Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Last Summer – Part I

I sat down to write this blog entry, not so much for your entertainment, but more because I wanted to chronicle what I thought was a really fun journey in my life (it’s really just my way of giving shout-outs to all the people that showed me a good time in the past three months). This summer I’ve resorted to posting much longer blog entries with much less frequency than I did during the season. This is because I had less basketball-related stuff to talk about, which caused me to basically wait for something to happen. When nothing did, I decided to write about personal events in my life instead of the end of the bench events in my life, and because I usually waited awhile to post, I thought I’d write a little extra each time to make up for it.

With that being said, the following (including Part II) should be the final in the pattern of long, off-topic blog entries. I am now back on campus and have started what is basically practice, meaning a steady dose of basketball will now be present in my life until April. This particular blog entry is way too long to post all at once, so I decided to post the first half now and post the rest when I finish it. Also, there promises to be a pretty important announcement at the end of the second half of this entry, so definitely open up the second part when it’s posted, skip the blog altogether, and just scroll down to the good stuff (at least that’s what I’d do).


Every college-aged male I’ve ever met, regardless of their race, their creed, whether or not they like Creed, or which of the over 60,000 combinations they get when they go to Chipotle behaves in the same manner when three certain situations present themselves. The first is that we will place the blame of our farts on someone else standing close to us. Unless, of course, we think it breaks some sort of record on the disgusting scale in which case we will announce to everyone within a 5-iron radius that we are more of a man than the rest of the world combined. The second thing we do is develop our own barter system amongst our friends that is usually anchored by the proposal of “If you buy the pizza, I’ll buy your beer at the bar tonight.” This almost always ends up being an awful deal for the pizza buyer, as he spends $20+ on the pizza, only to see his hopes of getting free beer all night come crashing down when the beer buyer gets the first round and quickly scampers off into the night with an average-looking co-ed he met five minutes before. While both these scenarios are pretty much spot on, neither of them have anything whatsoever to do with this particular blog post (meaning you really could have just skipped this entire first paragraph altogether). The third thing that we do, however, absolutely does.

When a man is 18-25 years old, society tells him that it’s time for him to line up the rest of his life. This is usually the age when men figure out what job they want, where they might want to live, and which woman they want to blame all of their neighborhood Couples Game Night losses on (sidenote: it’s perfectly acceptable to break up with someone based on their performance in charades or Pictionary). Because of this pressure, men in my age group feel the need to outdo one another. How are you supposed to get the best job, house, or woman if you aren’t even smarter, richer, or more charming than any of your friends? It can’t happen. This is why all college-aged men (more like all men, am I right ladies?) fabricate absolutely every story we ever tell. Whoops, I think I just let the secret out.

Perhaps saying we fabricate isn’t exactly the best way to describe what we do. It’s not that we get calls from our grandmas and moms and then brag to our friends about how the ladies won’t stop bugging us (at least I don’t think anybody other than me does that). Instead, we believe (and that’s the key—we truly believe) that everything we do/did/would have done is the most compelling and interesting thing to ever happen to mankind. We’re the types to go out for a few drinks, hit on girls way out of our league, go back home with the same group of guys we originally went out with, play Halo until 4 am, and then tell everyone that wasn’t with us on that particular night that we had “the craziest night EVER.” We’re also the type that say things like “if Steve hadn’t dropped out of high school and if Tommy didn’t tear his ACL in the third game, we would have steamrolled everybody and easily taken state my senior year.”

To accompany this notion that everything we do is the best, we also are quick to point out that everything someone else does is “weak” or “lame.” For example, if Andre The Giant was drunk with a group of college-aged guys, everyone around him would undoubtedly call him a “lightweight” for being drunk after drinking only two barrels of beer and a bathtub of wine. Guys my age, myself included, are nothing more than one-uppers who always think that what they did last weekend makes The Hangover look like a tea party and honestly believe that their circle of friends in high school were “seriously the biggest badasses ever.” If you don’t believe me just ask some guy you know in my age group how his weekend was and do your best to not laugh when he inevitably pulls a Barney Stinson and uses the word “legendary” in some fashion.

As I’m sure you can probably figure out, it’s impossible for every guy in the world to have the craziest night of all-time every single night. But we don’t care. We truly believe that we are the biggest party animals to ever live, just because one of our friends had one too many last night and asked a girl if he could smell her face. We do this because it’s our way of convincing ourselves and others that we matter in this world. “Sure I’m basically incompetent at every job I’ve ever had, but if coach wouldn’t have screwed me in high school I could have easily gone D1 and ended up in the league.” To be successful in life, you sometimes don’t have to be the most talented, best looking, or most charming person. You just have give off the perception that you are, which is achieved through convincing everyone you talk to that you are literally the most interesting man in the world. With that in mind, let me tell you why I seriously had the most legendary summer ever.

At some point in life, virtually everyone makes a vow to themselves to do something. These vows are usually made on New Year’s Day or Ash Wednesday and are broken a week later because chocolate is just too delicious and turning on the safe search feature in Google Images for 40 straight days is borderline impossible. But there’s another kind of vow that young, single people make to themselves. We all seem to convince ourselves that each and every summer we’re going to have “the time of our lives” or some other cheesy line that you’d hear in High School Musical (not that I’d know or anything). We talk about travelling the country/world, eating fried anythings at a county fair, and working on a farm for a widowed cougar who probably doesn’t understand the concept of the age of consent. Like the previous vows, though, more often than not these promises go unfulfilled (the Summer of George being the prime example). We all get jobs stocking shelves at Wal-mart during the midnight shift for $7.50 an hour, which seriously hampers the fun-having potential of the summer. Suddenly instead of talking to our friends about how we’re going to buy a season pass to Cedar Point and ride Millennium Force “like ten million times” we start talking to our friends about how disgusting the mole on our co-worker’s back is and how badly we want to kick our shift manager in the nads. Because I’m graduating from Ohio State next spring and because I plan on joining the real world shortly thereafter (“pssh, good luck in this economy!”), this past summer was the last true summer of my life. In other words, it was the last summer I could act recklessly and still be able to somewhat justify it. That’s why I made yet another promise to myself that even though I was taking summer school full-time, this summer would be the best one yet. Only this time I made sure that it really was.

Excluding meteorologists, astronomers, and all those other nerds who study the rotation of our planet, pretty much everyone agrees that summer begins with Memorial Day weekend. With that in mind, I decided to start my summer off right by going to the Indianapolis 500, which is what absolutely everybody in the Midwest should do each and every Memorial Day weekend. I devoted an entire blog entry to my experience, so I’m not going to be redundantly redundant with my redundancy, but I will reiterate why the Indy 500 is a sporting event that everyone should witness at least once in their lives.

Most people assume that the Indy 500 is only for people who like racing and kissing their cousins, and while there certainly are more than enough cousin-kissers present, you don’t have to like fast cars and incest to have a good time at the race. All you really need to have fun is an open mind and an understanding that you probably will get sunburned. Outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day is like five college football tailgaters (or ten if your team sucks, and twenty if your team is Indiana) rolled into one, in terms of both the number of people and the number of foods that will send you into cardiac arrest. The people at the 500 are incredibly friendly, even if they do charge you 20 bucks to park in their driveway that’s two miles from the track. The weather is pretty much perfect year after year, except for the years that it’s not. And the race itself is a heart-pounding sight for those who have never seen an auto race live. The Indy 500 is not so much a sporting event as it is a cultural happening, which is what keeps me coming back every year. Despite the fact that most of what I write isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, I’m completely serious when I suggest that you make it a priority to go to at least one Indianapolis 500 in your life. There’s an 80% chance that it won’t let you down.

Just like the Indy 500 is a must for me each summer, waking up at the buttcrack of dawn and spending an entire day on a body of water at least 100 miles from my house is also a must. That’s why I decided to make my next big adventure of the summer a whitewater rafting trip to the Ocoee River in southeastern Tennessee. I already briefly touched on my experience in another blog entry, but I think I may have failed to fully explain how awesome of a time I really had.

After staying in a nearby hotel the night before, my brother, Keller, and I showed up at our rafting company’s station/outpost thing at around 8 in the morning with adrenaline running through our bodies and big wads of eye boogers in our caruncles. We were one part excited, one part tired, and however many parts remain nervous, because the closest any of us had come to anything rafting related was when I interrupted Bill Raftery midsentence to tell Verne Lundquist that I really enjoyed his work in Happy Gilmore. To make matters worse, we completely ignored the safety presentation, which consisted of the guy in charge basically telling us what not to do, because we were too busy telling jokes that were centered around the plot of Deliverance. Luckily for us, we had the best rafting guide any of us had ever had.

I’ve already outlined why I think Joe Cope should win some sort of award for his river-guiding excellence, so please forgive me for coming across as having a man crush on him (if he didn’t have such dreamy eyes it would be a lot easier). Joe knew every rapid of the river like the back of his hand, ya know, if he were the type of guy to look at his hands a lot or something. Because of this, he knew when we would be able to tip the raft if we all leaned a certain way, which may not sound like fun to you, but I assure you that there are few things in my life that have been more exhilarating than falling out of a raft and floating down a series of class 5 rapids. Just like my first marriage, it physically and emotionally hurt like crazy and gave me a few scars that are still in the healing process, but in the end made me a better person and was therefore worth it. Other than being an expert raft-flipper, Joe didn’t have a problem with me splashing people in other rafts, announcing to everyone on the river that I was peeing, or doing anything else that only a 12-year-old and I would do. Basically all it takes for me to like someone and have a good time is for them to allow me to act like a child. This is why I loved my whitewater rafting experience and just figuratively batted my eyes at Joe with this entire paragraph. Anyway, like the Indianapolis 500, I strongly urge all of you to give whitewater rafting a try at some point in time.

Following the whitewater rafting trip, Keller and I traveled to Hagerstown, Maryland to watch our former high school classmate Drew Storen pitch in a minor league baseball game. Drew had just been drafted into the MLB and was starting out by playing for the class A Hagerstown Suns. Because I currently live in Columbus (home of the AAA Clippers) and am originally from Indianapolis (home of the AAA Indians), I had been to my share of minor league games. However, I quickly realized that not all minor league games should be treated equally.

Anyone who has ever been to both a minor league and major league baseball game will tell you that what sets the two apart is that people are actually interested in the baseball at major league games (with the obvious exception being Marlins fans). The truth is that nobody really cares whether or not the Hagerstown Suns pull out the W on that particular day or where they are in the current standings. Nobody really cares that Corey Cartwright’s torn biceps is going to put him out for the season and will make the Suns bullpen a liability. And nobody really cares that the Suns third base coach is a little too aggressive and causes too many guys to get thrown out at home. What people do care about is that next Tuesday is Dime-A-Dog night and a thirty minute firework show will follow the game, at which point all kids under 12 can run the bases provided they brought their report card proving they got an A in at least one class.

For the most part, there is an inverse relationship between the outrageousness of the promotions at the baseball game and the level of baseball being played on the field. Major league teams and some higher level minor league teams don’t need to come up with ways to get fans to come to their games (again, except for the Marlins) because the steroids that the players take already do that for them. The rest of the minor leagues (and especially single A minor league teams) need to be creative to get butts in seats, though. This is why I truly believe some of the most creative minds anywhere are working for minor league baseball marketing departments.

I went to two Suns games while in Hagerstown and was exposed to twenty wrestling theme songs, two fireworks shows, one sack race with children, one game that involved grown men wearing baby bonnets and diapers, and one enormous beer tent down the left field foul line. There were times that it seemed as if baseball was being played only to serve as entertainment in between different promotions. I watched a man sing “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”, I saw little kids try to cheat one another in a barefoot race, and I witnessed a guy dressed as a cowboy (try to) dance to “Cotton Eyed Joe.” Going to a low-level minor league baseball game showed me that baseball games actually can be fun and people in Hagerstown, Maryland lead really boring lives, which is why they come out to the ballpark to celebrate National Egg Toss Day. Needless to say, I find minor league baseball far more entertaining than major league baseball which is to say I find three-legged couples races in which the boyfriend/husband is completely hammered more entertaining than watching Craig Counsell lay down a well executed sacrifice bunt.

To be continued…


Before I get to the YouTube for this entry, I wanted to give a shout-out to Brian in the Trillion Man March for making a pretty awesome CLUB TRIL sign for the set of College GameDay this past Saturday. I had to go to campus to run an errand as GameDay was setting up and was pleasantly surprised as I walked by the set to find Brian close to the front row representing Club Trillion on national television. Here’s a picture for all of you who may have missed it.


You inspire me with your awesomeness, Brian.


Streak for the Cash Group Leader: T. Rittenhouse, J. Ryder, and A.L. (which may or may not just be “Al”) Maldonado (streaks of 15)

Streak for the Cash Group Loser: N. Poor (completely appropriate last name for his performance in Streak) (streak of 12)

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Mark H. There’s your shout-out, Mark. And here’s your video.

Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder