Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sinking In Coldwater

This weekend I traveled two hours northwest to play in the 10th Annual Buzzard’s Glory Wiffleball Tournament in what I refer to as my adopted hometown of Coldwater, Ohio. Last year, when I was at least semi-relevant, I threw out the first pitch for the tournament after having the time of my life with the locals the night before. As soon as I saw the first game of the tourney last year, I vowed to come back and actually play this year, if for no other reason than the trophy was sweet and I thought it would totally make my ex-girlfriends jealous if a picture of me holding the trophy was my Facebook picture.

For the 3-on-3 tournament, I decided to recruit my older brother, Ryan, to my team because he’s the consummate utility man, which is my way of saying he still regularly plays wiffleball with the neighborhood kids whenever he visits my parents. We rounded out the team by adding my friend, Keller, who came with me to Coldwater last year and begged me to let him on the team cause he’s “seriously jacked and could probably crush the s**t out of a wiffleball.” While that may have been true (I later found out that it wasn’t), the fact that he looks like a younger version of Patrick Cox, founder of TaxMasters, concerned me that maybe he wouldn’t be able to cover ground all that well on defense (I later found out that he couldn’t). This meant I would have to play a pivotal role on the team, which wasn’t a good sign considering the last time I played baseball/wiffleball, I was stuck in a dilemma over whether to impress the 6th grade babes by wearing Michael Jordan cologne or Curve cologne (Sidenote: I distinctly remember one of my 6th grade classmates swearing to me that there was a chemical in Curve cologne that was scientifically proven to sexually arouse girls. This has nothing to do with anything, but is funny nonetheless, especially because the same classmate still honestly believes every September will be when Tupac finally comes out of hiding). Still, even with our general inexperience, we were very confident that we would wreak havoc on the town of Coldwater with our wiffleball prowess.

The wiffleball tourney coincides with an annual weekend community festival and is always held on the Saturday of the festival. Last year, Young Patrick Cox and I went to Coldwater on Friday, resulting in a long night out on Friday and what felt like a very early morning Saturday morning. Because we were playing in the tournament, we decided that this year we were going to leave for Coldwater on Saturday morning instead of Friday night, in hopes that we would dodge the late night that would have undoubtedly hampered our performance on the field the next morning. We would save the partying for after we won. This was serious business for us. The locals were there to have a good time and then maybe play a little wiffleball. We were there to achieve total domination in wiffleball and then maybe pillage the town, rape all the virgins, and set the place on fire. Cause that’s just how we roll.

Our plan to intimidate our competitors began when we got dressed Saturday morning and came to the conclusion that nothing would strike fear into the hearts of the other team quite like three guys wearing old school NBA jerseys. Knowing this, I decided to bust out my Shaq jersey from his days on the Magic and I let Ryan and Young Patrick Cox borrow my Tyus Edney-on-the-Kings jersey and my Calbert Cheaney-on-the-Bullets jersey, respectively (admit it – you’re impressed I have Tyus Edney and Calbert Cheaney NBA jerseys. Also, I swear I wrote this entire blog post before I came across this on Deadspin. I don’t exactly know what to make of it, but I do know that I’m proud of my collection and refuse to stop wearing old jerseys). Our intimidation scheming continued when we were about 30 minutes away from Coldwater and decided to deliberate over what song would most effectively set the tone when blasted from the car speakers as we arrived. We settled on “What’s My Name?” by DMX, because, as intimidating as it would have been, for some reason none of us had Clay Aiken’s “Invisible” on our iPods. When we were about 10 minutes away, Young Patrick Cox suggested we listen to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” over and over to get us pumped up and we agreed it was a good idea, mostly because the similarities between an underground rap battle in Detroit and a wiffleball tournament in rural Ohio are too obvious to be ignored (fun fact: In “Lose Yourself”, Eminem kinda rhymes “globetrotter” with “cold water.” We thought this was a good sign for us). As we approached Coldwater, we knew our plan for intimidation was solid, even if our heavy reliance on basketball jerseys and music made it a little too much like High School Musical. In retrospect, maybe we should have just taken a few Alka-Seltzers and made it look like we were foaming at the mouth. After all, if it intimidated Spike Hammersmith & Co., there’s no way it wouldn’t have intimidated a handful of wiffleball players.

Unfortunately, when we eventually arrived at the tournament we were forced to park at least 100 yards away from the field, which meant absolutely nobody would have heard the DMX combination of yelling and barking coming from our car. Not a good start for Project Intimidation. To make matters worse, as we walked toward the field, our competition looked less like they were scared and more like they were thinking “who the hell are these guys?” In truth, we were the ones who were starting to get nervous, which was a sign that maybe we were taking this just a little bit too seriously. But none of that mattered because any nervousness we may have had was gone as soon as I crushed the ball out of the park on the very first pitch of our first game.

Yes, you read that right. I was the first batter in the top of the 1st inning and went yard on the first pitch. It very well could be the crowning athletic accomplishment of my life. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, my brother batted after me and hit a home run on the first pitch he faced (sorry, I was hoping the italics would trick you into being even more impressed). Then, to complete what might be the greatest stretch of wiffleball ever played, Young Patrick Cox batted last and hit a towering home run ON THE FIRST PITCH HE FACED. Just kidding. He let 6 or 7 pitches go by before hitting a swinging bunt that rolled right to the pitcher for the first out. Disappointing, I know. After Young Patrick Cox’s dismal effort, everything went downhill for us. I got on base with a single and then my brother popped out to end the inning (we only played 2 outs per inning). We then gave up five runs in the bottom half of the inning, thanks largely in part to a grand slam that I had a chance at robbing. Other than my home run in the 2nd and Young Patrick Cox’s homer in the 5th, our bats went cold pretty much the rest of the game and we could never recover from our opponent’s barrage of runs in the 1st inning. We eventually lost 7-4, but since the tourney was double elimination, we still had a chance at the title if we could somehow come out of the loser’s bracket by stringing together 8 more victories. In other words, it was not looking good for us.

Shortly before our second game, it began raining pretty heavily, which lead to way too many jokes about how it was my fault because I’m supposedly “Mr. Rainmaker” (most of the jokes admittedly came from me). We tried convincing ourselves that this somehow was an advantage for us, even though it absolutely wasn’t an advantage at all except for the fact that we wouldn’t be forced to play any more games in the rain once we inevitably lost our next game. Anyway, we won the coin toss for the second game and decided to bat last. The top of the 1st inning proved to be the defensive compliment to the top of the 1st in our last game, as we got our two outs on just two pitches. Unfortunately, the bottom half of the inning went almost as quickly, with both my brother and I getting two outs in a row. The entire second inning was much of the same, with both teams laying goose eggs (not literally LOL) and failing to even get a hit. The game was shaping up to be quite the defensive struggle. And then the 3rd inning happened.

Let me first say that it’s impossible to point the finger at any one person on our team for giving up nine runs in the 3rd inning. Sure Young Patrick Cox was pitching, but it’s slow pitch, so it’s not like he could have done much more than lob the ball towards the plate. And my brother and I couldn’t have really done much more in the outfield because the other team basically just alternated hitting slow grounders and home runs. Whatever the case, for a long stretch in the 3rd inning our opponents went on a tear and relentlessly scored run after run while we were helpless to stop them. Every time they scored another run, it hurt a little bit more knowing that we were about to get eliminated. In fact, I hadn’t been perpetually upset like that since R. Kelly kept releasing a new “Trapped in The Closet” song seemingly every day. Each run represented a new chapter to the dumb R. Kelly saga, only instead of being reminded about some irrational cheaters caught in intertwining love triangles that I didn’t care about, I was reminded of the fact that I’m kind of a douche for taking this tournament so seriously and getting destroyed two games in a row.

(By the way, if you’re life depended on it, what would you take if the over/under was set at 20.5 for the total number of “Trapped in The Closet” songs made by R. Kelly? Hint: You’d die if you said under. That’s absurd.)

As sweet of a story as it would be for me to say we came back and won the game, eventually won the tournament, and I was named both MVP of the tourney and King of Coldwater, in reality the exact opposite happened. We were demoralized after their onslaught of runs in the 3rd and failed to get on base the rest of the game, which means, if you’re scoring at home, the opposing pitcher threw a perfect game against us. In slow pitch. Wiffleball. Even worse, I wasn’t named MVP or King of Coldwater. We lost two straight and were bounced from the tournament before we could even break a sweat. We were so disgusted with ourselves and embarrassed to show our faces that we just grabbed our participation shirts and left without thanking the people for inviting us or at least saying goodbye. Does this make us bad sports? Yes, yes it does. (Let this be a lesson kids – don’t leave home without sportsmanship.)

I guess the most disappointing part of the weekend was that since we were slaughtered so badly in the wiffleball tourney and consequently pouted our way back to Columbus, we missed out on the rest of the festival (including the hilariously awesome donkey plop game that involves people betting on where a donkey will take a poop) and a night out with the fine people of Coldwater. The phrase on our wiffleball participation shirts that reads “This is Coldwater: Love it or leave it” is all you really need to know about these hard-working, but even harder-playing, patriotic people. While I’m disappointed we pretty much got buttraped in this year’s wiffleball tourney, it’s encouraging to know that these people have the same values and same respect for our great country as I do. Next year I plan on soaking up the entire weekend festival experience, while hopefully doing much better in the wiffleball tournament (I can’t decide if I need to take it more or less seriously). Either way, it’s not that often that you find a town full of great people like Coldwater, which is why I’m so proud to call it my (adopted) hometown.

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Obviously this week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which is clearly a big deal to someone like me who has nicknamed themselves “The Shark.” As awesome as Shark Week is, this week has taken on a new importance in my life because I’m trying out for the Harlem Globetrotters on Thursday. In case you missed it, I wrote about how I got drafted a little while ago, but I had no idea of what my next step would be. Now I know. I’m flying out to Long Island on Wednesday and will do my best to impress the Globetrotters with my overwhelming mediocrity on Thursday. I tell you this not because I want you to wish me luck, but more because I’m letting you know that this blog is about to be much, much more fun for me to write. Stay tuned.

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Your awesome YouTube has a Globetrotter feel to it (I know it’s more ABA than Globetrotters, but just go with it) and was sent in to my by Elliott B. There’s your shout-out, Elliott. And here’s your video.

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

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder