Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Last Summer – Part II

This blog post is the second of a two part entry about why this past summer was the best of my life. By my own admission, it sucks. I know it sucks (so don’t tell me) and I’m fine with it sucking because I wrote it for myself and only chose to publish it so the diehard members of the Trillion Man March wouldn’t call me lazy in a bombardment of complaining e-mails. I wanted to chronicle an action packed time in my life so I could look back in the future and remember what I did, making this more of a diary/journal than an entertainment-oriented blog post. As I said in the previous post, this should be the last entry that’s way off-topic, because basketball is now in full swing and I already have plenty of material from the past couple weeks that I could write about. With that being said, there is a pretty big announcement at the end of this post, so make sure you at least check that out (I put “STOP SCROLLING” in bold at the bottom of the entry as a heads up for you, should you choose to bypass the blog post altogether). Make sure you also check out this sweet new YouTube video I found. Pretty awesome, isn’t it?


I’m beginning to notice that it is becoming increasingly harder for me to buy a jumbo pack of tube socks at Wal-Mart without at least five people coming up to me and saying something along the lines of “Mark, when I think of America I immediately think of morbidly obese people and AC Slater’s jheri curl. But then I think of you, because you are everything the stars and bars stand for.” Based on what I regularly write on this blog, I completely understand where these sentiments are coming from. I like to think of myself as the consummate American who listens to country music, supports the troops, and only speaks one language because I’m unapologetically ethnocentric. Sure I like Japanese game shows and I follow the English Premier League, but all it takes is being around me for five minutes to know that I’m practically as American as they come.

Let’s do a little role play. You and the hot babe with zero personality or intelligence that you are dating are walking down the street. You see a seven-year-old girl selling lemonade for a quarter at an intersection and you decide to get some. You hand her a dollar, ask for two cups, and tell her to keep the change. You and your girlfriend drink your lemonade (that more than likely tastes like a combination of tap water and sweat) and continue walking. You notice your girlfriend has a single tear rolling down her cheek, so you ask her if she really thought the lemonade was that bad. She responds with, “No, it wasn’t the lemonade. I was just thinking that that girl and her lemonade stand are more American than apple pie.” You add on, “Yeah, apple pie and baseball.” Your girlfriend chimes back with, “Except baseball really isn’t all that American.” You look at her as if she just suggested that the two of you spend the day shopping for curtains to hang in the living room of her apartment. Is she trying to be stupid? Well, as crazy as it may be, your dumb girlfriend is absolutely right.

Now let’s go back to real life. The phrase “…as American as apple pie and baseball” has been around forever because it was conceived when things were different. Back then, baseball was the most American thing in the world because, well, it was played by exclusively Americans. But now it’s tough to say if America is even the best country in the world at baseball. Most major league rosters are filled with foreigners, which has undoubtedly made the game a little less boring but in doing so has made the game much less American. Names like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Ichiro Whateverhislastnameis dominate the baseball landscape, which is surely making all those racist owners from back in day roll over in their graves. The point is that baseball simply isn’t as American as it used to be because it’s becoming more and more popular all over the world. So go apologize to your hypothetical girlfriend.

The reason I bring up my love for America and baseball’s globalization is because I think it can explain why I’m not really all that big of a baseball fan. I love my country and everything that makes it what it is, which is why I’m becoming less of a baseball fan as baseball becomes less of an American sport. Sure I still love my Chicago Cubs (currently tied for first place in the 2010 season!), but outside of their consistent disappointment, I don’t do a whole lot of baseball watching. The obvious exception was when I went to Hagerstown, Maryland for a minor league baseball game (as I detailed in Part I) but even then I enjoyed the promotions at the game more than the game itself. Baseball is definitely losing it’s American feel, but it’s younger, more awesome, steroid-free cousin is still as patriotic of a game as they come. I’m talking, of course, about wiffleball.

At the beginning of the summer, I received what I consider to be the most significant e-mail of my life. It was from a Nigerian prince who explained to me that I was entitled to over one million dollars if I simply told him my name, address, social security number, and favorite song from the Thriller album. Naturally, I obliged and should be collecting my fortune any time now. I also got a rather important e-mail from Joe Overman of Coldwater, Ohio that served as an invitation to throw out the first pitch at a wiffleball tournament in the aforementioned town. Apparently the tournament coincided with a yearly festival that is thrown in Coldwater that may or may not just be an excuse for Coldwater natives to celebrate the fact that they are American and proud of it. Either way, it was the first time I had ever been asked to act as a “celebrity guest” (or whatever the equivalent is for someone who is in between “that guy looks familiar” and “I swear I know him from somewhere”), which is why I jumped on the opportunity like I was Lindsay Lohan being offered the chance to act irresponsible.

After researching Coldwater a little bit (which consisted of asking various people about it), it was revealed to me that not only does the town have a pretty uncreative name, but it’s also a little too much country for most people to handle. I invited Keller to tag along because he’s the only friend I have who knows all the words to “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas” by Alabama and can name at least three NASCAR drivers. Based on what people were telling me, Coldwater seemed like my kind of town, which is why I felt like I couldn’t get up there fast enough. Unfortunately, the cop that pulled me over on the way up completely disagreed.

In the cop’s defense, I absolutely was tailgating him and probably had been for at least two miles. In my defense, though, I honestly didn’t know that what I was doing was illegal. As soon as I got pulled over, Keller told me I was tailgating the cop, but I calmly explained why he was wrong. I wasn’t tailgating—I was drafting, which is a strategy that has catapulted Jeff Gordon to four Sprint Cup Championships, so I really couldn’t see where the problem was. The only tailgating I do involves playing cornhole (or “bags”), eating way too much, and high fiving passersby. Still, apparently what I did was illegal and it was going to take a smooth performance on my part to get out of a ticket.

The first thing I noticed as the cop approached my car was that his mustache was nearly perfect. It was glaringly obvious that this cop was a seasoned veteran who probably didn’t even carry a gun because his hand-to-hand combat was the stuff of legend. I knew I’d have my hands full trying to get him to crack. He asked for my license and registration, and then asked if I had been pulled over recently. I truthfully answered that I had just received a speeding ticket a few months back, which prompted him to ask if I’m “always in a hurry or something”. Because I’m both too stubborn and too stupid to play by the rules, I responded with, “Well, sir, I am from Indianapolis and racing is just in my blood I guess” and then let out a few nervous laughs. The cop looked at me as if I had just said “I have such little respect for you that I plan on taking your daughter to prom and not bringing her back until the next morning.” He replied, “Wisecracks aren’t going to do you any favors out here, son”, snatched my license and registration, and walked back to his car. Yikes.

(By the way, any time an authority figure adds “son” to the end of a sentence, it almost always results in me being entirely terrified of what happens next. Especially when I’m not the authority figure’s actual son.)

At this point, I told myself that I should be completely satisfied if the cop gave me a ticket and a swift kick to the groin because I was halfway expecting to get cuffed and thrown in the back of his cruiser. Instead, he walked back to my car, handed me my license and registration, told me to “be more careful out there”, and then laughed and walked away. It honestly felt like the opening scene of Super Troopers, only I wasn’t completely stoned and the cop didn’t come back and repeat everything he had already told me. I was, however, freaking out, man.

Even now, I really can’t think of an explanation as to what happened with the cop. He basically went from Agatha Trunchbull to Uncle Joey in a matter of ten minutes without giving any indication as to why he did. The way I tell the story (to everyone but you all) is that the cop called my information into dispatch and the Rod Farva equivalent on the other end of the radio was a member of the Trillion Man March who immediately informed the officer that he should let The Shark swim free. This is most likely not the case, but when your moments of fame are as limited as mine are, you tend to embellish things to make you feel better about yourself.

When we finally made it to Coldwater, we met up with the one person from Coldwater that I knew and made our way to a house party a few blocks away. As I approached this particular party, I couldn’t help but think that this must be what the parties in high school that I was never invited to were like. You see, while all my classmates were hooking up and lying to their parents during high school weekends, I was busy studying molecular genetics and volunteering at a local animal shelter. More accurately, I was busy trying to figure out what the parental lock code was on the TV in our basement, but let’s keep that between you and me. Anyway, I was excited to finally be invited (note: I wasn’t actually invited) to my first party in quite some time and decided that this party would just have to make up for all those missed opportunities in high school. And it did.

When you hear that an awesome party took place that was thrown by a bunch of twenty-somethings, you immediately assume that KY Jelly was involved somehow, the cops showed up numerous times, and at least one person passed out before 9 pm. And while that certainly would be a winning combination for any party, that’s not what took place here. This party wasn’t awesome to me because it was an out of control drunkfest. In fact, the only real reason I thought it was worth mentioning is because it had the one thing no other party I’ve ever been to has had—a truck parked in the backyard with all its doors opened and country music blaring through its speakers. Apparently high quality radios are hard to come by in Coldwater, which is why residents use their trucks as both female-attracting machines and audio entertainment devices. Either way, the image of a bunch of Coldwater natives hanging out in a backyard listening to country music through a truck’s speakers was enough for me to conclude that Coldwater is quite possibly the biggest hick town I’ve ever been to in my life, which is about as big of a compliment as I can give.

The wiffleball tournament itself was held the next morning and, as far as I could tell, my first pitch was as perfect as I had hoped for. I was a little nervous heading in because the last memory I had of throwing a baseball/softball/wiffleball is when I played left field in a men’s softball league and slightly missed the cutoff man as I threw the ball onto the roof of the concession stand right next to the field. Still, I managed to throw a flawless pitch by starting the ball on the right edge of the plate and letting the curve I put on it bring it back down the middle. It was a proud moment for me that was made possible by the fine people of Coldwater. I couldn’t stick around to watch the whole tournament because I had some sort of basketball function, so I don’t know who won the thing, but I do know that the combination of a truck used as a boombox and a community wiffleball tournament is enough to make me adopt Coldwater as my Ohio hometown. The only problem is I don’t think I’m country/awesome enough to claim Coldwater.

Following the success of the Coldwater trip, Keller and I went to Mankato, Minnesota for the Vikings training camp. As I touched on in a previous post, I have been a Minnesota Vikings fan for as long as I can remember and discovered in the offseason that Sage Rosenfels, a Vikings quarterback, was a fan of my blog. Through a series of e-mails, Sage invited me to training camp and because I didn’t want another interaction with the police like I had on the way to Coldwater, I recruited Keller to tag along and do the driving. After around a 10 hour drive, we arrived on the campus of Minnesota State University and immediately began asking the locals where we could find Craig T. Nelson. They must have assumed we meant the football stadium because that’s where pretty much everyone we asked sent us. We got to the stadium a little late but still managed to catch the exciting parts of training camp, which is to say we got to see a Vikings fan instruct everyone in the surrounding area to kill the guy wearing a Packers hat. Some would say he took it too far, but I say he’s just passionate about his Vikings. And after the Brett Favre miracle against the 49ers, how can you not be?

The best part of our trip to Minnesota was when we got to hang out with some of the players at a local bar after training camp was over. I decided to wear an Ohio State shirt to serve as a conversation starter, which was a decision I immediately regretted as soon as I saw Steve Hutchinson, a 315 pound offensive lineman and Michigan alum, and his furrowed brow looking at me in an unsatisfactory manner. If you think that I was maybe reading into things a little too much, take a look at this picture and imagine it coming to life and standing five feet away from you. Now go change your underpants.

While hanging out with some of the Vikings, Keller and I also had the chance to meet Pro Bowl defensive end and mullet connoisseur Jared Allen, who is now quite possibly our favorite human being ever. He wore a cutoff t-shirt to the bar with cutoff jean shorts, a camouflage hat, and Crocs and basically told the entire establishment that he didn’t give a Michigan what they thought of him. His carefree attitude really is inspirational, so much so that Keller claims he will name his firstborn (guy or girl) Jared Allen Keller and his secondborn Allen Jared Keller. He is easily the biggest redneck to ever be a professional athlete (I’m including NASCAR drivers in that claim), which is something that kind of makes him a hero of mine. I could go on and on about how big of a man crush I have on Jared Allen (as if I haven’t been already), but that would only lead to me wasting even more of your time and you judging me in an unfavorable fashion.

Altogether, the trip to Minnesota was a huge success, even though we spent more time driving to and from Minnesota than actually hanging out in Minnesota. Still, Sage showed us a pretty unreal time that got me more excited for football than I’ve ever been in my life. When you consider my preseason trip to Mankato, my Week 1 trip to watch the Vikes dismantle the Browns, and a 3-0 Vikings start, it’s easy to see why I’m so jacked up for the NFL season. AMPAP goes out to Sage Rosenfels for not only being a member of the Trillion Man March and giving me the hookup with my favorite football team (don’t worry NCAA, I paid for everything!), but for also leading my Favre-less squad in Madden to a 6-0 start with over 1400 passing yards thus far.

In a little over three months, I managed to basically travel all over the Midwest while still taking summer school full time. I also went to Canada for four days with the basketball team, took a weekend vacation to Charlotte with my brother, and went to a local Columbus fair that was dubbed as the “Biggest Little Fair in The World” or a similar ripoff of the sign in Reno, Nevada (in reality, I could have dedicated an entire blog entry to the fair, but I’m willing to bet that you are sick of reading about how much I enjoy acting like a redneck). When it was all said and done, I set foot (not feet—I did a lot of hopping) in 13 different states and two different countries this summer, and met countless awesome people who made it all possible.

I doubt that you found my summer as awesome as I originally hyped it up to be, but I still thought it was pretty action packed. I got to hang out with a bunch of different types of people, ranging from professional athletes (the Vikings, former HS teammate who’s pitching for the Nationals) to nobodies (Keller). I did loads of traveling, got out of a tailgating ticket, and managed to knock off all the musts for any summer of mine (Indy 500, spend day on body of water, baseball game, fair, eating a ton of fried food). I was pretty sad to see this summer come to an end because in a way it’s like I saw my youth come to an end. Society is telling me that I need to grow up and stop telling girls that I would think it’s fly if they stopped by for the summer, for the summer. At the same time, I was pretty excited to see the summer end because it meant I wouldn’t have hear "Summer Nights" by Rascal Flatts being overplayed on every country station in America. That song kinda sucks.



Diehard Club Trillion fans have undoubtedly noticed that a pretty special date is quickly approaching, but for those of you who don’t know, on October 24th it will have been exactly one year since the internet and I made love and conceived this blog. For the blog’s birthday I’ve decided to throw a little bit of a party (but it’s a surprise so don’t tell the blog!), and guess what? EVERYONE IS INVITED.

I am officially declaring the week of Sunday, October 18th through Saturday, October 24th to be Fan Appreciation Week for Club Trillion and the Trillion Man March. It’s going to serve as a week for me to give back all I can (so basically nothing) to you fine people who have made this blog as much fun for me as it is. Within the next week or so I will outline what exactly this giving back entails, but for now I wanted to present what will make up a large portion of Fan Appreciation Week.

Because the 18th through 24th is your week (it’s not mine because I’m actually not a fan of my blog), I’ve decided to let the Trillion Man March do the writing for the blog. The topic of your writing should be centered around a time in your life when you were a benchwarmer, whether it was in sports or just everyday life. For example, you could write about how you are similar to me in that you rode the bench for your high school basketball team and would eat nachos during the games. Or you could write about how you had to work a dead end job for ten years and spent your entire time at the job mocking your boss by dressing exactly like him on an almost daily basis. Or you could tell stories about relationship failures. Basically, the entire premise is to explain a time when you simply weren’t good enough. The backbone of this blog is that I’m not good enough at basketball, yet I still find a way to have a good time with the team. That’s why I want your stories to be about how you aren’t/weren’t good enough, but you still found a way to take your failure and turn it into a pretty amusing situation.

As far as rules and regulations go, they are pretty simple. The first rule is to make sure your story doesn’t suck. If I wanted to publish terrible writing, I’d just keep writing about my summer and not take the time to have Fan Appreciation Week. Also, make sure you keep it clean. There are ways to talk about adult situations without using foul language or suggestive phrases. If your entire story is based around an experience you had with someone in the bedroom, it’s doubtful that it will get published (please still send it to me, though, cause I’d love to read about it). If your story only briefly touches on a singular instance in the bedroom, however, there’s a chance it could get published if you make it as classy as you possibly can. I’m fully aware that some of the best stories in the world are as explicit as can be, but I’m also aware that a large number of children read my blog and I’d prefer to not get e-mails from their parents explaining why I’m an awful influence. As a general rule of thumb, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t have told your parents at the dinner table when you were a 12-year-old. And if, by chance, your parents happen to be Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, don’t write anything at all.

Please submit your stories with the subject line of “Fan Appreciation Week Story” to the Club Trillion e-mail at ClubTrillion@gmail.com. I’m setting the deadline at 11:59 pm on October 15th so it will give me a little bit of time to sort out the best ones. I will publish the top seven entries (one each day), with the seventh place story going up on the 18th, sixth place on the 19th, etc. until I publish what I perceive to be the best story on the day of the one year anniversary, October 24th. This contest, along with the entire Fan Appreciation Week (there will be much more to the week than just this contest, as I’ll explain later) is my way of showing gratitude to those of you who have stuck with me all summer. I know that I strayed away from what probably originally brought you to this blog, so I thought I’d do a little something to show my appreciation that you continued to read despite the change. Plus, I think this will be a fun way to get everyone excited for basketball season, and thus excited for more stories involving me getting disrespected in some fashion. With that being said, go tell all your friends who used to read the blog but stopped because it got boring (can’t really blame them) to come back and participate in this contest. I’m really looking forward to reading through stories, so make it happen. Ready, go.

LEGAL NOTICE: First of all, I’ve always wanted to write “legal notice” in all caps because it demands so much respect and kind of makes my blog seem like a legitimate operation. Secondly (and most importantly), please be aware that by sending me an e-mail with “Fan Appreciation Week Story” as the subject, you are giving me permission to publish whatever is in the e-mail, including names, dates, and places. I’d really hate for you to send me some secretive story without realizing that there’s a chance your wife could get on here and read it. If you don’t want your real name to be used, make up a fake name. If you don’t want your real town to be used, just write “Avon, Indiana” because that was a rival town of mine in high school and is basically crawling with misfits anyway.




Streak for the Cash Group Leader: D. Blum, T. Rittenhouse, and T. Roche (streaks of 15)

Streak for the Cash Group Loser: K. Sullivan (streak of 12)

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Kara K. and features a young Kyle Madsen dunking a baseball cap. For those who might not know, Kyle is a current teammate of mine and is the tall guy that appears throughout this video. My favorite part is Kyle’s performance at the end, but that’s just me. And before you ask, no he isn’t the one with the thirty sweatbands on his arms. Anyway, there’s your shout-out, Kara. And here’s your video.

It’s uncertain whether or not Club Tril gear will ever be available in camo.

Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder