Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ten Levels of Fame

Many of you have asked me in the last week or so how my tryout with the Harlem Globetrotters went, but unfortunately I signed a confidentiality agreement and I don’t want to write about it until I know for sure what I can and cannot discuss. I was obviously going to blog about the experience, but the confidentiality curveball took my material away from me, which is why I had the two week layoff. Sorry.

Following the tryout, I took a mini vacation (cause that’s what unemployed college graduates do, I guess) to Charlotte, where I hung out on Lake Norman, and made so many jokes about Charlie St. Cloud every time I saw a sailboat that the people I was with probably thought I was trying just a little too hard to mask the fact that I couldn’t wait to see the movie (no comment on whether or not this is true). After a few days in Charlotte, I traveled back to my hometown of Brownsburg, Indiana to mooch off of my parents and hit on the high school girls at the local movie theater (and maybe catch the 7:40 showing of Charlie St. Cloud???). While I was in Brownsburg, I made a routine stop at Goodwill to pick up some staple items (like sweet old school t-shirts), only to find a Club Tril shirt hanging on the $1.99 rack. My immediate thought was that this was a sign of how irrelevant I’ve become, but as I thought about it more I realized that, yeah, it really is a sign of how irrelevant I’ve become.

Following the massacre of my ego, my family and I embarked on a journey to nearby Danville, which is where I spent the first 12 years of my life before moving to Brownsburg. After giving my fiancĂ©e my glory days tour (I once hit nine HRs in a 12 game Little League season – extrapolated to a MLB season, that comes out to over 121 steroid-free homers. If you ever want the rest of the tour, just let me know), we headed over to my favorite restaurant in Danville, Dave’s All-American Pizza & Eatery. When I walked into the restaurant, the owner (who coincidentally is named Dave) immediately healed my bruised ego by telling me what an honor it was for me to be there as he handed me a Sharpie and asked me to sign a basketball hoop. I was so honored by his being honored that I obliged and wrote my name with “Go Bucks!” all over his IU backboard. I’m guessing he wasn’t very honored with that.

Being the F-list internet pseudo-celebrity that I am, I have encounters like the one at Dave’s every now and then, and it always turns out to be the highlight of my day. As cool as it is, though, the fact remains that I’m obviously nowhere near as famous as someone like, say, Zac Efron, star of Charlie St. Cloud (in theatres now!). And before I was an F-list internet pseudo-celebrity, I was Greg Oden’s unknown friend who would walk around with Greg on campus and marvel at the absurd amount of attention he was given every time he was in public. It really was a crazy experience just to hang out with Greg, if for no other reason than to see how people reacted to him when they saw him. As we drove home from Dave’s, I thought about how weird it is that the hot Indian chick from Top Chef was in Glitter with Mariah Carey. But then I thought about my freshman year and realized that getting asked for a single autograph at a restaurant in rural Indiana isn’t even close to the attention Greg gets on a daily basis. That’s when I got the idea for this blog post.

After thinking about all the time I’ve spent with people who are much more famous than you or me, it has become clear that a person’s fame or celebrity can be measured not only by how many people know who they are, but also by the reaction of their fans when they are spotted in public. Keeping that in mind, I decided to outline what I think are the different levels of fame based on reactions in public, beginning with the most subdued and escalating to borderline orgasms. This list is kind of a work in progress in that I didn’t exactly give it that much thought, but then again it’s not a work in progress at all because I doubt I make any adjustments to it after I publish it. Still, I think it’s a much more descriptive and informative system than the letter list thing (A-list, B-list, etc.) and it’s how I will forever measure celebrities from now on. If you have a suggestion on how I can make the levels better, let me know in the comments section and I’ll probably either disregard it or agree that it’s a good idea but not do anything about it. With that being said, here is my proposed system for measuring celebrities, henceforth known as the Ten Levels of Fame.

Note: I know, I know. Doing this kind of thing makes it seem like I’m trying to be Simmons. I sort of agree, but I don’t care. This is something I’ve thought about way too long to not write about, so if it makes me look like a copycat so be it. Besides, I’m not a real writer (I’m just a guy with random thoughts and a laptop), which is another way of saying I don’t really care that much if it looks like I’m imitating real writers. Plagiarism obviously isn’t cool, but using a similar concept of establishing levels for things shouldn’t be that big of a deal. If it really bothers you that much, you can suck it. Seriously.

LEVEL ONE
Recognize, but can’t place it

This is a pretty self-explanatory level that obviously is the lowest of the Ten Levels of Fame. These people tend to be the most annoying, because if I can’t figure out where I know them from it will bug me for much longer than it probably should (see: my former classmate with three testicles). I always enjoy it when people treat me like a Level One celebrity (I’m not saying I’m not), because someone asking, “How do I know you?” is basically an open invitation for me to try to convince them that I’m famous for completing the Aggro Crag in world record time and having a brief but passionate affair with Mo shortly thereafter.

My Example: Local car dealers (or any other local business owners) with awesome commercials (like Bob Rohrman in Indianapolis)

Note: I just realized that this whole thing pretty much makes no sense because a celebrity can be a huge deal to one person and not really matter all that much to another, so it’s impossible to definitively classify a famous person using this method (I also just realized that I’ve been using italics a lot lately, but that isn’t important right now). This means that the Levels are entirely subjective and can be applied by an individual to a celebrity however they see fit. What’s more, most of you probably would never have a Level Nine or Level Ten reaction (we’ll get there soon) because they are pretty much reserved for tween girls, so basically this entire thing is ridiculously flawed. I love that I couldn’t figure this out before I got this far. Oh well. I’ve put this much work into it, I might as well keep going. If nothing else, you get to witness the train wreck that is my thought process and see a sweet YouTube at the end of it all. And you can be almost guaranteed to see more italics. So there’s that.

LEVEL TWO
Recognize, can place it – don’t do anything about it

Being a Level Two celebrity is kind of a backhanded compliment. On the one hand it’s cool for the celebrity to be recognized by the everyman, but on the backhand it’s a slap in the face that the everyman isn’t fazed at all by the celebrity’s presence. I guess there are a few reasons in which a non-reaction doesn’t necessarily mean a slap in the face, though. For instance, if the celebrity is a regular at a restaurant or (more likely) a bar, the other regulars probably don’t have quite as intense of a reaction as they did when the celebrity made his/her first appearance. Think about it. If you went to a Golden Corral in New York every few weeks, the first time you walked in you’d probably have some sort of reaction when you saw Eddy Curry sitting at a table by himself. But when every time you come back, he’s always sitting at the same table with the same combination of fried chicken and ice cream in front of him, you will eventually stop noticing him altogether.

Still, even though there are a few exceptions to the rule, the general idea behind the Level Two celebrity remains unchanged. These are the people that you see in public, know exactly who they are, but either don't respect them enough or aren’t really fans of their work enough to even begin to care that they’re 20 feet away from you.

My Examples: Local newscaster/weatherman, Howie Mandel’s soul patch (please, for the love of God, don’t acknowledge that thing – it will only encourage him to keep it)

Note: I told you there would be more italics. Also, you might be saying to yourself, “It’s possible to recognize someone, respect them and be a big fan, but still not want to do anything about it. I don’t see the point in talking to celebrities or asking for autographs cause they’re just people and I refuse to put any of them on a pedestal, no matter how famous they may be.” Damn. I never thought about that until right now. It’s safe to say this whole system sucks. Maybe I should have given this some more thought before I just started blindly typing.

LEVEL THREE
“Big fan”

Level Three celebrities are the people whose work you enjoy so much that you feel like you should let them know that their efforts are appreciated. This is usually accomplished by simply saying, “I’m a big fan” or “Love what you do, keep it up”, although it can also be accomplished by flashing your jugs and shaking them violently (my personal favorite). Really, anything that lets them know they’re doing a good job.

This level is most likely the celebrities’ favorite level, because it requires no effort on their part but still manages to sufficiently stroke their ego. A Level Three reaction also happens to be the maximum reaction many fans will give a celebrity, which is yet another reason why this system isn’t exactly working like I hoped it would. Whatever the case, Level Three celebrities are important because they serve as inspiration for you and me. Sure they’re famous/well-known, but they probably aren’t that famous, which suggests that if we had one halfway decent idea and got a little lucky, maybe we could be Level Three celebrities too.

My Examples: Non-superstar college athletes, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor (the character, not Tim Allen), the Crazy Frog Brothers

Note: Since I’ve already established that this is all entirely subjective, the examples I am giving are examples that apply to me. In other words, the people listed above are people I would treat as Level Three celebrities, even though you might be a huge Tool Man fan and think of him as a Level Six. By the way, I promise I won’t do italicized notes after every level. I just wanted to make the example thing clear, because this is all pretty confusing for me. Which is sad because these are my thoughts, so I can’t even imagine how confusing all of this is for you.

LEVEL FOUR
Try to get to know them personally

This level is inspired by some of the reactions I’ve seen from people upon meeting Greg and/or Evan “The Villain” Turner. These people would do the “I’m a big fan” routine, but instead of going on their way, they would prolong the conversation by asking questions about the celebrity’s personal life. I have no idea whether this is an attempt to get some inside information about the celebrity or just an attempt to get to know them better so they can in turn relate to them better. Either way, it’s funny to see a handful of guys that Greg just met try to figure out his feelings toward Arby’s Horsey Sauce or whether or not he really thinks Trina is, in fact, the “Baddest Chick.” Although, now that I think about it, I actually do want to know Greg’s thoughts on both of those things. Maybe it isn’t that funny, after all.

My Examples: Matt Stone and Trey Parker from South Park, the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite, the Old Spice guy

Reminder: The examples are how I view these celebrities. You may rank them higher or lower as you see fit. And I swear one of these times I’ll stop using italics at the end of the levels. When I have to clarify things as much as I already have, it’s probably a strong sign that this Levels of Fame thing isn’t working very well.

LEVEL FIVE
Autograph/Picture

Level Five is perhaps the most debatable of all the levels just because of the nature of it. There is a large group of misinformed fans out there who seem to always think a particular person is a much bigger deal than what they really are, which explains how some people who I think should be only a Level One or Level Two celebrity jump all the way up to Level Five with other fans. This also explains why I’ve signed autographs for many of you, even though at my popularity peak I should have been no higher than a Level Four for people who read my blog and a Level Two for people who don’t (by the way, I now consider myself a Level One or Level Two for people who read the blog and a complete unknown for people who don’t).

Usually the people who mess up the interpretation of Level Five are little kids, but every now and then adults ask for autographs from people who really aren’t that important (again, I know this because some of you have asked me for an autograph). I can’t say I’m completely innocent of this, but in recent years I’ve certainly tried my best to not make this same mistake. But then again, autographs and pictures might mean more to some people than they do to me, so who am I to tell you to not ask for them? After all, as my 10-year-old neighbor likes to remind me after cheating in whatever game we happen to be playing, it’s a free country and you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.

My Examples: Farva from Super Troopers, Sam Elliott’s mustache, John Stockton, Samuel “Screech” Powers, Maury Povich

LEVEL SIX
Autograph/Picture followed by call/text to friends

Level Six is obviously a lot like Level Five with one small yet very important difference. The call or text to friends may not seem like much, but in reality it’s a very big deal. It insinuates that the celebrity you just met is so important that someone, anyone, needs to know right now. Usually the phone call or text is made in an attempt to make the friend on the other end of the line insanely jealous, and usually the friend on the other end of the line acts like he doesn’t care even though he absolutely is insanely jealous. This is the first level in which fans begin showing signs of freaking out over the celebrity (that’s why I made it the first level on the second half of the scale – maybe I do know what I’m doing after all), as evidenced by the fact that most of these phone calls begin with, “Dude…guess who I just met!”

By the way, have you ever met a celebrity that you thought was a very big deal and called your friends right after you met them, only to find out that your friends have no idea who you’re talking about? This has happened to me a couple of times and it honestly makes me question my friendships. I once went to a taping of The Jerry Springer Show and met Steve Wilkos after the show. I convinced him to Ric Flair-chop me, since I was in Chicago for Wrestlemania XXII and after he did it, I called a handful of people to brag about the incident. None of them knew who Steve Wilkos is and a couple of them didn’t even know who Ric Flair is. Needless to say, I stopped talking to every one of them.

My Examples: Vanilla Ice, Jared Allen, Jeff Gordon’s Rainbow Warriors, Rune Glifberg and his “Christ Air” from Tony Hawk Pro Skater

LEVEL SEVEN
Fear

The word “fear” suggests that Level Seven is comprised of celebrities who literally terrify us. You know, celebrities like Marilyn Manson, Ray Lewis, and Greg Oden’s penis. While that’s certainly an aspect of Level Seven, there’s more to it than that. The “fear” in Level Seven is meant to predominantly be a non-physical fear. You can be scared for your life because Ray Lewis just walked into your favorite Chipotle or you can be scared of contracting cocaine-laced gonorrhea (that’s the worst kind of gonorrhea) from shaking Lindsay Lohan’s hand, but you can also be hesitant to talk to a celebrity because you’re scared you will completely embarrass yourself. That’s the kind of fear I really mean here. The fear that you are so insignificant to the celebrity that there is absolutely nothing you can say to them that will make them even halfway care about you. The fear that makes you realize no matter what you say the famous person, you’re just going to end up hating yourself after you’re done talking to them.

The inspiration behind this level is derived from whatever preseason tournament we played in this past basketball season that was held in Madison Square Garden. As we were warming up for one of one of our games, I got sidetracked from my usual routine of intentionally airballing shots in hopes I’d hit our managers standing under the basket in the face with the ball (I don’t think I can ever fully explain how much fun this was for me) because I noticed Bob Knight sitting at the commentators’ table (he was calling our game for ESPN). I’ve already mentioned that I grew up in Indiana, so you should already know that Bob Knight is like Gandhi to me except, ya know, Gandhi never physically assaulted people (but Gandhi also never lead the Hoosiers to three national championships). I stopped screwing around and thought about how I should approach Coach Knight. I played out all sorts of scenarios in my head and every single one ended with him saying, “That’s great but I’m trying to work here so go warm-up and let me do my job.” After over 10 minutes of psyching myself in and out of talking to him, I decided to just go for it, because I figured I’d hate myself more if I passed up the opportunity to meet one of my heroes. I introduced myself and told him I grew up on the west side of Indianapolis and was a diehard Hoosier fan before IU sent him packing. He surprisingly responded by saying, “Well I tell you what, if I were still coaching at Indiana you’d be playing for me and not Coach Matta.” I told him he was absolutely right, shook his hand, and then tucked my erection under my waistband as I returned to the layup line.

I wasn’t scared to talk to Bob Knight because he has a history of being a short-tempered, fiery personality who chokes and smacks his players. I was scared to talk to him because there was a slight chance that one of my heroes would make me feel like I completely wasted his time, which would consequently destroy an enormous chunk of my childhood. Also, I was scared to talk to him because he has a history of being a short-tempered, fiery personality who chokes and smacks his players.

My Examples: Bob Knight, Charles Barkley, Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Hanks, Snoop Dogg, Borat, Garth Brooks

LEVEL EIGHT
Paralysis

As hard as it is to believe now, the truth is that I was 6’4” in 8th grade and haven’t grown at all since (so pretty much the exact opposite of my former high school teammate, Gordon Hayward). It’s one of the more depressing things I have to deal with on a daily basis. Being the beast of a little kid that I was, I always played center on all my basketball teams until I got to high school. When it came time for me to pick an NBA player to look up to, I naturally wanted to pick a center, but my only local option was Rik Smits and as cool as he is to me now, 8-year-old me wasn’t exactly a huge fan. I instead decided that I wanted to be Shaquille O’Neal, if for no other reason than he could tear down basketball goals with his dunks. I tried to model my game after his, I changed my jersey number to 34 when he signed with the Lakers (and have kept it ever since), I spent most of my childhood crying when the Magic/Lakers lost in the playoffs, and I even bought all of his CDs and movies. I was as big of a Shaq fan as there’s ever been.

Over the years, I saw Shaq play a handful of times and even got to sit right behind the Lakers bench when they played the Pacers one time. It was obviously very surreal for me to sit behind the bench and see a hero of mine up close, but I never really appreciated the magnitude of the experience until five or six years later. Fast forward to last October, when the Cavs had signed Shaq and were playing a preseason game in our arena in Columbus. For whatever reason, I completely forgot what day the game was supposed to be played and was surprised to see a few Cavs and Celtics players stretching and lifting in our weight room as I walked into the arena for practice. As I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, that game is tonight”, Shaq emerged from around the corner and almost brushed shoulders with me as he walked by. It was without question the most surreal moment of my life. All those childhood memories flashed in front of me – knocking Jordan out of the ‘95 Eastern Semis during Jordan’s comeback year, the Kobe-to-Shaq lob against the Blazers in 2000 that capped the greatest comeback I’ve ever watched live, Game 4 of the 2002 Western Finals, and trying to justify Kazaam as a good movie to my friends. It all came rushing back. And here I was standing five feet from the guy with nobody else around. Sure I’ve been close to him before, but that was during a basketball game. This was different. This was just everyday life. If ever there was a time for me to talk to him, this was it. So what did I do? Nothing. I couldn’t. I was truly and utterly paralyzed. I stopped dead in my tracks and just watched him walk by, trying to take it all in without really knowing for sure what “it” was.

That’s the meaning behind this level. These are the celebrities you see and don’t have time to process what’s going on because the moment is too surreal. Even if you are aware of what’s happening, you still don’t want to disrupt whatever it is the celebrity is doing because you just want to enjoy the moment. It’s kind of hard to understand unless it’s happened to you, but hopefully that makes some sort of sense to somebody.

My Examples: Shaq, Larry Bird, Jay-Z, George Strait, The Dude

LEVEL NINE
Need to touch

I got the idea for Level Nine while watching a YouTube of Michael Jordan running into the crowd to save the ball. As he made his way back to the court, seemingly every fan in the first five rows hurried over to try to touch him. That’s it. Just pat him on the back or reach out and touch his arm. That’s incredible to think about. This guy is so famous that people push each other out of the way just so they can tell all their friends they touched him. No wonder all these athletes have sex with so many women. The ladies literally can’t keep their hands off of them.

My Examples: Michael Jordan, any US President, Pam Anderson’s breasts

LEVEL TEN
Touch produces some sort of dramatic emotional feeling

It can be hard to distinguish the difference between Level Nine and Level Ten, but this is it – you touch Level Nine celebrities so you can brag to all of your friends, but you touch Level Ten celebrities for yourself. You feel the need to touch these people because doing so will somehow complete you. Sure you’ll probably still brag to your friends, but that’s not why you ultimately did it. You touched the celebrity because you had to. Because the celebrity represents something bigger than yourself. Or something like that. I think. I don’t really know because the highest reaction I’ve ever given a celebrity is Level Eight, so I’m kinda just guessing here.

Level Ten reactions are pretty much reserved for tween girls who act like they’re getting their cherries popped when those Twilight vampire dudes touch their hands, but it’s also perfectly plausible for a grown, mature adult to have a Level Ten reaction. “Dramatic emotional feeling” doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be crying, convulsing, and screaming at the top of your lungs. It also means getting chills or being overcome with the magnitude of the moment. For example, I’m guessing that for most black people (and many other people too) President Obama is a Level Ten celebrity because of the obvious tremendous importance he has in the entire African-American community. And rightfully so. Level Ten is for people who will be in history books hundreds of years from now. People like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and apparently Robert Pattinson. Oh, and don’t forget about Zac Efron, star of Charlie St. Cloud, the heartwarming tale about a young man being forced to choose between family and love.

My Example: Steve F’ing Perry

Note: Yes, I do know how many sexual jokes could be made about how the last two levels involve touching. I chose to omit them an attempt to get my point across, which is why the last two sections where relatively short. In retrospect, I probably should have just included the jokes.

After re-reading everything I’ve written up to this point, I’m convinced the Ten Levels of Fame makes as much sense as Usher’s logic in “Confessions Part II”, when he tried to place the guilt on his boo/girlfriend after he impregnated another women he barely knew. “I hope you can accept the fact that I’m man enough to tell you” is going to be my opening line for every confession I make in my future marriage. “I hope you can accept the fact that I’m man enough to tell you that I just a bought a wrestling ring for the backyard. Since you found out from me first, you can’t be mad. It’s the Usher Rule.” Seems like a perfect strategy to me.

Even with a few major flaws (just thought of another one – I didn’t take into account how you might react when you see a celebrity you don’t like. My head now officially hurts), I still like the Ten Levels of Fame as a way for measuring how famous celebrities truly are, probably because I’m the only one who understands what it means. If you don’t take it too seriously (why would you take anything I write seriously anyway?), it’s really not that bad of a system. The best case scenario is that you’ll think it’s the most riveting and intellectually stimulating thing you’ve ever seen in your life. Worst case scenario, you think everything you just read was a complete waste of your time. Either way, I don’t care because I can take comfort in knowing that at least I figured something out through all of this – I’m never writing nearly 5,000 words about celebrities ever again. Also, I think I really want to see Charlie St. Cloud. ___________________________________________________

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to my by Daniel M. There’s your shout-out, Daniel. And here’s your video.

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

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder

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