There's an epidemic spreading among the staff of the Howard County Public School System: Purple Fever.
Whether it's Administrative Director of Elementary Schools Arlene Harrison proclaiming before a Board of Education presentation last week that "purple is in my heart," or staffers donning bright violet feather boas as they sit behind their desks, excitement over the Baltimore Ravens trip to the Super Bowl XLVII is reaching a fever pitch.
"I'd describe myself as passionately in love with my team," said Social Studies Resource Teacher Arden Stara, who has worn purple every day since the beginning of the playoffs. "Other people describe me as crazy."
In Stara's cubicle at the Department of Education in Ellicott City nearly everything is purple: a sign outside proclaims she is a "Ravens Lunatic." In the corner, she has what she calls her "Ray Lewis shrine" — a collection of photos of the soon-to-be-retiring linebacker. On her, nearly everything is purple as well, right down to her eye-shadow and glasses.
At home, Stara has a "Diva Den," where she has her own television to watch her team play — much to the chagrin of her husband, who's a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Stara will be watching the Super Bowl at the Stained Glass Pub in Elkridge with Donna Miller, an administrative secretary for teacher development. Miller too has been wearing purple every single day of the playoffs, and her outfits match her desk decorations.
"The Ravens' Christmas tree is still up at home," Miller said. "I've got a Voodoo doll, too, and I get one call into the Voodoo King, so I think I'm going to save that for (San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin) Kaepernick."
Outside of Marty Robey's cubicle, a sign warns visitors: "Ravens Fans Welcome. Others Not Allowed." The telephone help desk liaison leaves for New Orleans on Thursday; she and a friend are flying to Pensacola, then driving to New Orleans. They don't have tickets, Robey said.
"I'm so pumped. I just want to be there," she said. "We're just going to find other Ravens fans down there and watch the game at a local bar."
Valerie Willis, an administrative secretary for student, family and community services, is also going to New Orleans — but she's actually going to the game. Her husband drives one of the Ravens' buses, and when she found out she was going, it was like the holidays came again.
"I was like a little kid at Christmas, when they get the toy they've been asking for forever," she said. "I've been wanting this ever since the team began, and after their first Super Bowl, I wanted it even more."
With the Baltimore Orioles having such a successful season, and the Ravens following suit, Robey said she's reminded of the Baltimore of her childhood.
"This is a sports town," she said. "Everything is in place."
Not surprisingly, the women have picked the Ravens to win the Super Bowl.
"Whoever plays the hardest is going to win," Robey said. "They're going to do what they need to do, and they're going to win."
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Willis said that with Lewis and linebacker Terrell Suggs out for much of the season, the team "had no choice but to step it up.
"I think this is the best I've ever seen them play," she said. "They've already won it, if you ask me."
Stara's reason is simpler: The Ravens will win because Lewis said they will.
"Ray knows," she said. "He has the faith. The man has become my spiritual leader. There is a spirit among the entire team, and they've spread it throughout the entire community. How can you describe it? They've spiritualized all of us."
If the Ravens do win, Robey knows exactly what will happen.