Thursday, April 8, 2010

Second Chance at The Big Dance

After taking a much needed and overextended break from my rigorous and demanding life as a blogger, I’m proud to say that I’m back. To give you an idea of how long it’s been since my last blog entry, consider this – since you last heard from me, Apple has finally made the iPad available to the public, KFC has released their plan to murder everyone in America, and Ricky Martin has announced that he likes kissing dudes on the lips. Or something like that. In other words, it’s been way too long since my last blog entry and I’m sorry. Let’s just try to forget about it and move on. (Ricky Martin kissing dudes on the lips, I mean.)

Many of you came to this blog in the past three weeks in hopes of finding some of the most in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the NCAA Tournament you had ever seen in your life. Even now, I’m sure many of you are dying for my analysis and insight concerning the inner workings of March Madness. While I would love to tell you about how I spent what should have been my last game on the Ohio State bench in a hotel room barfing my brains out, I’m guessing that after discussing my bout with diarrhea in my last blog entry, you’ve probably read more about my dysfunctional digestive system than you ever wanted to. In all honesty, if I hadn’t already been puking uncontrollably, our heartbreaking loss to Tennessee would have done the trick. It was a tough way for me to end my “career” and I really don’t think I’ve coped with it well enough to talk about it yet (which is another way of saying “if you want to read about my experiences in this year’s NCAA Tournament, buy my book when it comes out next year”). If there was a positive to come from the loss, though, it’s that I was freed from the shackles the NCAA has had on me for the past four years the moment JP Prince shoved his arm into The Villain’s face and forced The Villain to miss what would have been the game tying three. Now that my “career” is over, I can do things I previously wasn’t able to do because of ludicrous NCAA rules. Things such as go on an all expenses paid trip to the Final Four courtesy of Axe.

Remember when you were 10-years-old and all you wanted to do was give your friend a powerbomb by jumping from the roof of your house onto a trampoline below? (No? Well, maybe you should just stop reading my blog.) And then remember how your mom flipped her Michigan when she saw the trampoline close to the house and you climbing a ladder to the roof? Well, as it turns out, despite what you probably thought at the time, your mom wasn’t going crazy because she was jealous of how big of a badass you were. She was actually going crazy because as you were climbing the ladder she recalled a Dateline special from three years earlier about how some Owen Stout kid from New Jersey died because he was backyard wrestling. Nevermind that Owen and his feeble-minded friends jumped from ten feet higher than you planned on jumping, not to mention the fact they substituted an incredibly stable trampoline with a flimsy folding table. Your mom was set in her ways and refused to let you be the envy of everyone in your school, no matter how many times you explained to her that you were going to lay a bunch of mattresses at the base of the trampoline in case you accidentally bounced off. As you put the trampoline and ladder back where you found them, chances are you mumbled something under your breath about how badly your mom sucked and how you wished you could have powerbombed her from your roof. But even though you may have hated your mom, it doesn’t change the fact that all the blame you placed on her should instead have been redirected toward that idiot doucher Owen Stout. After all, it was his one screw-up that ruined it for everyone else.

My point in telling that completely irrelevant and drawn out story is that it almost exactly describes my feelings toward Axe deodorant (up until this past weekend, of course). In high school, I was a strapping young gent in peak physical condition who would conquer rival teams through an incessant use of my silky smooth J and then turn around an hour later and make love to any and all women who thought they had what it takes to swim with The Shark. Following each of my impressive displays of manliness on the basketball court, I would be faced with a rather unfortunate stench permeating from my man parts, which would seriously hamper my displays of manliness off the basketball court (if you know what I mean) if the situation was not attended to in a swift manner. Because of this, I would apply a couple pumps of Axe body spray to my areas of importance after getting out of the shower. This was a common practice among my peers and didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. But then I went to college.

(Note: I may or may not have made a handful of false claims in that last paragraph.)

Much like Owen Stout (hate that guy) ruined backyard wrestling for all of us cool kids who weren’t complete idiots, my roommate during my freshman year at Ohio State ruined Axe deodorant for me. My dorm featured a bedroom I shared with one roommate that was directly attached to a bathroom I also shared with the same roommate. Throughout the duration of the year, my roommate (we’ll call him “Jason”, mainly because that’s his name) would wake up for his 7:30 am class some time around 6:30, take a quick shower, and then cake on his Axe body spray, presumably because he thought it was bug spray and he was planning on backpacking through the Amazon Rainforest later in the day. This would be particularly annoying for me because my class didn’t start until 10:30, which meant my alarm came 3 hours too soon and contained just a little bit more body spray than I had hoped. After an entire year of Jason’s overuse of body spray resulted in my lack of sleep, it became burned in my mind (and nostrils) that Axe body spray was sent to America by the terrorists in hopes that it would make us all hate each other. Three years later, I decided to give Axe another chance, mostly because they offered to pay for my entire trip to the Final Four, but also because I know what it’s like to have been dumped in the 7th grade, which is to say that I know what it’s like to beg for a second chance. I gave Axe the second chance I never got in 7th grade and they absolutely made the most of it.

My trip to the Final Four began when a chauffeur arrived at my apartment on Friday afternoon in a Ford Explorer. As I walked downstairs, I felt like Kevin McCallister and started salivating in anticipation of my very own cheese pizza. Sadly, this was not to be. I was instead greeted with a few bottles of water and a cup full of peppermint breath mints, which I’m pretty sure are the exact opposite of a cheese pizza. I honestly thought all drivers provided cheese pizzas for their clients, or at the very least a tub of ice cream like the one Preston got in Blank Check, so you should understand why I was shocked to learn that movies aren’t always accurate depictions of real life. Still, as much as I may have wanted to channel my inner Evan Turner and do the whole “Do you know who I am?” prima donna routine, I bit my tongue and decided to try to make the most of the experience.

I eventually arrived in Indianapolis around 8 pm and met a representative from Axe, his friend, and my brother at a downtown restaurant. This is the point in the story where I could discuss what I had to eat and drink, but that’s boring and is in no way even half as interesting as me talking to our waiter about the text messages Tiger Woods sent to his porn star mistress (I would link you, but the texts are extremely vulgar – you have been warned) and then subsequently asking the waiter how he feels about golden showers. Anyway, during the dinner I noticed a private room in the restaurant that was almost exclusively full of tall black guys. I tried my hardest to not stereotype, but a room full of 6’10” black guys screams “basketball players” about as loudly as a room full of 12-year-old Asians screams “spelling bee” (remember – it’s not racist if it’s a compliment). My stereotypical assessment of the men in the room turned out to be an accurate one, except the basketball players were all seemingly middle aged, which is something I didn’t originally notice. Because I pride myself on being a basketball historian of sorts, I spent the next few minutes trying to figure out who exactly was in the room. Apparently the former basketball players weren’t all that great because my brother and I couldn’t figure out who any of them were. In fact, the closest we came to figuring someone out was deciding that one guy either had the first name “Michael” or the last name “Thompson”, but we were 100% sure it wasn’t Mychal Thompson. So yeah, it’s safe to say that there were a ton of basketball legends in Indianapolis on this particular night.

After dinner, we made our way to some nightclub that surprisingly enough didn’t feature a professional athlete carrying a loaded weapon or making it rain (unless you count me and my jumpshot – that thing is always loaded and ready to make it rain). The lack of firearms made me seriously question the potential of having a good time in this nightclub, but all of my doubt was immediately erased the moment I noticed that there was another basketball player in the club who is arguably more talented than me. Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not like I changed my opinion of the club (I’m calling it a bar from now on, only because the more I write “in the club”, the more I get 50 Cent songs stuck in my head) solely because I saw former Maryland standout Greivis Vasquez walk in. That would make me some kind of Maryland basketball groupie (like Scott Van Pelt). No, I realized that this bar was capable of producing a good time because I not only saw Greivis Vasquez, but I also saw the absurd amount of Affliction clothes he was wearing and the unfortunate-looking female he was dancing with.

After watching Greivis dance with what I originally thought was one of his teammates for a few minutes, I felt an obligation to help him out a little bit. While there was nothing I could do to help him not look like he was dressed to challenge Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, there was something I could do to help him quit dancing with what looked like a combination of Pizza Face and Lori Beth Denberg. I tried to distract him from his dancing partner by introducing myself as a guy who used to play basketball for Ohio State. He continued dancing and said something like, “I love Ohio State and I love Evan Turner.” I responded with, “You obviously don’t know Evan Turner”, but I don’t think he heard/comprehended what I said. His lack of response told me that he didn’t care what I had to say and just wanted to focus on dancing with this chick (although it looked more like he was wrestling a grizzly bear). I figured that there was nothing I could say to change his mind, so I did the next best thing and bought him some alcohol. That way he could at least convince himself that he was dancing with a good looking girl. Lord knows he wasn’t convincing anybody else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also met another big name college basketball player later in the night. Matt Bouldin, who was a senior for this year’s version of the Gonzaga basketball team, brought his distinctive mop top to the same bar I had been at all night. I introduced myself much like I did to Vasquez, by saying I played basketball at OSU, ya know, just so it was clear that I wasn’t some crazed fan. He asked me if I knew “that trillion guy” to which I replied, “I am that trillion guy!” He then gave me a one armed embrace and became visibly excited that he got to meet me, which was really awkward because I was probably more excited that I got to meet him. I mean, the guy allegedly dated Taylor Swift, which, rumor or not, is an accomplishment in its own right (I’m still kicking myself for not asking if the rumor was true). Anyway, Matt Bouldin wasn’t dancing on any girls who were below the acceptable attractiveness level (read: he wasn’t dancing with middle linebackers), so there’s really nothing bad for me to say about the guy. Even if I did have something bad to say about him, he reads my blog, which gives him total immunity as far as I’m concerned.

The following night, the same Axe representative, his same friend, my same brother, and the same me went to the national semifinal games at Lucas Oil. Axe clearly has a higher opinion of me than they probably should, which is something that became strikingly obvious as soon as the Axe guy handed me a $400 face value ticket. Even though our seats were great, they were still a little further away than I was used to watching basketball games from. But when I went to see one of my assistant coaches (who was sitting in the 400 level of the stadium) in between games and saw Robbie Hummel from Purdue sitting a few rows ahead of him, I realized how awesome my seats really were. That’s because Robbie told me he was sitting in the seats that were provided by the NCAA for whatever awards ceremony he was in town for – an awards ceremony that one Evan “The Villain” Turner (not to mention Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds) was also in Indy for. Robbie informed me that The Villain gave his tickets to the Hummel family because he didn’t want to come to the games, presumably because someone told him that I had a much better seat than he would have had. In case you don’t think this is a big deal, let me throw this analogy your way. A benchwarmer scoring much better tickets to the Final Four than the national Player of The Year (30 rows up vs. 400 level) in the same sport is like the high school kid at your local auto repair shop getting a lower level 50-yard line ticket to the Super Bowl, while Mad Mike from Pimp My Ride could only score a ticket in the nosebleeds. I trust you now understand how big of a deal this really was.

The coolest part of Saturday night, though, came after the games were over and our group of four went to a popular downtown cigar bar. After hanging out in said bar for about thirty minutes, the manager of the bar came over and informed our group that former Ohio State great, Jim Jackson, was going to stop by soon (the manager of the bar was friends with the Axe guy – it’s not like he walked around and told everyone in the bar when celebrities were making a visit). I’m pretty confident the manager of the bar didn’t know that I played basketball at Ohio State, because when Jim came into the bar, the manager brought him over to our table and introduced him to everyone in our group (had he known I played at OSU, he would have known that I had met Jim Jackson 100 times before). Still, I meet Ohio State legends all the time and every one of them has no idea who I am. This time, however, was different. As Jim Jackson turned to shake my hand, something triggered in his mind that he had already met me 100 times and it prompted him to say, “How have you been?” How have you been? He didn’t ask me how I currently was doing. He asked how I’ve been. This means he didn’t want to just know about my present state, but he also wanted to know about everything leading up to my present state since the last time we talked. This marked the first occasion of me meeting an Ohio State legend for the umpteenth time and them remembering me. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been introduced to Greg Oden? I still don’t think he knows who I am and I’ve been friends with him since 8th grade. (What’s worse is that I’ve been introduced to his penis one more time than I ever wanted to. Thankfully, his penis doesn’t know who I am and, by the grace of God, I pray it never will.)

After Jimmy (that’s what I call him now that we’re BFF) left, the Axe guy and his friend commented on how cool it was that Ohio State basketball is kind of like a fraternity in that we all know each other really well even though we’re generations apart. I don’t exactly remember how I responded to this, but I’m guessing I shrugged my shoulders as if to play it off like it was no big deal and then said something along the lines of, “Yeah it’s pretty much like that every time I see a former OSU player.” In reality, I was absolutely stunned that Jimmy knew who I was (or more accurately knew that he had met me somewhere before, but just couldn’t place where). I felt an excitement rush over me that I hadn’t felt since the Christmas of ‘96, when I opened an odd looking box and found a Starter pullover jacket inside, which (as I’m sure you remember) was something everybody in school absolutely had to have if they wanted to be taken seriously. I may have been a pledge for four disrespectfully strenuous years, but thanks to Jimmy Jackson, it appears that I’ve finally been fully accepted into the fraternity that is Ohio State basketball. I say we throw a kegger and invite some sorority chicks over to celebrate.

Even though I’ve technically been turned loose by Ohio State and the NCAA, I’m still going to try to make this blog as family friendly as I possibly can, which is why I refrained from telling the really juicy stories from this past weekend (especially the one involving cocaine, a dead hooker, cinderblocks, and a lake on the outskirts of town). The only real change I’ll make to the blog now that I can say what I want is that I’ll comment on things I previously wasn’t allowed to comment on (like how badly I want to kick Ted Valentine in the groin). Also, I might use words like “nippletickler” every now and then. But for the most part, I want to stay family friendly, so I apologize for not divulging more information on my weekend (I’m saving those stories for the book – sorry but it’s smart marketing, or “smarketing” as I like to call it). Still, I had the chance to meet and re-meet some big names in the world of basketball and I also received confirmation that I’ve got more pull than The Villain, as evidenced by the fact that my ticket to the Final Four games was much better than his. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend.

I know this blog entry may seem like an endorsement for Axe, but I can assure you that I have no contractual agreement whatsoever to mention them or their products at all. I do, however, feel an obligation to mention that they showed me an awesome time this past weekend. Not only was I wined and dined like I’ve never been before, but it was also revealed to me that Axe was founded by a black man who actually wanted the company to be called “Ask” [citation needed]. Apparently the white guys working for him misheard him every time he told them his idea for the company name, and after awhile it stuck. I guess you learn something new every day.

In all seriousness, I had a fantastic time to the point that I genuinely feel bad for hating Axe three years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the one scent of Axe body spray that made me lose hope in humanity during my freshman year of college, but I definitely think my overall perception of Axe has completely changed. I’m guessing many of you have similar horror stories about someone who wears way too much Axe body spray, and you’ve developed a hatred in your heart for Axe because of it. I know your pain. But I’m here to tell you that sometimes all it takes is giving someone a second chance for them to show you that you had them wrong all along. Especially when their second chance involves $400 Final Four tickets, $50 steaks, and all the peppermint breath mints you could handle. I really don’t give two Michigans what your feelings toward Axe are (I swear I don’t have to endorse them) or whether or not you feel an urge to go buy their products. All I’m saying is that I spent most of 7th grade begging for a second chance that never came and even to this day I wonder what might have been (honestly, I think she might have been the one). And if I can change my outlook on a deodorant company that I swore sold weapons of mass destruction developed by Al-Qaeda, I don’t see any reason why my 7th grade girlfriend can’t find it in her heart to give me the second chance I never got ten years ago.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting your call, Alicia.

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Many of you have expressed your concern about the future of this blog and rightfully so. I haven’t exactly made it clear what I plan on doing with it now that my benchwarming career is over, so I completely understand why the Trillion Man March is in a frenzy. Rest assured, the blog will be around for a very long time. I won’t go into great detail right now about what I plan on doing with the blog (mostly because I’m going to write about it in the next blog entry), but I felt like it was important for me to stress that you have nothing to fear. I’m not going anywhere.

With that being said, all of you who were on the fence about whether or not you wanted to buy a Club Trillion shirt should no longer be nervous about the possibility of your shirt being irrelevant three months from now (at least not as irrelevant as it would be if I shut the blog down). The shirts are selling like something that sells really well (Chipotle burritos? iPads? internet porn subscriptions?) and have been featured on some really sweet websites such as Uncrate and ClubTrillion.com, so I suggest you make sure you aren’t the only one in the Trillion Man March without one. Do yourself a favor and get yours now by clicking here.

By the way, many of you have probably noticed that the ordering process for the shirts has changed (but the redonkulously soft material HOMAGE uses to make my shirts hasn’t changed one bit) and the charity the shirt sales previously benefited appears to have been cut out of the equation. I will go into more detail as to why this is in the next blog entry, but for now, you should know that a portion of the shirt sales are still going to benefit A Kid Again, a local charity aimed at enhancing the quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses. The reason all of the money is no longer going to A Kid Again is partially because I have a buttload of student loans to pay off, but also because I plan on starting a scholarship exclusively for walk-ons across the country, and I’m going to use the shirt money to lay the foundation for it. I’ll explain it all in more detail in the next blog entry. For now, go buy a shirt, help a great cause, and become the coolest person in your circle of friends. ___________________________________________________

I’m sad to report that the two NCAA Tournament games I attended produced zero one armed embraces. This means that the final total of one armed embraces for the year comes to 46. But when I throw Matt Bouldin into the mix as an honorary embracer, even though we didn’t actually play Gonzaga, it boosts it to 47. Not a bad season.

One Armed Embraces: 47 to date (7 in postseason, 0 last game, 1 honorary) ___________________________________________________

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

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

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder