March 26, 2018, Sharing the Details had the exclusive privilege to cover the UMBC Retrievers first with a reception at Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Annapolis Mansion and, later, witnessing wide-spread recognition on the senate floor from key state politicians.
University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) made NCAA tournament history on March 16, 2018, when the Retrievers became the first No.16 seed to beat a No.1 with a 74-54 win against the Cavaliers (University of Virginia, UVA) in Charlotte, Virginia. No one, except the Governor of Maryland, predicted this win.
The day before the game, the governor tweeted his bracket, boldly stating that UMBC will not only beat No.1 seed Virginia but could also make history and take the national title.
Through grit, determination, and with Coach Ryan Odom’s leadership, UMBC, a school joked as nothing more than a “commuter school” became a national treasure. The team even sported the front page of Sport’s Illustrated! This glory came to a brief cessation when the Retrievers lost their next game against Kansas State, with a score of 50-43. However, that doesn’t change the historical context. This game changed March madness—forever.
It’s also a good thing that Coach Odom will continue to stay with the team for future seasons. There was talk before about the possibility of him leaving but he did declare at this event that he will stay committed to the team.
So an event of this grandeur could only mean that I leave the office before rush hour traffic. I was lucky to find street parking just a few blocks down which is rare since parking tends to be a hassle in the state capital. Moreover, there was no way I was going to be a second late!
I was ill-prepared, fashion wise, for this historical event. What I wore at the office was a black Calvin Klein dress I had since forever, red Michael Kors shoes, and Italian made sterling silver earrings. I didn’t even have time to dab on any make up. I was so au naturale that even R&B singer, Alicia Keys would be proud.
As soon as I parked my car, I ran to the press area. The UMBC bus rolled in with players queuing out, in a dapper style.
Last but not least was the fun, adorable, spirited Chesapeake Retriever mascot who had the crowd laughing with his hilarious antics. Did you know that the Maryland state dog is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Did you also know that these dogs are characterized as being loyal, versatile and having great endurance?
This momentous occasion was also the first time I ever went inside the Governor’s home, let alone the Maryland State House. The Government house is actually across the street from the state house, and has been home to several Maryland governors for 145 years. This Georgian style home was built in 1870, of the style of the Victorian era, with majestic doors carved with the Maryland Coat of Arms.
Guests, press, and political figures piled into the home and was warmly greeted by the Governor and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (whom I met before at the Black History Month Awards Ceremony). The spiraling staircase, in the Entrance Hall, and portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria (whom Maryland was named), and Cecil Calvert (founder of the state) added an extra allure to this visit.
Half the guests towered over me, since they were basketball players after all. Attendees mingled and networked inside the library, where a newly minted painting of Frederick Douglas was hung in commemoration of Black History month this year. Finger foods that were served in the dining hall were vegetable empanadas w/ chipotle aioli; chilled shrimp platter; skirt steak bruschetta; baked brie w/honey & almonds; chicken, caramelized onion & gruyere tarts, and peanut butter mouse cups. I ate these delicious morsels on dainty china with golden forks and spoons.
Chatter died down and all eyes were on the Governor. He remarked that he heard about the win when he was in his “man cave”. He was jumping up and down and was overjoyed by the news. No one could expect a No.16 seed defeating a No.1 seed.
“All the analysts,pundits and experts were saying that they didn’t really give you guys much of a chance. Well, nobody except me believed in this win. My bracket had you going all the way.”
The Governor later went into how the players played with “true heart” and firm “grit in this immense game. His pride in the team emanated through the inflection of his voice, his smile, and through his soaring speech on embracing the underdog spirit.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the Governor presented the Retrievers with a plaque recognizing their accomplishments and handed out a governor’s coin to each player. The players honored the Governor and later, the Senate, by awarding copies of the Sports Illustrated issue with an image of the team’s win.
After the ceremony, players lined up inside the Maryland State house where senators, teachers, parents, players, and press gave the team a standing ovation. It was a long night, and after the standing ovation, players left to trek back home. However, not without taking the cutest pictures with young fans aged five years through nine.
According to WaPo, Senior Jairus Lyles, who played high school basketball nationally, wont be returning next season. However, starting forward Joe Sherburne, along with 12 players are set to return next season.
The 2018 Final Four is underway. Tune in April 2, 2018 for Monday’s national title game.