Mercer fever: Students, community gear up for game against Duke

jkovac@macon.comMarch 19, 2014 

If Mercer University’s basketball team beats Duke come midafternoon Friday -- and even if it doesn’t -- the Cherry Blossom Festival, that pinkest of parties that begins the same day, will be awash in orange.

There are noon-hour get-togethers planned.

TVs in sports bars, restaurants and office break rooms will be tuned in for the 12:15 p.m. tipoff.

And seven busloads of Mercer students will make the trek to North Carolina for the game.

And why not?

The Bears are going dancing -- Big Dance dancing.

The game is Mercer’s first foray into the NCAA tournament since 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president and the aforementioned Yoshino fest was just 3 years old.

On the Mercer campus so far this week, if you asked anyone about the mood, the word “excited” came up a lot. “Awesome,” too. Anticipation ran deep.

“It’s something to be proud about,” said Rahul Changela, a sophomore biology major from Duluth. “Especially playing Duke, too, this could be really intense.”

Changela, one of 400 or so students traveling to the game, was at the campus bookstore Wednesday, browsing the Mercer hats and visors. He also happened to be carrying a piece of fruit, an orange.

“The more orange the better,” he said.

Sophomore Dhruv Patel, a biomedical engineering major from Peachtree City, is also attending the game.

“Mercer is a very spirited school. I always feel like we’re behind our team whatever happens. For us to make it this far is something to be proud of,” he said.

“Hopefully there’ll just be a sea of orange. ... We’ll be cheering as hard as we can. We want them to know our name and put Mercer on the map.”

Mercer President Bill Underwood has been out of town most of the week.

But outside the Jittery Joe’s coffee shop at the edge of campus Wednesday afternoon, Underwood said the school’s basketball buzz has been “incredible.”

“Just tremendous energy on campus,” he said. “It’ll be more fantastic if we beat Duke.”

Mercer Village, a block-long stretch of lofts, shops and restaurants just east of the Interstate 75 overpass on Montpelier Avenue, likely will be full of fans at game time.

Montpelier will be closed half an hour before the game.

There’ll be a big-screen television set up on a trailer, along with tables and seating for 300 people along the street.

Carl Fambro, owner of Francar’s Buffalo Wings nearby, said that when Mercer played in a postseason tournament a couple of seasons back, a similar event attracted 700 people.

“The problem now is, this is a day game,” Fambro said.

Then he added, “But this is Duke we’re playing.”

There are other options off campus for watching the game.

C.J.’s Bar & Grill on Riverside Drive is opening four hours earlier than usual. Owner John Holton said C.J.’s will offer beer specials and an all-you-can-eat wing bar.

Both Buffalo Wild Wings and Wild Wing Cafe in north Macon are showing the game live, but managers at both said nothing extra was planned.

Taste & See Coffee Shop & Gallery at 546 Poplar St. has already gotten into the spirit, offering a special Bear Claw latte, which includes espresso, rich milk, vanilla and almond syrup.

Writer Jonathan Heeter contributed to this report. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service