There’s a dominant religion in the southern United States, and it’s not what you think. It’s college football.
Saturdays are the most important Sabbath in the land from September to December, and no Saturdays are bigger than home games.
Mercer’s campus truly comes to life whenever the Bears play at home, but with all the food, fun and festivities, how can you have the most spiritually fulfilling Sabbath this Saturday?
Lucky for you, I have attended nearly every single home football game in my time on campus — and many before I became a student, going all the way back to 2014 — and have all the tips you need to make the most of your game day this week.
If there’s any way to celebrate a game day, it’s tailgating. Food, music, friends and cornhole all make for a great time, so what’s better than having them all in the same place?
Mercer offers not one, but two different locations for tailgating, with student organizations gathering on Cruz Plaza and other groups congregating by Black Field. Finding your favorite group and stopping by for a burger is a must on game day.
Black Field isn’t just the home of tailgates though. This year, Mercer is introducing even more festivities to liven up game day. From the Ford Concert Series to the Bear Garden, inflatables for the kids — sorry students, we don’t count — and all sorts of other fun, Black Field is the hub for pregame activities.
Hit the game
This seems like a given, but I honestly get surprised at how few people actually attend the games. It seems like most people just go to the pregame festivities and then go home.
That defeats the whole point of football!
Mercer games offer a fun, relaxing atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. Watching the Bears take the field is exhilarating as the team runs out through a cloud of orange smoke. Miss the entrance? No problem! Awards, recognitions and giveaways all take place on the field throughout the game, many of them benefiting or at least involving the Macon community.
Are you a Mercer student? If so, then great! Because not only does that mean that you get a free ticket, it means that you get to sit with your classmates and get hype while you cheer on your Bears.
The Mercer Maniacs bring the student section to life with their energy, face paint, streamers and chants flowing like Gatorade throughout the section.
Hungry at the game? Don’t sweat it! There’s food for sale all around the stadium, and you can use your Dining Dollars and Bear Bucks at any of the Mercer Dining concession stands on popcorn, nachos or any of your other game day snacks. Snag a souvenir cup from one of these stands and get a free refill! What a deal!
Catch the marching band
Okay, I admit it: not everyone is as big of a football fan as I am. Maybe spending three to four hours of your life watching big, muscular dudes pound each other into the dirt over a leather ball is just not the way you want to spend your Saturday. That’s fine, but there is something you should want to see at all of the football games: the marching band.
Under second-year band director Blake Garcia, the Mercer Marching Band has truly become the best halftime show in Middle Georgia. The band sounds incredible and plays amazing songs; I could talk for hours about this year’s New Orleans themed halftime show.
To reiterate how good the band is, I have been attending Mercer football games for five years. The band has literally never sounded or looked better than they do right now.
Conclusion? If you haven’t heard the Mercer Marching Band, you need to. If you don’t want to go to the whole game just to see the band, they play on the UC steps before every game, and play their way back to Penfield Hall after every game. You have no excuse to not hear them.
Go out to eat
I get it, it’s 100 degrees out still. No one wants to sit out in that heat. However, you can still catch plenty of football from the TVs in the restaurants around campus. Margarita’s and Amici are probably your best bet, but who can complain about any place with great food and big TVs?
Experience it all with your friends
I know, this point is cheesy. Maybe Mercer doesn’t have tens of thousands of students like UGA, or the best team in the country like Clemson, or decades of history behind our football program like Notre Dame, but Mercer does still have something great: community.
We don’t just know that we’re a small school, we embrace it. We don’t put our athletes in insultingly easy classes and elevate them to celebrity status, they’re our friends and classmates. We are the Bears, and we love to show it on the field, in the classroom and in the world around us.
As easy as it is to take those things for granted now, don’t do it. You’re only here for four years, which means you only have 20 or so chances to experience a Mercer gameday in all of its glory. Once school is over, you can no longer just roll out of bed, throw on your favorite orange shirt and take a leisurely walk to the student section.
Take it from a senior, college flies by fast. Make sure you hold onto every opportunity you have to “Be the Bear” with your friends while you still live within walking distance of each other. Before you know it, you’ll be a senior too and wonder where the time went. Embrace the community, enjoy the events, spend the days with your friends and eat all the free food you can get your hands on.
Make sure to make your Mercer memories.