Home Blog

Mercer Men’s Basketball: Ever Confident

Photo courtesy of Mercer University

Interviews, editing and compilation by Johnathan McGinty and Thomas Ehlers

Mercer men’s basketball

Underdog stories are built on belief, and there was no doubt among the 2014 Mercer men’s basketball team. The Bears cruised to the conference title, boasted the top mid-major conference player in the country and captured a spot in March Madness, a dream scenario for most mid-sized schools. That, however, was just the start of something that would grow bigger than themselves.

BRIAN GERRITY, executive director of the Mercer Athletic Foundation: It’s funny, that game, the way I think of it is that game is the biggest moment in Mercer history. Win or lose, that game is as big of a stage as Mercer will ever be on. Right?

ANTHONY WHITE JR, Mercer men’s basketball player: It was surreal. You’ve got to think, the only thing a lot of people in the country saw was us winning that game. They didn’t see all of the practices, all of the conditioning sessions, all of the weightlifting, all of the other stuff come into play. 

JANE HEETER, Mercer journalism student: I mean, Mercer is small and that’s partly why I wanted to go there. This type of thing was what I had hoped for and what I felt like was possible going to a small school like Mercer.

This is the story of one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history, told through the perspectives of players, staff members, fans and journalists who were there. 

Atlanta’s crash course in curling


Three years ago, Alan Penkar had some time on his hands after starting a new job and, reminiscing on earlier days playing a curling video game on the Nintendo 64, enrolled in a learn-to-curl class.

Sarah Genzer was a bit bolder. 

A year after Penkar began experimenting with the sport, she signed up for a league game after becoming familiar enough with curling after watching the Olympics. Genzer took a crash course in curling an hour before her first match, and by the end of the night, she started her unofficial career at 1-0.

Fast-forward to today, and they’ve taken home some hardware from the time, effort and fun they’ve spent on the ice.

The native Texans – Genzer from the Houston area and Penkar from Dallas – are two members of the Peachtree Curling Association, a 501c3 centered around promoting the sport of curling. Based in Marietta, the PCA instructs interested persons on how to play the game and provides recreational leagues for area players to compete.

A triumphant return

Meat judging

Clint Lee knows what he’s looking for when it comes to picking out a steak.

There needs to be a certain redness that suggests a robust, healthy cut of meat, as well as a good bit of meat to fat ratio to yield enough to eat. Fat can be your friend, though, as he scours cuts of ribeye or strip steak for just the right amount of marbling to offer up flavor and tenderness.

It’s safe to say when it’s time to bring his steak to the grill, he’s done his fair share of preparation. 

Of course, enjoying the steak for himself is just a bonus. More often than not this methodical process is all about work, collaborating with his teammates at the University of Georgia’s Meat Judging Team in the midst of a rigorous competition. But whether he’s staring through the counter at his local butcher or trying to add another medal to the Meat Dawgs trophy case, he’s still looking for the same thing.

“A lot of people don’t want any fat at all because they’re thinking they’ve got to be healthy, but I want it to have that cherry red color and the most amount of marbling,” Lee said. “Those white specks inside ribeye add tenderness and deliver a better overall eating experience, so that’s what I’m looking for.”

Cotten’s Bar-B-Que, Forever the King


I realized this week that Cotten’s Bar-B-Que is my favorite restaurant. 

Not my favorite barbecue restaurant. My favorite restaurant. 

Cotten’s closes after 36 years next week, and I am not yet prepared for life without it. 

I discovered Cotten’s during the first semester of my freshman year at Jacksonville University. It sits on a particularly tired stretch of Rogero Road, one of the many tired streets of Jacksonville’s Arlington neighborhood. 

I would sit on the vinyl-covered picnic tables inside and stare across the street at the Aces & Eights tavern, discount bread store and “fish games” arcade. Inside, faded posters of motorcycle racers and Dale Earnhardt covered the beige walls. Pig figurines of all shapes, sizes and dispositions crowded the check-out counter, as well as a sign promising, “We sell no swine before its time.”

Lost Tracks of Georgia: Banks County Speedway


Just because a race track is lost doesn’t mean it can’t endure.

With the right amount of dedication and community support, even a dormant track can be turned into something special. In the tiny farm town of Baldwin in Northeast Georgia, that is exactly what has happened at Banks County Speedway.

The track’s story seemed to end more than 50 years ago, but its founding family has refused to let it go and has breathed new life into this historic facility.

Join Joe VanHoose and Brandon Reed as they uncover the story of Banks County Speedway and how this lost track of Georgia was found.

Merchandise for a mission


The West Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando has the feel of the Vegas Strip when the PGA Merchandise Show comes to town.

The giant exhibitor hall is riddled with booths. There are the big boys, like Ping or TopGolf or TaylorMade, mixed in with family businesses, all looking for some publicity or sell products or make connections. 

Some booths are grandiose, with televisions, lights, speakers and technology. Others have signs and photos or samples and celebrities.

Carter Bonas is among the exhibitors, standing under a white canopy. The 11-year-old business owner’s booth sits in the middle of the apparel section at the Show, and it’s one of several exhibitors that aren’t just there to make money, but also to make a difference.

Breaking into the industry


In 1954, the Professional Golf Association held its first-ever PGA Merchandise Show in a parking lot in Dunedin, Florida, with only a handful of participants. Today, more than 40,000 individuals crowd the West Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center each January in hopes to find new business, cover the newest trends or sell the newest golf merchandise on the market.

Kirk Fallgatter is one of them. 

For one week at the end of January, he set up shop at Booth 5557, representing Scales Gear as a sales associate. Scales Gear is one of the dozens of first time exhibitors at the show in 2023. Though some have come from across the world, Scales was fortunate enough to just have a two-hour drive up FL-91 to showcase their apparel.

In appreciation of cookbooks


My favorite books are scattered about my house.

I’m prone to re-reading, so they’re kept within a not-so-metaphorical arm’s length of my grasp.

When winter rolls around and the wind’s cold breath chills our house in a way that makes our heater work extra hard, I reach for the worn copy of Ethan Frome in my bedside table. I first read it in high school, initially thinking I’d hate this literary assignment from Mr. Barnwell.

I devoured it in less than two days.

The same goes for Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, minus the aforementioned initial apprehension. It’s spooky and creepy and weird and, yes, distinctly Maine in some places, and I just adore it. If I need a bit of a fright as we near Halloween, I’ll just flip through its pages until we get to Danny Glick hovering outside the second-story window, tapping at the glass, asking to be let in the house.

Hope is a funny thing

Photo by Kam Nedd/Courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars

This is how it’s supposed to be. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are back in the NFL postseason. They host the Los Angeles Chargers in the wildcard round of the playoffs Saturday night, the team’s second primetime game in as many weeks. 

It’s a return to the promised land after such a promising season for the big cats in 2017. That team won the AFC South and made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, falling to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. 

There proved to be no sustainable momentum. The Jags finished last in the AFC South in 2018 after going 5-11. Then they finished last again in 2019, won exactly one game in 2020, hired and fired Urban Meyer in 2021. The Urban Meyer experience, completely predictable, further cratered a team that had one winning season over a 15-year stretch. 

The legend of Chick Nowling, Nevada basketball and loose records


By David Hudson with Joe VanHoose 

Charles “Chick” Nowling enrolled as a sophomore at Tonopah High School in the fall of 1931. The new kid in Tonopah, Nevada was probably nervous, but he’d come to town to play basketball for coach Henry Couts, who just happened to be Chick’s uncle and acting guardian. 

An easy-going, handsome kid, Chick quickly fell in with the other students – having access to an automobile certainly didn’t hurt his prospects on the social scene. On the basketball court, Chick really excelled. Skillful with the ball and a natural leader on the floor, Chick’s gifts endeared him to his teammates, his school and his newfound state. 

Living with Couts, Chick was thriving. 

But here’s the first thing you need to know about Chick: he and Henry Couts were not related.