Octoninophobia (äk-tō-nē-nō-fō-bē-ə) n.
Definition: The fear of the number ‘89’, also sometimes referred to as “Smittophobia”.
Symptoms: Inability to use telephones, computers, calculators or any other device with a keyboard or keypad. Victims of this phobia tend to freeze and become fearful when they see the numbers ‘8’ and ‘9’ next to each other. The condition can also occur while reading newspapers, books or magazines and sometimes manifests itself in places such as supermarkets, city streets or anywhere the number ‘89’ is printed. Some victims have been prone to nightmares involving the number.
Cause: The condition is caused by exposure to wide receiver Steve Smith of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers from an opposing standpoint. As such, it tends to be unique to professional athletes who play defensive positions in the NFL. It is most often found among those who play the position of cornerback or safety, but has been known to affect other defensive players as well as opposing coaches and even some fans of other teams.
A geographical element has been noted by those studying the spread of this condition. The most common place where the phobia has been known to originate is Charlotte, North Carolina. However, outbreaks have been seen in several other cities. Particular concentrations have been found in the cities of Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Tampa, Florida.
History: The first diagnosis of Octoninophobia was recorded in early November of 2005. Patient Zero was Fred Smoot, at that time a cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings. Smoot was assigned to cover Smith during a game between the Vikings and Panthers played at Bank of America Stadium (the Panthers home field) on October 30, 2005, and had engaged in “trash talking” (i.e. speaking in a manner belittling the playing skills of an opponent) of Smith prior to the event.
During the game, Smith badly embarrassed Smoot several times, finishing the day with 11 receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown. The day was worsened for Smoot by an end zone celebration in which Smith pretended to row a boat. (This was done to reference a scandal that had broken regarding the behavior of several Vikings players on a pleasure cruise earlier that year.) All in all, it was a very rough day for Smoot as the combination of Smith’s receiving work and end zone celebration left him severely shaken.
Although teammates reportedly noticed something wrong with Smoot immediately after the game, the condition was not officially diagnosed until a few days later. Smoot sought help from medical professionals after discovering that he was unable to dial his cell phone without becoming fearful. Doctors were able to trace the problem back to the prior weekend’s game and its results. Unfortunately for Smoot, they were unable to offer any assistance and advised him he would likely just have to learn to live with the symptoms.
Smith’s performance in the Vikings game had set a Panthers franchise record for receiving yards. However, that record was broken by Smith later the same season during a playoff game at Chicago’s Soldier Field. This game was the first known mass outbreak of Octoninophobia, as several members of the Chicago Bears defense were diagnosed with the condition shortly afterward. When asked a post-game question by a reporter about what had happened, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher responded, “What happened to us? Steve Smith happened to us!” Doctors made the official diagnoses in the week that followed.
Since 2005, numerous players and coaches have been diagnosed as suffering from Octoninophobia. More recently, another Minnesota Vikings cornerback, one Benny Sapp, fell victim in a similar manner to that which had affected Fred Smoot. Sapp had reportedly tried to tell Smith “who he was” during a game and became afflicted with the condition as a result of the performance by Smith that followed. Reached for comment, Smith indicated that this might have been avoided had Sapp simply understood “the rules and regulations of the game”.
The cases of Smoot and Sapp have helped to provide some insight into possible prevention methods. Doctors at first thought it might be peculiar to Vikings players, but this theory was thrown out due to various other teams also suffering outbreaks. One case was found where a writer for a sports website showed some symptoms of the condition (though as of this date the diagnosis has not yet been confirmed by medical professionals). It was eventually determined that behavior tends to factor into causation, and doctors have taken this into account while trying to find a permanent cure and/or preventive steps.
Treatment: As of this date, there is no known cure for Octoninophobia. Treatment generally consists of measures attempting to comfort the victims. The outlook for a complete cure is grim, thus far. Officials at the Center for Disease Control do not expect the spread to be abated until Smith retires from professional football, and even then some question how long the effects might linger. In the meantime, support groups have been established in several NFL cities.
Prevention: Although exposure to Smith from a defensive standpoint results in a high likelihood of contracting Octoninophobia for those who are forced to cover him, there are ways to minimize the risk.
First, it is suggested that anyone assigned such duties refrain from engaging in “trash talk” prior or during to the contests. Studies show that those who choose to "trash talk" tend to suffer worse affliction than others. Therefore, this course of action is to be avoided. Those who engage in such behavior do so at their own risk.
It can also be wise to ask for help from teammates, as those who attempt to cover Smith one-on-one are also more prone to suffering from this condition. If all else fails, opposing players can escape exposure by faking an injury prior to the game. While this may be considered dishonorable, it is the only prevention method that has proven 100% effective to date.
One final suggestion: Know the rules and regulations of the game. It can mean the difference between a normal life and one spent trying to avoid numbers that play a prominent role in everyday society.
Edited by Mr Scot, 08 May 2010 - 02:56 PM.