Monday, December 14, 2009

The Battle of The Burg

It’s good to be back after taking some time off for finals last week.  My philosophy for finals week is to not study because if I don’t know the material by the last week of the quarter, I’m certainly not going to be able to cram almost three months of material into my brain in a few hours.  Still, just about everyone in my life assumes that since it’s finals week I must be spending so much time at the library that I know that the librarian’s middle name is Eunice, her husband played bass guitar for an 80s rock band, and her youngest grandson made the B team this year.  This is definitely not the case, but my family and friends feel sorry for me and pamper me all week, so please don’t let my secret out.

On Saturday, our record dropped to 7-2 as we lost to Butler in what many people were calling “The Battle of The Burg”.  By many people, I mean that absolutely nobody referred to it as that until I typed it out a few seconds ago.  The reason the game was dubbed as such is because it featured two alums (err…featured one alum and involved another) of Brownsburg High School in Gordon Hayward of Butler and yours truly.  Gordon is quickly becoming a household name in college basketball and I’m…well, I’m not.  I swooned about Gordon on my blog last year after we played Butler because of the way he dismantled our zone defense in very impressive fashion.  This year, he essentially picked up where he left off as he scored 24 points and had 8 rebounds.  For those who have watched him play in the past two years, his rise to stardom comes as no surprise.  But to those of us who remember Gordon when he was a sophomore in high school (my senior year of high school), his unbelievable success thus far isn’t exactly a shock but was certainly unforeseen because of a fairly obvious reason.

If you’re like me and the start of your day consists of watching at least three hours of Sportscenter, chances are you’ve seen or heard about a countless number of what I call “go-to stories”.  I call them that because they are stories that journalists can always fall back on when they have nothing else to say about an athlete.  For example, how many times have you recently watched an Arizona Cardinals game and not heard the announcers say something about how Kurt Warner used to stock shelves at a grocery store in Iowa?  I’m not sure it’s ever happened.  Announcers always tell this story partly because it highlights the long road to the NFL that a Pro Bowl quarterback had to take, but also because it is Warner’s go-to story and the announcers feel an obligation to bring it up.  Other go-to stories include Chris Andersen and Josh Hamilton battling drug addictions, Tom Brady being a late round draft pick, Brett Favre’s inability to make up his mind, Tim Tebow being homeschooled, Tim Tebow taking a knife to Filipino genitals, and Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school team.  (My go-to story when I eventually make it to the NBA will either be that I got kicked out of the draft or that I sat down and took my shoes off at half court during a 6th grade basketball game because the refs were conspiring against me)  Journalists always look for interesting facts about players that people might not know about, but what inevitably ends up happening is that they all tell the same story over and over again and annoy the Michigan out of the general public.  With that being said, let me introduce you to what will surely be Gordon’s go-to story for the rest of his college career and beyond.

Leading up to our game against Butler last year, some of the guys on the team asked me to give them tips on how to effectively guard Gordon.  Obviously we watched film on Butler, but my teammates wanted me to help them out with the nuances that can’t really be picked up on film.  I told them everything that I could, but I followed up my inside info with a disclaimer—Gordon had grown 10 inches since we played together in high school.  I remembered him as a 5’11”, 150-pound kid who looked more like he would hide inside his locker if he went to Bayside High and had curly hair, and less like he was destined to be a college basketball star.  My information obviously wasn’t of much help, because Gordon’s growth spurt turned him into one of the most versatile players in college basketball and also provided commentators and columnists with a go-to story for the rest of his career.  Despite the success he is having and is sure to have in the future, I still feel bad for Gordon because his go-to story will prompt people to ask him if he ever got made fun of in high school and if his high school teammates ever hazed him in his younger years.  I also feel bad for Gordon because I made fun of him in high school and I hazed him in his younger years.  (I’m kidding.  Sort of.  I never actually hazed Gordon or made fun of him all that much but I was quite possibly the worst teammate in the history of high school basketball.  I might start podcasting again just so I can have a high school teammate on to talk about my antics.  There are some good stories that need to be told.)  I guess there are worse go-to stories out there (Ray Lewis’ comes to mind), but it still has to suck for Gordon to know that ten years from now when he’s scoring 25 points against the Sacramento Kings on ESPN, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson will be debating whether or not he was the victim of atomic wedgies in 9th grade.

In all seriousness, I really look forward to watching Gordon’s career progress not only because he’s incredibly talented, but because he’s a great person as well.  Being a nice guy is apparently something that they stress at Butler because their head coach, Brad Stevens, also happens to to be a class act (and also happens to have a go-to story of his own—he’s only 33, which makes him one of the youngest coaches in college basketball).  Even if Coach Stevens wasn’t a good guy, I still would have said that he was simply because he’s the first head coach of any team I’ve ever played against at Ohio State to stop me during the postgame handshake line and say something other than “good game” or “good luck”.  I don’t remember his exact choice of words, but he said something about how he enjoys reading this blog and how he was unbelievably nervous at the thought of me checking into the game and making it rain (I might have made that last part up).  Nevermind that I’ve known Coach Stevens since I was in 3rd grade and actually job shadowed him when I was in middle school.  The fact remains that the head coach at a top 25 college basketball team not only acknowledged me as more than a walk-on, but also praised my blog in the process.  Here’s to hoping that Coach Matta will be the next coach to do the same.

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Don’t forget that Club Trillion t-shirts are now available by clicking here. 100% of the proceeds benefit A Kid Again, a local charity aimed at enhancing the quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses.  Through the donations from the Trillion Man March alone, over 175 kids will be sponsored this Christmas.  Plus, you get an awesome shirt that is sure to make you look a little better than you did before.  It will instantly become the most comfortable shirt you own and (if you’re smart) the shirt you wear on all your first dates (your “go-to shirt” if you will).  Christmas and all sorts of other holidays that I don’t celebrate and therefore don’t know a whole lot about  are right around the corner.  What I do know, though, is that a Club Trillion shirt would make a perfect gift for anybody or any holiday. ___________________________________________________

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




Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder