Mercer Maniac president knows saying goodbye won’t be easy
February 11, 2016
After his very last basketball game, a high school-aged Thomas Norton
couldn’t bring himself to walk away at first. He sat in a corner of the locker room alone, holding onto his things and not yet ready to leave. He hesitated even when his father came to retrieve him.
Years later, he’s experiencing a similar loss. Except now, it’s his
impending graduation that’s pulling him away from one of his passions — being president of the Mercer Maniacs.
“It’s going to be hard stepping away, but I feel like I have made some progress. And I have influenced people,” Norton said. “I can say I was a part of this and helped shape it. I’m excited to see the organization grow. But I’m trying to savor every last moment.”
Ever since his freshman year, Norton has been heavily involved with the Maniacs. He would watch games and wish that he could be more involved in the stands. He spent much of his early involvement helping pick up after the events.
“I was kind of like a utility man for them,” Norton said.
Now, he’s the one coordinating the events. In fact, Norton is a big part of why the Mercer Maniacs are so accessible to students today.
During Norton’s first year of participation, the Mercer Maniacs were a slightly more exclusive group.
“Back then, you had to go to five football games, and you had to be initiated. They gave them bow ties as their initiation,” Norton said. “It was very informal, but it made them seem very exclusive, which I wasn’t a fan of then nor am I now.”
Throughout his years of involvement, Norton made a conscious effort to make fans feel welcome.
“A lot of us weren’t happy with the exclusiveness of [the Maniacs], and we wanted to make it more open and make it less of an exclusive membership,” Norton said. “I think getting to know people and letting them get to know me is important. It’s all about establishing personal relationships with people.”
But being President of the Mercer Maniacs doesn’t come without its challenges. For Norton, the biggest obstacle has been having to shift his perspective at games.
“I used to just run around and have a good time. Now, I’m always looking at things and thinking about how I could make them run more smoothly. That takes away from my experience, but I enjoy doing it at the same time,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I got to pay more attention, but at the same time, it’s creating a better environment. So I enjoy it. That’s what the hardest part is — becoming less of a fan and more of a facilitator.”
Just like walking away from his high school basketball career, Norton knows that saying goodbye to what he loves won’t be easy. Still, he’s grateful for the impact that the Maniacs have had on him.
“We are really more than just a bunch of people who cheer at games,” Norton said.
“I mean, we are a family.”