By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer
CARROLLWOOD -- There's a mighty powerful bug going around, and it seems everyone's caught it. Bucs Fever is in the air.
"The clinical diagnosis for Buc mania would be obsessive fanaticism," said Dr. Earl Smith, a Lutz pediatrician who has studied the phenomenon for years. "We see signs. Like they'll have tattoos on their bodies. They'll have nightmares of quarterbacks on the run. And they always have the same color clothes on -- red and silver."
No one, it appears, is immune to the disease. Students at Ben Hill Middle School wore their loyalty on their sleeves Friday when administrators suspended the strict uniform policy and allowed the kids to wear Bucs gear.
"We have the fever a little bit," said Ben Hill principal Nancy Anderson, a season ticket holder. "We are certainly behind the Bucs. We are a community that backs our team. The kids were allowed to wear Bucs T-shirts or jerseys in honor of our school recognizing that they are champs and hopefully will go on to be super champs."
The only other day students are allowed to be out of uniform is school picture day.
By midweek, Bucs shirts and jerseys were in short supply. But specialty shops like Buccaneer Heaven, on N Florida Avenue, were still moving hundreds of items.
"I think everybody is just getting so excited, they can't wait for the game," said Buccaneer Heaven executive director Gerry D'Angelo. "They can't wait to see if this is the year for the Bucs to go to the Super Bowl."
Bucs Fever swept through Prime Time Sports bar and grill in Carrollwood on Thursday afternoon, when fans packed the place hoping to win a pair of tickets to today's game, courtesy of Sportsradio 1010's The Replacement Show.
The show's host, Mike "Cowhead" Calta, said the fever is running "at an all-time high."
"I've been here 11 years and this town has always been Buc friendly, even in the crappy years," Calta said. "I think this year is different because it's more of an expectation than an anticipation for them to go all the way."
Whether the Bucs make it to the ultimate promised land depends on what happens today against the San Francisco 49ers. But Richard Gerson, a Pinellas-based sports psychologist, said the real Bucs Fever fun is riding the bandwagon of a winner. The 12 regular-season wins this year were the most in team history.
"It's really an emotional attachment," Gerson said, describing the ailment. "It really is something the community has latched on to. This is the only team we have that has truly transcended both sides of the bay."
While it's clear that Bucs Fever is highly contagious, experts are divided over a cure.
"Victories help," said Dr. Smith. "And not runaway victories. If they're close games, that causes more anxiety and that requires more medication, which usually comes in a 12-ounce can."
Gerson notes a different sure-fire remedy. "The cure is losing," Gerson said. "And nobody wants that. If you have to be sick with a fever, this is the fever to be sick with."
-- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 269-5304 or at email@example.com.
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