Less than a month into her post as Canada’s Atlanta-based consul general to the Southeast, Louise Blais received an invitation to attend the Mercer-Western Carolina football game in Macon.
The invite from Chris Smith, a Mercer law grad and the honorary consul of Denmark who lives in Macon, was friendly enough, but her expertise is hockey related — not much U.S. football is played in her native Quebec City.
“I grew up watching hockey,” she told Global Atlanta. “From a very early age, my father, like so many others, taught me to understand and love the game. It was part of our lives and warmed up our cold Canadian winters.”
Was she going to be ready to participate in the coin toss at the beginning of the Mercer-West Carolina game? After all, this was her first time to experience a live football game.
Well, there’s not much of a challenge to understand the flip of a coin. But coming to grips with the ups and downs of football is something else.
“Knowing that a sport can be part of the culture, I sought to learn about football the moment I arrived in Georgia,” she said. “Mostly, I did not want to be left out of the conversations every Monday when everyone discussed the weekend scores.”
With the astuteness of a practiced diplomat, she began to watch football on television, asking her colleagues to tell her “about the rules and strategies.”
“Yes, I was starting from scratch,” she confessed. “As I learned more, my appreciation for the game went up. Yet, nothing prepared me for the excitement of being at a live game which I experienced at Mercer University. From the tailgating to the half-time show, there is nothing like football in any other sport.”
The trip to Macon also provided an opportunity to meet a few if the nine Canadian students attending Mercer including a member of the women’s soccer team and a member of the men’s lacrosse team.
And then there was the opportunity to meet Mercer’s president, William D. Underwood, Provost Scott Davis and Athletic Director Jim Cole.
It didn’t take her long to find out that the enjoyment came as much from the “fervor and collegiality of the fans” as the game on the field.
Since Mrs. Blais’ territory includes North Carolina, she took Mercer’s defeat to Western Carolina 35-21 in stride.
Yet even though she is absorbing the positive football vibes, she recently couldn’t resist celebrating her subscription to the NHL Game Center Live out-of-market video sports package.
Just got our #NHLgamecenterlive package. Watching @Senators against @BlueJacketsNHL. Hockey is back in #Atlanta! …at least in our home, she tweeted.
(Atlanta’s National Hockey League team, the Thrashers, moved to Winnipeg, Canada, in 2011. The city’s previous NHL team, the Atlanta Flames, moved to Calgary in 1980.)