The Play by Play
It’s the Final Countdown
Having started with 64 teams in mid-March, the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is now down to it’s final four teams (known to many, fittingly, as the Final Four). The University of Kansas Jayhawks are set to play the Villanova Wildcats while the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers face off against the Michigan State Wolverines. With both Kansas and Villanova seeded #1, it should make for an excellent matchup. However, the biggest story of the tournament has become Loyola-Chicago. They are the first 11-seed to make it into the Final Four. Ever. Two players, Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer, have been teammates since elementary school, playing basketball together from the age of 8. And if that weren’t enough, they have Sister Jean, a 98 year old nun who serves as Loyola’s chaplain. She leads the team in a prayer before games (Loyola is a private Catholic school) and then watches every minute from the sideline. She has, in effect, become the soul of the Ramblers, and no player would argue to the contrary. From rocking her own personalized pair of Air Jordan sneakers (know as Air Jeans or Prayer Jordans) to sassy post-game interviews, Sister Jean has captivated the country. She even has her own custom bobblehead, which is flying off the shelves.
Baseball’s Back. Back Again.
Regardless of whether the World Series seems like eons ago or just last week, Major League Baseball is back. Spring training kicked off in February and the regular season started this past Thursday. With an official date of March 29th, this is the earliest any MLB season has started in history and it went off with a bang, when Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs hit the very first pitch of the 2018 season out of the park. Of course, magazines and websites are already predicting who will (and sadly who clearly won’t) make the playoffs six months from now. And one team, or at least it’s concessions branch, is already in hot water. Apparently you can’t put athletes’ faces into the beer (beer foam more specifically) that is sold at the stadium. So it looks like we’ll only be seeing Giancarlos Stanton and Aaron Judge out on the field (Giancarlos already has two home run under his belt this season). It’s time to gear up for 162 games of baseball and check out the schedule to see when your team’s set to play.
The Faces and Facts
Featured Female – Misty Copeland (Ballet): Back in 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be named a principal dancer in American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history. What’s more, unlike most professional ballerinas, she began dancing at the age of thirteen (whereas most begin when far younger). Recently criticized for a mistake made during her Swan Lake performance, rather than avoiding or denying it, Copeland opted to post this “failure” on instagram, saying, “I’m happy to share this because I will forever be a work in progress….I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet.” Both exceptionally talented and humble.
Shohei Ohtani (Baseball): The talk of the MLB’s off-season. He is a 23-year old baseball phenom, whose potential to find success on the pitching mound and in the batter’s box had every professional team salivating. The question is, can or will he live up to the unbelievable expectations? While he had a less-than-stellar showing during spring training, the LA Angels, who signed him for $2.5 million, remain hopeful.
Odell Beckham Jr (Football): One of the NFL’s star receivers who spent the 2017 season sidelined with an injury. His catches on the field and his persona off it often result in OBJ making headlines, both during and after the season. In recent weeks a video surfaced that brought Beckham back into the spotlight, as it showed what appeared to be illicit drugs. Trade rumors have also started, with the Giants not openly looking to dump the receiver but also stating that no player is “untouchable.” Multiple teams could actually provide Beckham and the Giants with what both parties would want going into any trade but the LA Rams take center stage as OBJ’s potential new team. Stay tuned.
The Final Four (Basketball): Loyola-Chicago and Michigan play first, at 6:09 pm on Saturday, March 31st, followed by Kansas and Villanova at 8:49 EST.
Anaheim Ducks v. Colorado Avalanche (Hockey): With the NHL playoffs fast approaching (the first round commences on April 11th), every game, and every point (2 points for a win) count, especially for those battling for one of the Wild Card spots. Currently Anaheim holds the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture but the Avalanche are only one point behind. A win by the Ducks would provide a bit more of a cushion between themselves and the next team in line. Whereas a victory for the Avalanche would mean the Wild Card spot becomes theirs (for the time being). Puck drops Sunday at 9pm EST.
The Weekend Social Hour
Perhaps you are hosting a Final Four party this Saturday. Or maybe you don’t have quite enough time to pull something together and will throw a Finals party on Monday, April 2nd instead. Either way, you might be looking for some food and drink ideas to ensure your guests remember this March Madness above all others. When it comes to food, you can’t go wrong with anything bite-size or that includes dip. If you’re feeling especially creative, use something like olives to make your dish (works best with dips) actually look like a basketball. For drinks, it all depends on your mood. If it’s been a long work day, you might want something with a bit of caffeine. Perhaps you’re approaching the party as a marathon rather than a sprint (there are two back-to-back games after all) and want something that can sustain you. Or maybe you simply want a beverage that goes well with your snacks. Whatever you desire, check out these 10 cocktail recipes that are sure to provide your guests with exactly what they want.
*You might be asking yourself why the NCAA seems to hold its championship games on a Monday night (rather than a weekend). Football’s BCS falls on a Monday in an attempt to avoid any conflicts with NFL games scheduled on Saturday or Sunday. For basketball it comes down to the fact that each host city gets two rounds in the tournament (Round of 64 & 32, Sweet 16 and Elite 8, Final Four and Final). That means schedulers have a choice of airing the semi-finals and final on a Friday/Sunday, Saturday/Monday or Sunday/Tuesday. Supposedly Saturday/Monday promises a larger TV audience than the other pairings.