When the Mercer University Bears opened the season on Sept. 1, against the Citadel, all eyes were on the sky after dire predictions for hurricane-force winds and for heavy rain that afternoon. The stands were not packed at first, but by halftime, umbrellas were left behind and a sea of orange and black filled the bleachers.
The music blasting from the amps in the parking lot and over the walking bridge and the movable feast of pre-game tailgate parties created an adrenaline rush for diehard fans ready to roar for the Bears, to boost them to victory over a team that had twice stymied their efforts by a mere two points.
Because of the generosity of Gaylyn and Jim Cole, we had the catbird’s seat for the team’s thunderous entrance onto the field, engulfed in orange smoke and punctuated by fireworks, in a production worthy of Hollywood. For a moment, Mercer’s family was stunned by the Citadel’s three touchdowns in the beginning of the first quarter, but quickly recovered its voice — never wavering in its confidence that Mercer could prevail.
Quarterback John Russ, who has played every game since the renaissance of Mercer football, handed the Bears their first touchdown in the first quarter, followed by a quarter back sneak for a touchdown in the second, and continued to set records as the star of his team.
Cole Fisher’s 47-yard field goal, a career best, brought the score to 23-21 at the beginning of the second half, energizing the Bears defense, which held the score throughout the third quarter.
Bears coach Bobby Lamb and his team, proud of their national record for fewest penalties last year, were disappointed in the 103 yards lost to penalties in the Citadel game. The final score of 24-23, with the Citadel on top, did not reflect the strength of the defense in holding the score at 23-21 until the last few minutes of the game when a field goal by the Citadel dashed any hopes of the Bears winning.
The mood in the Field House was somber after another close game was lost. However, the Bears are relatively new to SoCon play, only beginning their third year, and have racked up records as a team and by their individual players — rarely seen in such a young team.
The unabashed team spirit and the camaraderie among the players is refreshing, bolstered by the coaches who have dedicated their efforts to making the Mercer Bears a powerhouse to be reckoned with.
Miss America Betty Cantrell, just three weeks away from passing the crown to the next winner, donned her orange and black to sing the Star Spangled Banner for her alma mater — how many college football teams can boast that kind of attention? My armchair statistical predictions, although a little premature, look good for 2017-18.
A CRISP COMEDY
After the disappointment of Mercer’s loss to the Citadel, watching the cast romp through “Lend Me A Tenor” on Theatre Macon’s stage Saturday night was a much needed catharsis. The play was written by Ken Ludwig and had its Broadway opening in 1989, with mixed reception despite rave reviews and numerous acting awards. The side-splitting situations in this fast-paced comedy, directed by Jim Crisp, delighted Macon’s audience.
Although the play, set in a hotel suite in the early 1930s, revolves around the performance of an Italian tenor, Tito Merelli (Daniel Osgood), in Verdi’s “Otello,” for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, the supporting cast were the stars.
Max, played by Chris Abbott, is the long suffering assistant to the blowhard general manager of the opera company, Henry Saunders (Matt Astin), and steals the show with his wide-eyed naivete about most human experiences. He never musters the nerve to reveal his true feelings to his girlfriend, Maggie (Maggie Rogers), who is romantically fixated on the tenor. He is not worldly enough to understand Tito’s highly emotive outbursts or those of his hot-blooded Italian wife, Maria, played by Danielle Bocchino, a native of Brooklyn who nailed the part of the outrageous, jealous spouse.
Seth Brown, as the meddling bellboy, determined to get a photograph of Tito, popped in and out of the suite, each time with a different ruse for capturing his idol on film, only to be thwarted by his nemesis, Saunders.
Pam Burkhalter as Julia, chairwoman of the opera guild, is seen only in the last act of the play. However, her character as the “grande dame” of the opera, corseted in a shimmering silver gown, and described by Saunders as “looking like the Chrysler building,” stole the show.
You can see the final matinee this afternoon!