Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting Down and Derby

Although it seems like the Kentucky Derby took place months ago, it was actually only a little over a week ago when I made the trip to Louisville for the first Derby of my life (Kentucky Derby that is; I’ve been to a home run derby, a roller derby, and a demolition derby before. I also got Kirby Puckett’s autograph one time, which has more to do with a Kirby than it does with a derby, but whatever.) Leading up to the trip, I just assumed that the Derby was going to be a lot like the Indy 500, only instead of an auto race that takes over three hours, it’s a horse race that takes two minutes. And instead of the crowd being full of hard working, God-fearing, backbone-of-America Hoosiers, the Derby crowd was just a bunch of moonshine-drinking sister-kissers from Kentucky (just kidding, Kentucky!). While my assumptions were somewhat accurate, my experience at the Derby wasn’t exactly what I had anticipated and was unlike anything I have ever done in my life.

My girlfriend (Sharkette?) and I bummed a ride down to Louisville on that Friday with Jon Diebler and his friend (after four years of being a walk-on, it’s no secret that I’m an unapologetic mooching master). Upon arriving in Louisville, The Sharkette and I met up with my brother and his friends at the hotel we would be staying at for the weekend. Shortly thereafter, someone in the group decided that we should go downtown because that’s where the beer and chicks are, man. I suggested that we should instead get custom-made Louisville Sluggers, find a photography studio, and then light our bats on fire and get some killer rad pics like we’re baseball players getting our high school senior pictures. This suggestion, like pretty much all my suggestions to teammates and coaches during my tenure at Ohio State, fell on deaf ears. I suddenly began to worry that maybe the group of guys I was with didn’t know how to have a good time.

DSC_0208-550x685 Pictured: A good time

When we got downtown at around 10 pm, we headed over to 4th Street which is apparently the swankiest part of Louisville. The enormous mob of people hanging out on 4th Street served as confirmation to me that this was in fact the place to be. After all, with the exception of America’s collective head-scratching love for the Black Eyed Peas, if a large number of people like something, it’s more than likely because that something is awesome. As it turns out, 3 Doors Down was having a concert in the middle of the street, where they were indirectly prompting people to lift their beers in the air and scream “Hell yeah!” by repeatedly asking everyone how they felt (I’m still confused as to how “Hell yeah!” is an acceptable answer to that question) . Following the conclusion of the concert when some guy next to us rocked out to “Kryptonite” with an air guitar, we decided to actually go into a bar because that’s where the beer and chicks are, man. A problem arose, though, when we found out that the bar we chose was charging a $30 cover charge, as were all the other bars in the area. If you’re scoring at home, this means that it now officially costs more to get into a Louisville bar during Kentucky Derby weekend than it does to get into Lindsay Lohan’s underpants during any weekend.

Since I was with The Sharkette, a $30 cover meant that I was going to have to shell out $60 just for us to get into the place. This wasn’t happening. I instead opted to hang out in the street where we watched the concert from, for one fairly obvious reason. Earlier in the night, our group had been standing next to a particularly attractive female who was dancing provocatively while enjoying an adult beverage (beer and chicks, man!). Two guys who had been watching this beautiful baby dance from a walkway 15 feet above us decided to reward her efforts by throwing $1 bills at her. Even though their rainmaking form was seriously lacking (they basically crumpled the bills up and threw them down at the girl), the fact remains that there was free money falling from the sky and I wasn’t going to pass that up. I scooped up about $10 before the guys in my group decided to go to the bar. When I came back for round two of what felt like that phone booth cash grab game, the guys who were throwing away money were gone. I was understandably upset because had I just stayed there and not gone with the group to check out the bar scene, I could have made at least three more dollars, easy. Instead, my night was pretty much ruined as I lost out on some serious cash and was forced to smell the excessive cologne that Louisville collectively wore on this night. At least I made up for everything later in the night when I took a pee and I flushed the toilet with my foot midstream (quite possibly the greatest athletic achievement of my life).

The following day was Derby day and according to pretty much every meteorologist in the area, the forecast for the Derby called for rain with a 100% chance of party. Our group arrived at the track sometime around 1 pm and we were dropped off right in the heart of some crazy protesters who appeared to be upset with everyone in the world. Apparently these people were devout Christians who thought since God didn’t explicitly state in The Bible that “thou shalt suck down five mint juleps and stick thy tongue down thy throat of some trashy skank whose boobs keep falling out”, it’s apparently a sin to do so (who knew?). These people were holding signs that said among other things, “It’s impossible to be a Christian homo” and “You deserve hell”. While both of these signs may have been offensive to some people, I was cool with them because I’m not gay and I’ve been to Ann Arbor, Michigan many times before and survived, so it’s really not a big deal to me if that’s what I deserve. Just when I thought I was going to be able to walk past these weirdos without being offended, though, the last sign in the row said “Santa Claus is a lie”. I was fine with them being moronic bigots who claimed that people they don’t even know deserve to go to hell, but they crossed the line with their last sign. It’s like they made all their signs and then realized that they hadn’t offended kids yet, so they made one last sign to make sure they ruined the day for absolutely everyone who walked by. As a Christian, I was a little upset by these people because they give the rest of us non-psycho Christians a bad name. This must be how all the other Muslims feel about Al-Qaeda or how Albert Pujols (who has obviously never done steroids at any point in his life) feels about every other Latino slugger in the history of steroids and baseball (seriously, guys—just because they all did roids, it doesn’t mean he did too).

When we finally made it to the track, someone in the group pointed out that the tickets for the infield were $40, which means, if you’re scoring at home, it now officially costs more money to get into the infield at the Kentucky Derby…wait, I already made this joke didn’t I? Damn. With a little smooth talking and sexual favors, everyone in our group actually only ended up paying $25 each. They all thought it was because one of the guys in the group busted out his fake (yet flawless) Australian accent and convinced the guy selling tickets to lower the price for us (the ticket guy was Australian, maybe?). I’m leaning towards the theory that we got cheaper tickets because the guy selling tickets was a member of The Trillion Man March, not so much because I truly believe that, but more because I try to make everyone around me believe it every time I get something discounted.

Once we made it into the Derby, it became glaringly obvious that these so called moonshine-drinking sister-kissers were actually people who like to party (and possibly also drink moonshine and kiss their sisters). In fact, believe it or not, it was a little t0o much party for me and The Sharkette (you have no idea how badly I want people to start calling her that) to handle. Everywhere we looked there were people who were either getting drunk, were already drunk, or were passed out from being just a little too drunk. There were guys belly-flopping in the mud, girls wrestling in the mud, and people saluting me because I converted an American flag into a cape (although I tried convincing everyone with me that they were saluting cause they’re in the Trillion Man March and just really like my blog). After an hour of observing the madness, I came to the conclusion that The Sharkette and I were the only two people in the infield who hadn’t consumed any alcohol yet. Alcohol is never a necessity for me to have a good time, but when every person within a two mile radius of me is hammered and I’ve been standing in the pouring down rain for an hour, a couple of beers tend to make the situation a little more tolerable. But right after I found a beer vendor, I found the bad news on the sign hanging above him telling me that beers cost $8. If you’re scoring at home, this means that it now officially costs more to buy a beer…

As a marketing major set to graduate in a month, I know all about these pricing tactics they were trying to pull on me, which is to say I wasn’t about to get suckered into spending the equivalent of a trip to Chipotle on a single beer (I also used to be a math major, so I know all about the Mean Value Theorem, but that isn’t quite as useful of a tool in everyday life). Faced with a serious crisis on my hands, I consulted with The Sharkette and we decided that spending $50 to get to the level of alcohol consumption necessary to tolerate the rain and mud simply wasn’t worth it. We instead chose to go with an alcohol-free approach (the psycho Christian protestors would have been proud), which made us feel more out of place than a salad in Queen Latifah’s refrigerator. After another hour of watching what seemed like an orgy with clothes (barely) on, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that if I was going to spend way too much money on an adult beverage, I’d at least respect Kentucky Derby tradition and get a mint julep (for $10). I was told a mint julep was basically bourbon with a mint flavor added to it, so using reasonable logic that I like bourbon and I like mint, I assumed I would enjoy a mint julep. However, I could only stand to drink about a quarter of it before I generously gave the rest away. Like bacon air fresheners and Oreo O’s before them, mint juleps are just another example that sometimes it’s possible to combine two things I really enjoy and come up with something I’d rather live without.

Eventually, The Sharkette and I decided that the weather was so bad we would have skipped class if it were raining that hard on campus because we wouldn’t have wanted to walk in it for five minutes, yet here we were standing in it for three hours. At that point, we made the bold decision to leave the Kentucky Derby before the marquee race even took place. Sure some of you probably think I’m crazy for leaving early, but the fact is that I would have been crazy to soberly stand in the mud and rain for five hours, only to watch a two minute race from an angle that made it impossible to see what was going on. If I’m going to be crazy, I’d prefer to be crazy in the comfort of a warm and dry hotel room rather than be crazy while standing in mud next to some guy named “Tank”, who was giving himself a beer shower with his pants at his ankles. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t regret my decision to leave because my only real goals with going to the Derby were to experience the infield and try a mint julep, and I accomplished both of those. On a much smaller scale, I completely regret leaving early, only because I missed the “Australian” guy in our group do what is known as “running the gauntlet”. I could describe what exactly “the gauntlet” is, for those of you who don’t know, but I think this video of him will do a much better job than I ever could.

Proud to say my brother is the guy in the orange polo at 0:17

Although I didn’t entirely engulf myself into the Kentucky Derby infield experience (or in other words, “I didn’t get hammered, excessively muddy, and partially naked”), I think I got a good idea of what the Derby is about. My expectations for the Derby were greatly exceeded, for better and worse. The people in the infield know how to party more than I ever could have imagined, which was humbling for someone like me who thinks he knows how to have a good time. On the other hand, I was very disappointed to learn that the Derby experience is about twice as expensive as the Indy 500 experience, even though the race takes slightly less time to complete. Still, despite the awful weather, the mint julep letdown, and the lofty prices for just about everything, it was easy to see why so many people go back to the Derby year after year. It’s something all of you should experience at least once in your life (whether you go to the infield or not), only because it’s unlike any other sporting event in the world.

On the surface, it seems like the weather put a damper on my entire experience, but in reality I still had loads of fun thanks largely in part to non-Derby related things such as when the driver of the shuttle from the track to our hotel informed us that he’s tried fleeing the cops in his car on three occasions and was actually successful one of those times (he said after the cops caught him the other two times they “charged me with resisting arrest or some bull"***t”, which I thought was uncomfortably hilarious). Anyway, the Derby is a great time, even if there are way too many shirts and hats that say “Talk Derby to me”. I strongly suggest attending at least one Kentucky Derby in your life, if for no other reason than the fact that this event has been going on for almost 150 years and, as a general rule of thumb, anything that lasts almost 150 years is always worth checking out (except, of course, communism and Larry King). If you still aren’t convinced that you should go to the Derby at least once in your life, consider my final persuasive point—they’ve got beer and chicks there, man. ___________________________________________________

If you want to help build the Club Trillion scholarship fund and you’re a fan of comfortable shirts, I strongly suggest getting a CLUB TRIL shirt as soon as possible by clicking here. A large portion of the proceeds will go toward the scholarship, but some of the money will also go to A Kid Again, a local charity aimed at enhancing the quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses. If you like comfortable, stylish shirts and you enjoy helping out a great cause, there’s no reason to not get a shirt. If you don’t like comfortable, stylish shirts and/or helping out a great cause, you suck. So basically, the only reason to not get a shirt is cause you suck. The ball is in your court. __________________________________________________

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to my by Andrew T. There’s your shout-out, Andrew. And here’s your video.

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

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder