Friday, January 8, 2010

Talkin’ The Talk

Whether we do it as a way to compensate for our shortcomings or we do it because we genuinely do hate our opponent, every one of us who has ever played a sport past the age of 12 has felt the need to trash talk at some point in time (except for Muhammed Ali, obviously). In reality, trash talk is something that transcends sport and is really part of any type of competition, from high stakes things like the World Series of Poker to not-exactly-high-stakes things like Flavor of Love. Not coincidentally, the height of my trash talking career came during the height of my basketball career, some four years ago when I would give up 23 points but consider it a defensive success because I scored 27. These days, though, having been relegated to the bench has caused me to change my trash talking approach. I don’t have a direct impact on the outcome of the game and therefore think it’s inappropriate for me to trash talk with guys who do have a direct impact on the game. Instead, I’ve found that it’s more widely accepted (and, frankly, more fun) to talk trash with a group of people who also have no direct impact on the game. I’m talking, of course, about the opposing team’s fans.

The Big Ten likes to pride itself on having the best fans in America, so much so that one school (can’t exactly remember which one) goes as far as to say it has “The Best Damn Fans In The Land.” What makes the basketball fans (read: the student sections) in the Big Ten so good, as far as I’m concerned, is that they do their homework. When we played in East Lansing a couple years ago, Michigan State students knew things about my girlfriend (at the time) that I barely knew. Indiana students knew that I airballed the last shot I took in my high school career. Illinois students knew that I used to be a basketball manager at tOSU, even if it was only for a week. And Northwestern students knew the Clausius theorem of physics, which has nothing to do with basketball but is impressive nonetheless. My point is that student sections in the Big Ten take the time to research their opponent so they can optimize the effectiveness of their harassment. If you tell a player that he sucks, it really doesn’t effect him that much because he hears that all the time. But if you tell him that he was born exactly nine months after the Bears won the Super Bowl meaning that he is more than likely a product of his parents’ celebratory actions, well, then you are most definitely getting inside his head. For the most part, student sections in the Big Ten understand this. The one exception, though, is (surprise!) the Maize Rage of the University of Michigan.

I made my final trip to Michigan’s Crisler Arena this past week and upon arriving at the gym about an hour and a half before tip-off, I saw the leader of the Maize Rage placing a “Rage Page” on each of the seats in the student section. The Rage Page is essentially a scouting report for the Maize Rage that includes a laundry list of our players and a little bit of dirt on each of them. Because we had so much time before the game and because I love seeing my teammates get made fun of, I decided to pick up a Rage Page and see what the UM fans came up with. Plus, I kind of expected Club Trillion to make an appearance on the Rage Page, and as I mentioned above, I welcome any and all trash talk from opposing fans with open arms.

(Before I go any further, let me first say that I don’t get too wrapped up in the whole Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. The comments that I make about Michigan are mostly in jest, as I’ve really never had a problem with anybody from Michigan. With that being said, I’m obviously an Ohio State fan and love our recent domination over Michigan in football just as much as any other tOSU fan.)

The first thing I did when I grabbed the Rage Page was scan for my name so I could see what the Michigan fans had to say about me, which is the exact same thing each of you would have done so stop judging. Because Michigan and Ohio State have a well-established rivalry (in football, I know, but I assumed that it would still cross over at least a little bit), I figured that the commentary on me would contain a few low blows. I figured wrong. The Maize Rage decided to use two entire paragraphs to insult me, only what they wrote was more of a compliment than an insult. Here are the two paragraphs as they appeared in the Rage Page:

Tweet of the Game: Senior walk-on Mark Titus (#34) was probably being sarcastic when he tweeted ‘Did another taping for my NBA highlight video. I can say with absolute certainty that it will be the best thing I’ve ever done with my life'.’ However, when you play a total of 14 minutes in the first 13 games of a season, an NBA highlight reel is not something to even joke about (he has one point this season when he hit 1 of 2 free throws against Presbyterian).

Club Trillion: Titus really is a dream come true for authors of publications which uncover dirt on opposing players (see: Rage Page). His blog, is a great source of information on the Ohio State basketball team. He recently talked about his freshman year when he was a manager and tried really hard to be looked at as a ‘great shooter’. He wrote, ‘as my career wore on, I took on a larger role in practice and started spraying my wet jumpshot all over the faces of my teammates on a daily basis.’ He now serves as a role model to all un-athletic 3-point bombers who hope to one day make the varsity team…and subsequently ride the pine.”

In a weird way, as I was reading through the Rage Page, I almost felt sorry for whoever wrote it. I really didn’t know how to react, because I was supposed to feel insulted but I wasn’t insulted in the slightest. What resulted was an uncomfortable feeling that could best be likened to what it feels like to wear wet socks. The Maize Rage tried to attack my tweeting (which is something I take great pride in—follow me here) and my basketball skills by saying that “an NBA highlight reel is not even something to joke about.” On the contrary, an NBA highlight reel is a perfect something to joke about which is why I made one to send to every NBA team as the draft this upcoming June gets closer (hopefully it will be ready to post on the blog when it reaches 2 million hits in the next few days). The Maize Rage then went on to call me a role model for unathletic shooters who ride the bench. I’m not sure if any of them took the time to research the stuff that I put on my blog, but calling me a role model for unathletic benchwarmers is close to the biggest compliment anyone could ever pay me (only saying that I have perfect form with my Stone Cold Stunner would be a bigger compliment). As a general rule of thumb, you can’t successfully make fun of someone for something they have been making fun of themselves about for over a year. Making fun of me for being a role model for unathletic benchwarmers is like making fun of Larry the Cable Guy for being a redneck, Chris Farley for being fat, or Rodney Dangerfield for pretty much anything.

The truth is that I don’t have a problem calling out the Maize Rage because I know that I’ll never have to see them again. If I were to have called them out last year, chances are they would have bombarded me with far too hateful comments this year. Also, it seems like the Big Ten has recently implemented a sportsmanship initiative that has ultimately killed the originality of the student sections. These two reasons make it easy to see why the Maize Rage was an easy target for me. But even if it was my last game at Crisler and even if the Big Ten is cracking down on unsportsmanlike behavior from fans, the Maize Rage still put forth an effort that I haven’t seen since Doug Williams’ attempted roast of Emmitt Smith a few years back (search for it on YouTube, but be warned that there is foul language). They certainly were shackled but I don’t think that’s any excuse as to why they dropped the ball (unless Tate Forcier is the head of the Maize Rage, in which case it makes total sense as to why they dropped the ball). Other student sections in the Big Ten have found a way to abide by the sportsmanship rules, yet still deliver the goods. One that immediately comes to mind is the Paint Crew of Purdue University.

Heading into our game against Purdue next Tuesday, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about what the Paint Crew is going to put on their version of the Rage Page. When we visited Mackey Arena my freshman year at Ohio State, the Paint Crew plastered a picture of me from high school wearing a thong (I lost a bet, I swear) on their dirt sheet, which was hilariously refreshing. To this day, that is still the most impressive instance of research by Big Ten fans that I’ve come across. That’s why I’m basically using this blog entry to not only criticize the Maize Rage’s poor work, but to also inform the Paint Crew that I’m very much anticipating what they come up with for our upcoming game. If I remember correctly, last year the Paint Crew wrote something along the lines of “we really have nothing bad to say about the guy” as their dirt for me. That seems like an unprecedented thing, so I obviously appreciated the respect, but this year I’m calling for the shot below the belt. I’m counting on the Paint Crew to hilariously (and tastefully) attack my teammates and me, at least enough for me to not lose all hope in the future of Big Ten student sections. Some of you in the Paint Crew might be saying, “But Mark, I can’t hate you. You’ve never put down my school/team and you don’t even play. I can’t say bad things about someone who has never done anything to me.” I see where you are coming from, but I’m so disappointed in the Maize Rage that I’m counting on you to make up for their poor effort. If you really need a reason to hate me, consider this: PURDUE SUX. Yeah, I said it. And I meant it. Now it’s your move. ___________________________________________________

My one armed embrace attempts went unanswered by Michigan, but Indiana reciprocated three in our game with them on Wednesday.

One Armed Embraces: 7 to date (3 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 Scott H. There’s your shout-out, Scott. And here’s your video.

Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder