Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No Crying Shame

When I was in fifth grade, my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Boles, asked everyone in my class to write about what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. Looking back, this seems like a pretty big assignment for fifth graders to tackle. After all, this is the same group of people who rubbed dandelions on our bodies because we thought it was funny that our skin turned yellow (naive racism always makes for a good laugh). I'm guessing that most of my classmates hadn't given much thought to their future, which is why they probably wrote about how their only goal in life was to go on GUTS and become the first person in the show's history to not get completely manhandled by the "whitewater rapids" in the rafting challenge (actually, they probably gave that a ton of thought). As for me, this particular writing assignment would be the easiest assignment I had to do all year. I had known exactly what I wanted to do with my life for awhile, even though my life plan only extended until I was 22-years-old. I quickly scribbled down what I planned on doing and thought that there was no way in the world my dream wouldn't someday come true. I wanted so badly to play basketball in the Big Ten and lead my team to the Final Four. I wanted so badly for thousands of people to chant my name because I was one of the best players in the country. I wanted so badly to be great. But a strange thing happened between fifth grade and my senior year of high school—a movie starring Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini was made. Not only that, but reality dealt a sincere blow to my manhood by telling me that I wasn't good enough to play in the Big Ten.

If I could somehow go back in time and tell the fifth grade version of me what I would do with my life up to this point, there's a good chance that little me would be more disappointed than an Eddie Murphy fan in the early 1990s. No fifth grader would ever dream of being a benchwarmer, let alone dream of benchwarming becoming their defining characteristic. The fifth grade version of me would have thought I was just some excessively hairy loser who never got to play. The fifth grade version of me would have declared himself to be Evan "The Villain" Turner and labeled the biggest dweeb on the court as Mark Titus in pick-up games during recess. The fifth grade version of me would have relentlessly mocked today's version of me. But I'm totally fine with it, because it's obvious that the fifth grade version of me had no idea what he was talking about. Plus, I'd beat the living crap out of that punk.

As I grew older and made my way through junior high and high school, it became clear to me that my dream of becoming a Big Ten star had as good of a chance of surviving as Michael Richards would have if he took a late night walk through Harlem. My lack of athleticism made me the consummate mid-major recruit, but my ambitious dreams made me too stubborn to accept reality. Because of this, I ended up at Ohio State as a math major pre-med student who spent my free time as a basketball manager, wiping Greg Oden's sweat off the floor and chasing down Ivan Harris' errant shots. It was during this time, somewhere in between David Lighty hitting me in the face with a sweaty towel and Ron Lewis smacking his lips at me for not putting Kool-Aid in his water bottle, that I realized I needed to set my sights a little lower. I decided in that moment that I needed to let go of the only thing I had really ever wanted in my life and shift my focus towards reality. I stopped dreaming of thousands of fans chanting my name and instead just dreamed that somebody would even know my name.

I have often used this blog as a tool to paint a self-portrait of how big of a man I am, which is why my sobbing last Tuesday night (my senior night) may have been a surprise to a lot of you. Most people who saw me crying assumed that I was faking and my tears were just another example of my sarcastic personality. On the contrary, my tears were 100% genuine and completely unscripted. My intent was to simply wave to the crowd with a smile on my face after I was introduced. Instead, I couldn't even hear my introduction because I was sobbing so much and every time I tried to smile it felt like I was making the bitter beer face. Looking back on the night, I still can't envision how I could have fought back the tears. The entire experience was surreal and emotionally overwhelming for me. Even though many of you e-mailed me and told me that I need to turn in my "man card", the fact is that there was no way I could have not cried. This doesn't make it any less embarrassing to cry in front of thousands of people, but at least I can take comfort in knowing that I'm not the first mustache aficionado with a silky smooth J to cry on national television.

As I was being introduced for the senior night festivities, it finally sank (sunk? sunked? sanked?) in that I'm living the most improbable life in the history of walk-on athletes. I've always assumed that my walk-on experience has been different than anyone else's, but when I saw our entire student section wearing CLUB TRIL shirts, I realized that I'm the luckiest guy in the world. The best player in college basketball is a teammate of mine, yet some people suggest that I'm the most popular guy on our team. I disagree with this notion, but the fact that it's debatable whether or not I'm more popular than the best player in the country shows just how crazy of an experience I've had. Growing up, I thought that I wanted to be a superstar basketball player, if for no other reason than superstar basketball players get the babes. But as I was standing in the middle of the court on senior night and I saw thousands of people wearing my shirts and chanting my name, I realized that I wouldn't trade places with any other basketball player in history.

Now that my career at Ohio State is over and I look back on what I had dreamed of doing with my life, I can say with absolute certainty that being a benchwarming blogger never once entered into the equation. Throughout my childhood, as my reality continued to be redefined, my goals and aspirations continued to change. The things that meant the most to me at 11 didn't mean anything to me at 19, which is why I stopped caring about being an All-American and started caring about being an American. But even as my life aspirations continually changed, at the core of each of my goals was the desire to have a positive impact on people around me. Whether I achieved this by being a basketball star or by being a human punching bag in practice, the one constant throughout my life has always been that I want to make a difference. All I've ever really wanted is to matter. On senior night, for the first time in my life, I felt like I mattered. And so I cried.

I'm extremely blessed to have had the college basketball experience that I've had in my four years at Ohio State and absolutely none of it would have been possible without the Trillion Man March. I started this blog as a way to share stories with family and friends, but because of you it turned into so much more than that. This blog has become the voice of benchwarmers everywhere (past and present), as well as comedic relief for everyone who has ever been told that they're not good enough at something. It was meant to be a place for me to screw around and tell funny stories (and in a lot of ways it still is), but when I get e-mails from high school kids telling me they were depressed about riding the bench until they saw my blog, it makes this so much more than a forum for my subpar jokes.

I have no idea what the future holds for me or, more importantly, my blog. I plan on writing a book after I graduate that will be a more in-depth look at my life as a walk-on, but beyond that the future is wide open. What I do know for sure is that I'll greatly miss writing about my experiences at Ohio State and the interactions I've had with the Trillion Man March. Together, we have changed the perception of benchwarming to the point that basketball players all over the world actually get excited about playing only one minute because they can go for the trillion. I doubt that this blog will have much of a lasting legacy, as chances are that five years from now order will be restored and benchwarmers will once again be losers. Until then, I hope this blog serves as proof that benchwarmers are the coolest guys on the team and always have the most fun. I've enjoyed every aspect of maintaining this blog and will be forever indebted to all of you for making me feel like I've made a positive impact somewhere along the line. Four years ago, I thought I was a nobody. Now, after experiencing senior night, I feel a sense of accomplishment and belonging. I feel like I matter. And that is, after all, the only thing I've ever really wanted.

My computer got a virus shortly after I finished the last blog, which is why I haven't blogged in awhile. This explains why I've received a ton of one armed embraces since our last game. Michigan State produced three embraces from Chris Allen, Isaiah Dahlman, and Jon Crandell. The Penn State game produced embraces from Steve Kirkpatrick and Adam Highberger. Nobody on Michigan reciprocated any one armed embraces, although I was informed that a few of them read my blog and were going to try for the embrace, but got cold feet at the last second and didn't pull the trigger. Show some sportsmanship next time, guys, and go for the one armed embrace. Finally, our latest game against Illinois delivered two embraces from repeat embracers, Tyler Griffey and Bubba Chisholm.

One Armed Embraces: 39 to date (2 last game)

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.

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

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

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder