Mercer’s weekend too good for words

mlough@macon.comMarch 24, 2014 

NCAA Mercer Duke Basketball

Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) and other Mercer players celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

CHUCK BURTON — AP

CBS has “One Shining Moment.”

And Mercer has the “Nae Nae.”

In a few weeks, we’ll all have both together, because there is absolutely no doubt that Mercer will make a few appearances during, for my money, the best and most emotion-inspiring three minutes in sports.

Confession: my eyes fill up just Googling to see how long the thing is and before I hear the first sounds or see the first highlights. I just about can’t watch it in public.

But we will get some “Nae Nae,” and we’ll get a rousing “wooooo” from the self-proclaimed psycho, and there will, yes, be a clip from Sunday that doesn’t look so good.

But we might get another postgame shot or two from Sunday to counter it.

We’ll save assorted other topics -- Bob Hoffman’s future, attendance, long-term impact, etc. -- for another time. The serious stuff can wait.

Because as former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, I think it was, said way back when about the tournament. It’s indescribably delicious.

And it is.

Then there’s what Bud Thomas, flushed and emotional, said Sunday night, “It’s too good for words.”

And it was.

That won’t stop any of us from using them to discuss perhaps the most notable weekend -- certainly on a perception and public scale -- in Mercer history and one of the best for Macon. After occupying a sideline seat for the past few seasons, a few hundred thoughts fluttered through my mind on the seven-hour drive home from Raleigh, N.C., that ended around 7 a.m.

The first and most rousing was the support at the NCAA tournament from numbers the players didn’t always see at home. The woodwork opened up, and that’s fine. Better late to watch a quality team than never.

The superb student throng was mostly courtesy of an extraordinarily wise yet common sense marketing investment by Mercer, footing a substantial bill in some form or fashion to bus oodles of people to Raleigh on Thursday -- $25 for students for bus, ticket and hotel -- and then Sunday.

Whatever it cost -- in the six-figure range -- was worth it. Period. Inarguable. Never understood why schools don’t do something similar on a fairly regular basis.

I bet more start now. “Let’s do like Mercer did.”

To say Mercer -- not just the team -- made a walloping impression is an understatement. T-shirts sold out almost before Mercer’s game Friday started. You heard people talking and talking about Mercer and the support.

And, of course, there were the Bears themselves, who became the second-most popular college basketball team in the state of North Carolina on Friday.

One concession worker was an N.C. State fan.

“I was about ready for my medicine after Thursday,” he said, citing the Wolfpack’s opening loss to St. Louis. “But Mercer beat Duke, and I felt a whole lot better. So, thank y’all.”

He was nowhere near alone.

Then there was the game.

Mercer played Mercer basketball, which, as speculated in one corner beforehand, was enough. More than enough. Mercer didn’t do anything outlandishly great, just did everything -- including coach -- better than Duke.

It was actually in most ways a fairly routine Mercer win. Nothing after that was routine.

Oh my goodness, it was not routine.

I didn’t see Kevin Canevari’s postgame performance for a few hours afterward. See it once, you’ll giggle forever.

And then there’s the fake Canevari social media explosion. As this Vitale guy screams a lot, Are you serious?

Ditto Anthony White Jr.’s legendary photo bomb behind Bob Hoffman during the postgame interview.

Pure insanity, indescribably delicious and too good for words.

The best part about such absurd greatness is when all the too-cool-for-school college athletes forget -- not that they did, but people in general do -- that they’re too cool and just be a goofy 21 year old college student.

And boy, the Bears had that going, along with some good basketball.

The other great part is the opposite end of the spectrum, when things don’t go so well, as was the case Sunday.

Getting Tennessee was bad, less for the size disadvantage than for the Vols knowing Mercer and how the Bears can beat you. They experienced that a year ago, and no doubt focused as hard Saturday for Mercer as if they were playing Duke.

And it paid off.

Afterward, different emotions. Sniffling in the postgame news conference, the eloquence of Thomas and Jake Gollon on the end.

Not too cool for emotions.

It was a weekend for goose bumps, whether you were nearby or watching with friends and some new friends.

Lives changed during the weekend, as did a university, and hopefully a community, make no mistake.

The Bears lose seven seniors and are reloading but don’t be surprised a bit if we’re in this position a year from now.

But it won’t be like this ride, the first ride. It might last longer than this one, but it’ll be different.

After all, this was too good for words.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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