How bout them Bears! And how about all the orange T-shirts all over town, and the excitement and the smiles and the laughs? Win or lose, (and well do both) the Mercer Bears now belong to Macon and Middle Georgia. They belong to us. Twelve thousand screaming fans marched into that brand new stadium and cheered at the touchdowns and moaned at the interceptions and left with a feeling of unity.
We can disagree about politics; we can argue about religion; we can segregate our churches; we can live in one of the 10 cities outside of Macon, but were all united about one thing: Mercer football. This football team has done more for our community than most of us realize. But who knew? Who could have predicted this? One man: Bill Underwood.
How did the Mercer Board of Directors react in November of 2010 when President Bill Underwood, said: Lets have football!? Think about it. Mercer University is floating around peacefully in the academic world with three campuses, four regional centers, three teaching hospitals, 12 schools and colleges, and a flawless reputation. Why in the world does a university like this need a football team? Seventy-two years had passed without football; who remembers it? Who needs it?
And, you know, maybe Mercer University really doesnt need it. Maybe football wont draw more students and maybe it wont add to the bottom line and maybe the university would have done just fine without it financially. Maybe the law school and the medical school and the schools of pharmacy and engineering and nursing will not grow because of football. And maybe the colleges of liberal arts and education and continuing studies really dont need football. And maybe the schools of music and theology dont need it either.
But we need it.
This divided, misguided, segregated community. We need it. We need to tailgate and mingle and shout to each other; we need to sit next to each other and cheer at the same time; we need that feeling of wearing orange. We need something to bring us together. And sometimes all it takes is something to shout about.
Remember the story of the astronaut? Hes floating around in space doing his routine checks, maybe whistling or humming, having a great time. His module is operating perfectly. Every hour he calls down to Houston Control and jokes with the engineers. Things couldnt be better. Then suddenly he hears a tap-tap-tap on the outside module door. He freezes. Then it comes again: tap-tap-tap! No mistake. He yells to Houston Control and they talk back and forth excitedly for 20 minutes while the tapping continues until finally the chief engineer says: Lets tell the world its the Martians attacking your module.
What? Give me a break! How ridiculous can you get? Who would believe it? But what if the whole world believed it? What if Russia and China and North Korea and Japan and all of Europe believed it? What if they all united around America to ward off attacks from Mars? What if every nation on this Earth began to wear orange T-shirts that said: Fight Mars? Sometimes all it takes it something to shout about.
Macon and Middle Georgia now have something to shout about. Not something ridiculous like fighting Mars, but something real and contagious; something unifying and uplifting; something every one of us can support without hesitation or reservation. It doesnt matter where we went to school; this is where we live. We have our own football team. Go Bears!
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.