March Madness’ return was just as crazy as ever

It’s that time of year folks! March Madness, the annual event where the best of women’s and men’s college basketball compete center stage, wrapped up last weekend with the final two championship games. 

Last year, March Madness was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be such an upset for fans across the country as the tournament is so celebrated year-in and year-out. 

In fact, recently the men’s Final Four on TBS and truTV was watched by more than seven million households

Seeing all the stellar ratings made me wonder, why do we love March Madness so much?

Supporting your School

The number one reason why we love March Madness is that we love to support our schools. 

Whether you are an alumni or a current student, everyone loves to support where they came from. It’s almost like it is in our blood. We love the ability to see our schools on a nation stage where millions of people will be able to see them. 

While the University of Baltimore hasn’t had a college basketball team to root for since the early 80’s, it’s almost better in some ways. We can root for whoever we want with no repercussions!

Cinderella Stories

The second reason why we love March Madness is that we love Cinderella stories. We love it when the underdog schools find a way to get into the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, or even sometimes the Final Four. This happens every year and it is always exciting!

This year the Cinderella story has been UCLA. Ranked number eleven, they made it all the way to the Final Four just to come up short to the number one seed Gonzaga. Their journey is just the latest and I am sure there will be another great Cinderella story next year.

The Player who Takes Over

The third reason why we love March Madness is that every year it feels like there is one player who can take over the tournament and lead his team all on their own. 

Stephen Curry led his school Davidson. Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a National Championship. 

This year the most dominant player has been Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga who has led them all the way to the championship game with his crazy game winning shot against UCLA. 

This leads me to my next point.

Game Winners

My number four reason why we love March Madness is the crazy game winners. 

Every year for March Madness it feels like we always get at least two crazy game winners, sometimes even more. 

Some of the greatest that will always live in our hearts are Mario Chalmers’ game tying shot for Kansas, or Kris Jenkins’ game winner for the National Championship. The Jalen Suggs game winner I mentioned previously is arguably already one of the greatest ever because of the impact and shot itself. Suggs stopped UCLA from having arguably the greatest tournament ever with a pull up banking three pointer to send them home. This is just another classic shot that will live in our hearts forever.

UCONN’s Dominance is finally Changing

Unfortunately, women’s college basketball is sometimes an afterthought when March Madness comes around because of UCONN’s dominance. They won an astounding four championships in a row from 2013 to 2016, and eleven championships overall. 

This dominance is what made them great, but it left many fans bored of seeing the same school win every year. This is finally starting to change. 

It has been a few years since they have won a National Championship, and this is great because it allows other teams to make a name for themselves. With Paige Bueckers on UCONN’s side, it was surprising to see them knocked out so early by Arizona in the Final Four. 

This year we were able to see UCONN dominate and still see other schools grab the spotlight as well. This culminated with Stanford’s victory over Arizona by just one point!

Unbelievable Season Runs

Gonzaga had an unbelievable run this season, sitting at an astounding 31-0 record going into the championship game. When the tournament started last month, many had Gonzaga winning it all in their bracket, and they came pretty darn close. 

But the one game they needed to win, they couldn’t make it count. 

Baylor, who hadn’t won a championship in 73 years, kept Gonzaga down. The Bulldogs were able to fight back to just a single-digit definit at some points, but overall it was too much to overcome. Baylor routed Gonzaga 86-70.

March Madness is a great time each year for sports fans because it allows them to root for something. This gave us a much needed boost, considering how miserable Covid has made everyone. This tournament has been one of the greatest in recent memory.

Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting.

Maryland bill would support unusual sports

Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau

A bill in the Maryland House of Delegates aims to expand non-traditional sports and recreational opportunities in Prince George’s County. 

Among them, it names skateboarding, lacrosse, remote control car racing, cricket, pickleball and disc golf — although it allows room for other sports or activities.

“We wanna stay ahead of the curve,” Del. Jay Walker, D-Prince George’s, said at a hearing on March 19.

And in order to do so, the Prince George’s delegation is bringing forth House Bill 444, designed to augment the number of nontraditional sports available in the county.

The area lacks facilities for uncommon sports, Walker said.

For example, there are only four skate parks in the whole of Prince George’s County.

Other equipment is hard to come by, too. Despite lacrosse being one of the biggest sports in Maryland, there’s very little infrastructure within Prince George’s to sustain the sport there.

“I’m taking my son to Howard County and different places. So we’ve got to make it diverse,” Walker said.

But it’s not just more common sports that Walker and the delegation is trying to promote. 

Pickleball, a sport played on a modified tennis court, is among the fastest growing sports in the state; and Walker wants to make courts available for that, too.

“It’s a very popular sport in Howard County,” Del. Jen Terrasa, D-Howard, said at a hearing.

Further options are being explored as well. 

Walker referred to Pump Tracks — a special kind of biking facility — as well as areas to practice cheerleading.

In 2012, Sham Chotoo started a cricket program with the Boys and Girls club in Bowie — and had 50 attendees for a summer camp.

“The larger number of them were American parents who wanted something different for their kids,” Chotoo told Capital News Service.

By the 2013-14 school year, Chotoo was going to local schools and teaching it to upwards of 1,000 kids. 

And with the formation of the Maryland Youth Cricket Association, the sport has continued to expand — despite there being very few proper cricket pitches in the county.

So, cricket is also among the sports named.

The bill doesn’t require extra money to be spent. Rather, it stipulates that the Prince George’s Planning Board establish a fund in Maryland’s Park and Planning Department — and set money aside. 

The bill passed the Maryland House, and awaits a vote in a Senate committee.

“This is an innovative fund that I think will do great things for decades to come,” Walker said.

The Quick Rise of a Hometown Hero: Immanuel Quickly

Becoming a professional basketball player may seem impossible. But Northern Maryland native, Immanuel Quickley “quickly” rose to stardom as one of the most important pieces of a rising New York Knick squad, also garnering the nickname “The Floater King” for his efficient use of floaters around the paint.

Quickley was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland on June 17, 1999. His parents, Nitrease Quickley and Marcellous Quickley, raised their family under a Christian lifestyle. Of course, Immanuel thanks his parents for his support and continues his journey as an NBA player.

“I put all my faith and trust in God. My mom, along with the rest of my family, have done a really good job since I was a little child of putting that in me”, says Immanuel (Kentucky Today)

Not everyone was very excited about Immanuel dedicating his craft to just basketball. His father wanted to make sure his son did not prioritize basketball over his love for God. Kyle Tucker from The Athletic puts it best, “Marcellous Quickley has never seen his son play basketball in person until he was featured on television. As a devout member of the Pentecostal church, he has long viewed basketball as a road to perdition — a foolish distraction from the path to salvation at best, a self-edifying gateway to hell at worst”. Quickley still focused on his love for basketball, while remaining humble from God’s work.

Photo: Don Markus – Baltimore Sun

Eventually, he went to John Carroll on an athletic scholarship to play high school basketball. Although, Immanuel did not have a great freshman year, he bounced back in his sophomore year where he was finally able to start. He averaged eighteen points per game, four rebounds per game, three assists per game, and two steals per game according to USA Basketball. After having a great second season at John Carroll, Immanuel’s father finally realized that his son was capable of playing basketball at an elite level and being an elite Christian at the same time.

Source: Kyle Tucker – The Athletic

The next year, he improved his game by averaging: twenty-four points per game and seven assists per game. Then for his final campaign at John Carroll, he averaged: twenty-one points per game, seven rebounds per game, seven assists per game, and four steals per game.

Evidently, Quickley improved his defense tremendously and was named MVP of his high school team and earning more honors on the state level. On a national scale, he was named as a member of the McDonald’s All American team that has featured past legends: such as Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

After achieving great success at John Carroll, Immanuel knew he had to choose a college that would improve his game. Immanuel was recruited by some of the top D1 schools in the country, including: University of Maryland, University of Kansas, University of Kentucky, and University of Miami. (USA Basketball)

Photo: UK Athletics (Kentucky Today)

He decided to join legendary coach, John Calipari, at the University of Kentucky. Immanuel saw this as an opportunity to enhance his basketball knowledge and pave the way into the NBA. As a true freshman, he mostly sat on the bench while playing behind NBA first round draft pick, Tyler Herro. While doing so, he averaged an abysmal five points per game, two rebounds per game, and one assist per game.

According to YouTube sports researcher, under the name Romp 2.0, he states: “Immanuel admits that he was partying way too much and was not committed to playing great college level basketball”. Quickley knew he had to turn this around as he did not want his father’s precautions about him playing basketball to come true. Just like his freshman year of high school, Quickley reemerged as a college superstar in his sophomore season. Immanuel averaged sixteen points per game and four rebounds per game (Sports Reference College Basketball).

Source: Romp 2.0 – The Inspiring Story of Immanuel Quickley: The Overlooked Rookie Who is Taking Over New York

His incredible progression catapulted this young man into the national spotlight. Quickley was named SEC Player of the Year and was named to SEC First Team (USA Basketball). Following this season, he declared for the 2020 NBA draft. He was drafted with the twenty-fifth overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then was traded to the New York Knicks on draft night (Corier Journal).

The young superstar started out the pandemic-ridden season slow, but has catapulted all the way to the top of the rookie report by averaging: twelve points per game, two rebounds per game, and two assists per game while helping the Knicks get to a winning record for the first time in five years. He is shooting at an efficient frequency along the paint and has garnered the floater as his signature shot.

Source: Report Door

Some may consider Quickley as the steal of the NBA draft, as he is in contention for the Rookie of the Year Award alongside his fellow draftees, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton – who were also lottery picks in this year’s draft. He is living proof that regardless of what people say (including your own family), you can achieve greatness if you believe in your goals.

Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting. He is an English major at the University of Baltimore

Reflecting on the Ravens’ 2020 Season

Now that we are almost a month removed from the Super Bowl, we are officially in the 2021 NFL offseason. Yesterday, February 23rd, marks the first day for teams to opt in and designate a franchise tag for any player with an expiring contract – according to NBC Sports

With the pandemic still wreaking havoc, the minimum salary cap is set to increase to $180 million (a $5 million increase from last year) – which can be considered a setback for the projected $198.2 million cap agreed between team owners and the NFLPA.

The Baltimore Ravens still have some work to do, as they fell short with another early playoff exit after acquiring key veterans last offseason, such as: Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Derek Wolfe. Some fans may consider this year a win since Lamar Jackson won his first playoff game. For all you hardcore Ravens fans, like myself, our team has faced unbelievable scrutiny since the beginning of the season. 

But the ultimate goal still remains clear every year: Win a Super Bowl.

The 2020 season began with the release of former All-Pro free safety, Earl Thomas, after an altercation with fellow teammate, Chuck Clark. The team deemed his removal was necessary as Thomas’ lackluster leadership was apparent during his tenure with the Ravens, consistently missing practices and showing up late to team meetings.

”Guys have been frustrated about this situation since last year and it was only getting worse. He had to go. Earl was the most disliked guy in that locker room,” said one unnamed team member (via CBS).

In turn, team sources believe his departure has rejuvenated the team’s chemistry, promoting the development of young prospects, such as fellow safeties DeShon Elliot and Chuck Clark.

At the start of last season, the Ravens started out 5-1 before entering their bye week in Week 7. It seemed like the Ravens could make a legitimate run for the Lombardi Trophy. Unfortunately, their plans began to collapse between Week 8 and Week 12. The Ravens lost 4 of their next 5 games before heading into a primetime matchup against their notorious rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When it came to that matchup, the Ravens encountered one of the most bizarre outbreaks of the coronavirus. 22 players were officially out for the “triple rescheduled” primetime game against their longtime rival. When the game concluded, many were impressed by the second and third string players who stepped up to almost defeat the then-undefeated Steelers. Since then, the team was fined $250,000 for violating the NFL’s new wellness policy implemented for the coronavirus outbreak, ensuring health and safety for all members of each team during this pandemic.

It seemed like the Ravens were suddenly out of playoff contention after that crucial loss, having a record of 6-5 with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders creeping up in the AFC playoff hunt. But as we all know, the Ravens regrouped and won their last 5 games of the regular season, ending their campaign on a high note.

The Ravens went on to defeat their newly-formed rival, the Tennessee Titans, in their first playoff game of the postseason. Their victory silenced critics, dethroning the narratives alleging Lamar Jackson’s inability to win a playoff game. 

Their next task was to go up against a gritty opponent in the divisional round, the Buffalo Bills, who were considered as “dark horse contenders” for the Super Bowl. In that game, the Ravens offensive line was blown to shreds and Lamar’s key receivers, Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, seemed nonexistent throughout the game. In the second half, Lamar was taken into concussion protocol after taking a late hit after a bad snap from backup center Patrick Mekari. The team’s morale was hit just as hard by his diagnosis, as Jackson failed to return to the game. The Ravens lost 17-3.

Even though the season ended abruptly (or at least felt like it did), we can say this season is considered a success during the early stages of the Lamar Jackson era in Baltimore. Also in part, let’s also consider the fact that this team made a deep run into the playoffs with the pandemic weighing down on the shoulders of the NFL. Besides, let’s thank the fans of the Buffalo Bills for making the Ravens’ season end on a positive note – contributing to Lamar’s charity back in Louisville.

Jeff Dominguez is the communications director for The Sting.

“That’s Three!”: How the O’s Struck Out Another Lifelong Fan

Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Opening Day 2019 (Photo: Tony Sheaffer)

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the obviously fake tweet saying something to the effect of, “I’ve been an Orioles fan all my life, and a season ticket holder since [insert year here]. The Orioles have lost me as a fan.” 

Of course it’s just a copy and paste format, meant to aggravate the real fans on Twitter., How is this fooling anyone? A true die-hard would never abandon their team. Even if it is the Orioles. 

I’ve been an Orioles fan my entire life, for real. Without holding a season ticket, I’m in the stands for at least five or six games a season. I’m even a fan away from home. I spent part of my 2019 vacation in Phoenix watching the Orioles play the Diamondbacks instead of the plethora of tourist-centric options available on my last night. 

The “three strikes rule” applies to a lot more than batting, and the Orioles have finally reached their three stikes and are now out. At least in my book. 

Strike One: Chris Davis (no pun intended)

Chris Davis is not only the biggest disappointment in recent Orioles history, but he’s also an expensive one.  Not only did hesign a seven-year, $161 million contract going into the 2016 season, he simply has forgotten to deliver. 

He led the MLB in Runs Batted In (RBI) in 2013, home-runs in both 2013 and 2015, and strike-outs in 2015 and 2016, it seemed that his talent leaped away during that leap year. By 2018, Davis couldn’t even bat .200, and ended 2020 at an abysmal .115. 

For some reason, he’s still in the lineup. He’s a decent first baseman, but it’s almost a sure thing nowadays that when he comes to the plate, you can be confident he will end up striking out or hitting a pop-fly right to an outfielder. 

A friend suggested that he should oil mitts since that’s all he’s good for in baseball. 

Strike Two: The 2018 Trades and Losses

Without much of a choice, Chris Davis remains on the team but every other core member of the Orioles postseason runs in 2012 and 2014 has either been traded or took better deals with other teams.  In most instances, this happened while the Orioles couldn’t even place competitive offers for free agents.

This is with few exceptions. Trading Machado to the Dodgers made sense. There was little chance of making him an offer that he couldn’t refuse in time for his contract’s 2018 expiration date.  It was the only trade that season that actually gave the Orioles something to work with. On the bright side, Dean Kremer, who made a few promising starts for the O’s last season, was part of that transaction.

Others made no sense.

Pitchers Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Kevin Gausman were all traded to the Braves for prospects and international slot money, which is money earmarked for international players. 

Although with Dan Duquette in the front office, you can imagine that money was not put to good use. 

Zach Britton, a 2016 Cy Young contender, was traded to the Yankees for prospects, all of whom have yet to really pan out. 

Jonathan Schoop, who was one of the most vibrant figures on-field, was traded to the Brewers for two prospects and second baseman Jonathan Villar. The prospects didn’t pan out (noticing a pattern here?) but Villar did manage to put up some pretty respectable numbers for the rest of 2018 and again in 2019. He was traded to the Marlins between 2019 and 2020 for pitching prospect Easton Lucas, who has been unable to play with the organization yet because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than a few, in between this time span, simply got away. 

The Orioles did not renew catcher Matt Wieters’ contract after he became a free-agent following the 2016 season. It was rumored afterwards that he would’ve stayed in Baltimore had they offered him something, but he ended up signing a deal with the Washington Nationals. Upon his return to Camden Yards in 2017, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

The Orioles also let beloved center fielder Adam Jones get away following the 2018 season. Jones was a fan-favorite in Baltimore and was known for his upbeat personality, Gold-Glove worthy talent, and his pie-slinging prowess. He continued that tradition when he landed in Phoenix for the 2019 season. Jones now plays for the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka, Japan.

Strike Three: The Broadcasters

Scott Garceau and Ben McDonald calling Orioles games had to be one of the worst parts of the 2020 season. Awkward and constantly fumbling player’s names and positions, my girlfriend began to mock my anguished look when Garceau referred to the Philadelphia Phillies as, “The Phils.” 

The saving grace, for me, going through 2020 was knowing that the usual crew would be set to return in 2021.

Boy, was I wrong. Dead wrong.

Last week, the Orioles announced their 2021 broadcast team, bringing a long-festering rumor that most of the beloved Orioles broadcast team would be let go, to fruition. 

The broadcasters who made me fall in love with Orioles baseball, and baseball broadly, had such a profound impact on my life. We spent numerous milestones together united by our passion for Orioles baseball and losing them feels like losing a part of my childhood. 

In the blink of an eye, some of the most dedicated members of the Orioles family were no longer on speaking terms. Family like Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter, Tom Davis and former Orioles players Mike Bordick, Rick Dempsey, Gregg Olson, and Brian Roberts, all gone with no chances to return. 

And so was I. 

The Orioles organization doesn’t care about the fans, Baltimore, or baseball. They, instead, wander aimlessly in hopes of stumbling into a postseason berth and eventually a World Series title.

Fans are meanwhile caught in the dust of poor, misguided decisions. 

Strikes one and two were intertwined. They kept on dismal players like Davis while letting others like Jones go. They squandered their funds and opportunities to grow as an organization and instill that same love of baseball into a new generation of fans. They look the same, year after year, and it really does feel like the people who run the Orioles don’t even care.

The broadcasters were the last thing keeping me invested. Now that they’re gone, it’s strike three. They’re out, and there’s nothing left for me here.

Some will call me a fair-weathered fan. Others will say I was never truly an Orioles fan in the first place. 

I don’t really care what anyone says. I loved the Orioles, but the feelings weren’t mutual. It’s just time to cut my losses.

My love for baseball, as the most beautiful game ever created however, remains.

Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting.

Super Bowl LV: Tale of the Tape

Patrick Mahomes (left) and Tom Brady (right) – Credits: Justin Edmonds and Mike Ehrmann (People)

Surprisingly, we made it through a full season of professional football in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Super Bowl LV may be a dream matchup for casual and hardcore football fans. The defending champions, Kansas City Chiefs, face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a star-laden matchup. This game is highlighted by two quarterbacks destined for greatness.

Icon Vs Icon: The Young Buck Against The Savvy Veteran

We are seeing a generational matchup between two football icons. Essentially, this is a matchup between the past and future.

On one side we have Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs with an already stacked resume in his young career. Winning the Season MVP award, holding the Lombardi Trophy, a Super Bowl MVP nod, and passing over 50 touchdowns in a single season are some accolades he has already achieved. Most players in the NFL dream of achieving at least one of those feats in a 15 year career – Mahomes has done all of them in 4.

On the other hand, there is Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A household name that your mom probably knows – and many other casual fans. 21 seasons in the NFL, Brady doesn’t seem to slow down at the ripe age of 43. Most NFL players would have retired around this age (hence, Phillip Rivers and possibly Drew Brees), as their bodies naturally slow down. But for Brady still dominating the league is completely unheard of – especially someone in the late stages of his career. This being his 10th trip to the Super Bowl, Brady cements himself as the winningest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.

Any comparisons you want to make between these two: Ali versus Frazier, Pacquiao versus Mayweather, The Rock versus John Cena, Lebron James versus Kobe Bryant – the list goes on. We’ve seen an icon versus icon matchup before in sports, but the stakes have never been higher. They are playing for the most prestigious prize in American sports – The Super Bowl, baby!

All I’m saying is, expect an offensive slugfest between these two juggernauts.

The Narratives: Silencing the Critics

Of course, the media will heavily focus on these two NFL superstars until the game is conceded. Not only is the chip on the line but legacy as well.

Tony Romo, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and CBS sports analyst, puts it best: “The fact that Mahomes is somehow in this discussion as the GOAT shows you how amazing this guy is. There’s a chance for Mahomes playing this game, to climb the ladder. If Mahomes wins, he keeps that door open. If Brady wins, I don’t know how anyone can top him.”

A win here from the Chiefs will assert their dominance over the league for many years to come – as we witness one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NFL. But not only that, this outcome will be one of those “passing of the torch” moments in sports. Brady, a living legend, hands the keys over to Mahomes as the face of the NFL. Said best by Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”

Credit: Steven Senne – AP Photo (MassLive)

If Brady wins, he proves his critics wrong about his time in New England. Scrutinized as a “system quarterback” throughout his career, people heralded Bill Belichick for creating a formidable team in the past two decades. Since 2001, Brady has achieved: 9 Super Bowl trips, a NFL Season MVP, over 74,000 yards passing, and 14 Pro Bowl nods all under Bill Belichick.

Even though Belichick may be responsible for Brady’s successes, this year has already proven otherwise for The Patriots who finished 7-9 for the season and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

No stranger to critics, Brady has proved time and time again to shut them up. He is already the winningest quarterback in NFL history, but a win here cements him as the greatest football player of all time.

Legacy is on the line for both sides, so expect a great show on February 7th in Tampa Bay.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting