Workplaces bracing for purple fever

Activity may grind to halt for Super Bowl

January 21, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Today, the Baltimore region presumably won't shut down.

Grocery stores, gas stations, museums and movie theaters will be open as usual. Essential personnel will report for duty.

But area businesses are already preparing for an epidemic of purple fever to strike a week from today - a four- to five-hour disease that could disable a Sunday workforce, forcing hundreds of thousands to seek the only cure: sitting on the couch glued to the Super Bowl.

Television sets will be set up in convenience stores, hospital emergency rooms and fire stations. Ravens play-by-play will be piped into supermarkets and gas stations.

"I am sure everyone all around here will be following [the game]," said Miss Miller, a psychic reader and adviser based in Brooklyn Park who usually is asked to predict much more difficult things.

It's pretty much a given that much of Maryland will be tuned in, even if only by a single wire plugged into a transistor radio.

If most churches' services weren't held earlier in the day, long before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff, even they might play second fiddle to the home team. "If [the game] were earlier, we might see a drop off in attendance," said the Rev. Leroy Fitts, pastor of First Baptist Church in East Baltimore.

Some ministers might make mention of the Super Bowl team from their pulpits. Some might even say a special prayer for the Ravens. "But the focus will be on God and worship," Fitts said. The game itself will be a good fellowship time for church members who will probably gather in many church halls and members' homes for good, clean fun, he said.

Not everyone will be able to afford to give the game their undivided attention.

Chad Dillard, public relations director at Good Samaritan Hospital in Northeast Baltimore, reminded that "the staff has to be watching the patients."

At hospitals and other 24-hour facilities, including detention centers and fire stations, employees are penalized for not showing up on what would be common days to conveniently call out sick-holidays, snow days and the first Super Bowl involving a Baltimore team in 30 years.

"The rules will be enforced next Sunday," Dillard said. "But it's not like the game isn't going to be on."

Nearly every television in the hospital's waiting areas and patient rooms will likely be tuned to Super Bowl XXXV, he said.

At many hospitals, festivities such as pep rallies and other forms of Ravens-mania are being planned to entertain staff and patients.

"Next Friday is `wear purple to work day,'" Dillard said. "There will be special Ravens food in the cafeteria. Ravens T-shirts are being sold in the gift shop - the whole nine yards."

The assistant manager of a major Baltimore supermarket chain store has a plan to compensate employees for having to work during the big game.

"I'm going to broadcast the game over the intercom," he said, asking that his identity not be revealed because he wasn't sure the chain's corporate executives were rooting for the Ravens.

Yesterday, he was tinkering with the system to make sure it could be done. "I'm trying to figure it out now. Nobody wants to miss it," he said.

Even the upscale Explorers Lounge at the Harbor Court Hotel in the Inner Harbor will have a television set up for the game. Normally, the safari-themed bar doesn't have a TV - it's not your fluorescent Budweiser sign, watch-the-game kind of place.

But, said Harbor Court assistant general manager Renee Lane, "We are in the spirit of things. I think people are excited about the game. ... I don't expect to be as busy as a bar in Fells Point or Canton, but the game will be on."

The hotel also seems to be one of the few refuges for anyone who doesn't care about the game. There will be no broadcasts of touchdowns and defensive stands at Hampton's, one of the hotel restaurants.

"Actually, there hasn't been a drop off in reservations," Lane said. "It's business as usual."

At Towson Commons, the General Cinema is expecting few lines and quite a few empty seats, senior manager Marlon St. Louis said.

"It's a given," St. Louis said. "But we will have regular showings."

At Center Stage, where a series of short Thorton Wilder plays are being performed, the show will go on. Even if audiences are light, the staff says the Sunday matinee and 7:30 evening performance will be held. However, the box office manager is said to have grudgingly been joking that he's going to have to haul in his old black-and-white television for the shift.

Many other establishments, of course, are gleefully expecting big business. At Graul's Market in Ruxton, manager George Janouris projects sales to jump by a third next Sunday. Like snowstorms that prompt runs on toilet paper and milk, the big game is expected to generate plenty of sales in party-related items and all things Raven.

Though Graul's had televisions set up around the store for customers and employees during the afternoon playoff games earlier this month, Janouris wasn't worried about his Sunday staff not showing up for work - the store is due to close an hour before the game starts.

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