pauses a moment before deftly swinging into the seat, twisting toward the bar, resting his elbows against the rail and grabbing his beer in one flawless fluid motion.


I ask him how many gold medals MRE expects to win.

“How many are there?” he asks.

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