Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boil(er)ing With Frustration

As a general rule of thumb, I tend to believe that there is very little someone like me (22-year-old guy) can learn from your average American teenage girl. Every now and then, though, a few exceptions reveal themselves. For instance, I have learned from my sister and her friends that the Jonas Brothers are actually kind of talented (who knew?) and that Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana are actually the same person (again, who knew?). My sister and her friends also taught me that 22-year-old college seniors can’t go to a high school prom, which is an enormous buzzkill for my dream of being crowned the prom king this time around. But the most important thing that my sister has taught me in the past few years is that writing becomes much easier during a particularly emotional time, which is something I realized after I stole her diary and noticed that her stories about breaking up with her jerk ex-boyfriends were much juicier than her stories about how much fun it is to “nod her head like yeah”. This explains why writing this blog post is going to be relatively easy for me.

Some of you might not know, but I’m originally from the Westside of Indianapolis, where corn, auto racing, and basketball are intricately woven together to create the booming suburb of Brownsburg (there are a few other ingredients such as mild racism and teenage pregnancy that contribute to the makeup of Brownsburg, but I prefer to leave those out). Growing up in central Indiana, my dad made it clear to me from the day I was born that I would either cheer for the Indiana Hoosiers or get the Michigan out of his house. Even without his threat of abandonment, cheering for the Hoosiers would have been a no-brainer for me because of the culture surrounding Indiana basketball. Basketball is the lifeblood for Hoosiers, much like hockey is for Canadians or losing to Jim Tressel is for Michigan. But even though most people from Indiana have a passion for basketball, the truth is that not everybody in my hometown fully appreciated Bob Knight’s sweater and the Hoosiers as much as I did. There were a rebellious few who thought that Indiana couldn’t possibly have the best basketball program in the country because they didn’t even have the best program in the state. We like to refer to these outcasts as “Purdue fans”.

Even though my mom played basketball at Purdue in the late 70s and was actually a pretty good player, my dad (who graduated from IU) brainwashed me from an early age to hate everything about the Boilermakers (except for maybe my mom). And so I did. I hated Glenn Robinson for having a stupid nickname and for thinking he was worth a $100 million contract as a rookie. I hated Brian Cardinal for wearing knee pads and wiping the sweat off his nose as part of his free throw routine. I hated Gene Keady for having a fiery attitude that made him seem like a Bob Knight wannabe. I hated Purdue because they weren’t as good as Indiana, even though they thought they were. I hated Purdue because I was told to hate Purdue.

Fast forward to today.

Wait, that’s too far. Rewind it a little bit back to this past Wednesday. Okay, now you’re good.

We lost to Purdue in heartbreaking fashion on Wednesday, partly because JaJuan Johnson was unstoppable but mostly because Purdue scored more points than we did. The loss was a significant one because had we won, we would have been in the proverbial driver’s seat for a Big Ten championship. As you can imagine, the loss was particularly painful for me because of my feelings toward the Boilermakers. Losing is no fun and losing to Purdue is even worse, but losing to this Purdue team is more upsetting than the thought of The Villain dating my sister. Not only is this team on track to steal the Big Ten title away from us, but they managed to completely change my perception of Purdue in the process, simply because of how likable they are. They are fun to watch play basketball and most of the guys on their team seem like good people. And that’s why I hate them so much.

The first sign that maybe Purdue people aren’t exactly as bad as I had originally thought came before the game when I was unwillingly forced into a conversation with Gene Keady. I was talking to my dad near the Purdue bench, like I do before every home game, and Coach Keady walked in our direction. My dad saw this as a perfect opportunity to put me in an incredibly awkward position and he made the most of this opportunity, like all dads seem to do. He said something to Coach Keady about my mom playing at Purdue and then decided to introduce him to me. Had he simply said “this is my son who plays at Ohio State” and then let me walk away, maybe I would have picked him out a nice nursing home in 30 years. Instead, he chose to tell Coach Keady a story from when I was in kindergarten and I wouldn’t shake his hand after I won an award at one of his camps (my mom made me go) because I despised him so much. As awkward as it was for me after that story was told, I still wouldn’t have minded that much if my dad would have just stopped at that. But no. He proceeded to drop the bomb that I knew he had at his disposal but never thought he would actually use. He told Coach Keady about how I had just dissed him in an interview I did a week earlier with Indiana’s school paper. Here’s what I had said in that interview:

What does the future hold for both you as a person and as a blogger?
I plan on writing a book in the immediate future that will feature stories from my Final Four year at Ohio State that I haven’t had the chance to talk about, as well as stories from the past two years that I haven’t been able to tell because of NCAA rules or the fact that I would probably get kicked off the team. From there, hopefully I can land a spot on some reality show, be a complete jerk to everyone on the show, and have all of America hate me. I will then parlay that into a gig as a professional wrestler, where I play to the audience as a “heel”, or someone they are supposed to hate. After a few years of that, I’ll develop a drug addiction of some sort and go back on a reality show, only this time I’ll be devoted to “changing my ways” and “becoming a better person”. Once I’m clean and I’ve changed, America will fall in love with me because I’ll talk about how sorry I am for everything and I’ll be one of those celebrities that everyone likes, even though they have never actually done anything of merit. Kind of like Paris Hilton. Or how Purdue fans feel about Gene Keady.

A week after that Q&A ran in the Indiana Daily Student, I was standing next to Coach Keady, who (thanks to my dad) was aware that I had just disrespected him. This is why my dad can look forward to having to deal with Hal from Happy Gilmore when it comes time for me to choose him a nursing home.

In all seriousness, Coach Keady knew I was just playing to the IU audience a little bit and he seemed to be a pretty nice guy, which is unbelievably infuriating for me. I don’t like that I like him. I feel like I’ve been lied to. I feel like Kevin from Home Alone when he found out that his creepy neighbor, who supposedly slaughtered little kids and used their remains as salt for his icy driveway, actually turned out to be a lonely old man who saved his life. The only difference is that Coach Keady hasn’t saved my life (yet) and I can’t be entirely sure that he doesn’t slaughter little kids and use their remains as salt for his icy driveway. Ok, so maybe I can be sure, but I’m scrambling for a reason to dislike the guy. In fact, I’m scrambling for a reason to dislike just about everyone associated with Purdue.

As the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday and the scoreboard showed that we came up a little bit short, I felt an almost sick feeling come over me. Then, I went through the handshake line and felt an even sicker feeling, because it became obvious to me that we lost to a Purdue team that was full of…(gulp)…good people. Robbie Hummel is a star basketball player, but he seems like he’s well-mannered enough to have your daughter home an hour before her curfew (and he’s read my blog a few times, which doesn’t really have anything to do with being well-mannered, but is awesome nonetheless). Sure Matt Painter gave me the floppy fish handshake, but the entire Purdue bench stepped to the plate and delivered so many one armed embraces that I’m still trying to figure out exactly how many I got, proving that my blog is read by virtually everyone on their team (or it proves that one guy reads it, explained to all his teammates about the embrace counter, and then begged them to take part so he could get a shout-out). Even Chris Kramer, who some people believe has the most punchable face in college basketball, asked about my shoulder and wished me luck with everything (and then proceeded to tell Kyle Madsen’s girlfriend to “suck it” after she provoked him as he was running into the locker room).

That’s how I knew a serious problem had surfaced. Hating Chris Kramer would have been a softball lob for the ten-year-old version of me, yet today’s me actually kind of likes the guy. Meanwhile, our most recent game with Indiana produced zero one armed embraces from their players and one snub from Tom Crean (who gave Coach Matta what I’m calling the “blow-by handshake”). The team that I worshipped as a child produced the most disrespectful handshake line I’ve ever been a part of. Then, exactly one week later, the team that I despised growing up produced the most one armed embraces in Club Trillion history, while two starters (Hummel and Kramer) actually took the time to say something other than “good game” to me. Throw in the fact that the Viking fan in me that spent all those years cursing Brett Favre’s name is now begging the guy to come back for one more year to play for my team, and it’s easy to see how I’m in sports fan disarray.

It feels as if Purdue and I have a relationship like Ronnie and Sammi on Jersey Shore. I swore that I wouldn’t fall in love at the Jersey Shore, but it somehow happened. And in typical Ronnie and Sammi fashion, even though I like this Purdue team, all it ultimately means is that I hate them that much more. They diminish my hopes of a Big Ten championship and then turn around and get mad at me because I said they have a Fred Flintstone toe. It’s the definition of a love-hate relationship and it has left me with my fingers crossed that much like the Jersey Shore relationship, my relationship with Purdue will be a rather short-lived one. My heart simply can’t take liking Purdue for very much longer. ___________________________________________________

Don’t forget that Club Trillion Shirt Day is less than 2 weeks away! On March 2nd of this year, members of the Trillion Man March are being called upon to wear their Club Tril shirts as a way to celebrate all the fun we’ve had together in the past 15 months (or however long you’ve been reading the blog). If you still don’t have a shirt, click here and get one before people start questioning how big of a loser you really are. All the proceeds from your shirt purchase will be donated to A Kid Again, a local charity aimed at enhancing the quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses. ___________________________________________________

Since my last blog post, we’ve played games against Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. I’ve already explained that Indiana produced no embraces and I’m pretty upset by this fact. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s just move on.

The Illinois game produced two embraces, one from Bubba Chisholm and one from a newcomer to the blog, Tyler Griffey. Bubba has been one of my favorite walk-ons in the Big Ten for a few years now because he’s a guy who understands what the Illini fans want to see when he’s in the game and he gives them just that. Plus, anytime you’re dealing with someone named Bubba, you know he (or she?) is someone who is down to earth and you could see yourself hanging out with, except for those rare instances in which Bubba turns out to be a white trash rapper from the South who obviously took advice from a porn star when it came time for him to choose his stage name.

Now for the Purdue game. As I went through the handshake line, I was bombarded with so many embraces that it was hard for me to keep track of them all. But now I think I’ve made sense of it all. From what I can remember, every white guy except for one gave me a one armed embrace. Lewis Jackson was the only non-white guy to give me an embrace, probably less because he reads my blog and more because he’s a friendly person. Also, Purdue’s graduate assistant, Bobby Riddell, gave me an embrace, which should be no surprise to the regular readers of this blog.

The only way for me to sort out all the white guys that delivered embraces is to look at pictures of Purdue’s players from their online roster. Maybe not all the guys got to travel with the team, in which case my count will be off, but this is really the only way to do it. After scanning through the roster, I’m somewhat confident that I got embraces from the following people: Stevie Loveless, Chris Kramer, Robbie Hummel, Dru Anthrop, Kyle Coleman, DJ Byrd, Ryne Smith, Mark Wohlford, Sandy Marcius, and Bubba Day (I had to have set a world record for most one armed embraces from guys named “Bubba” in one week. Good luck to anyone who thinks they can beat that). Since Purdue has 17 people on their roster, chances are that some of the white guys didn’t make the trip (Of course I based this decision on stereotypes. Sue me). Still, I’m including them in the counter because it is better to give too many shout-outs than to not give enough. This brings the total one armed embraces from the Purdue game to 12, even though it was probably more along the lines of 9 or 10.

One Armed Embraces: 32 to date (12 last game) ___________________________________________________

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Aaron E and features former Wisconsin Buzzcut, Brian Butch (who looks exactly like one of our team managers, Tim Daniels). Anyway, there’s your shout-out, Aaron. And here’s your video.

Proud To Be An American But Even Prouder To Be A Buckeye,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder