Memoir from memorable OSU baller/blogger goes beyond jock lit
By Scott WoodsPublished July 1, 2012
Mark Titus’s ‘About the Author’ note on the Amazon.com page that sells his first book sums it up best: “His blog (clubtrillion.blogspot.com) has recorded over 3.6 million views since its debut in late 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, the Associated Press and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He has recently attempted to enter the NBA draft and tried out for the Harlem Globetrotters. Titus graduated from Ohio State in 2010, a hero to millions.”
The former OSU basketball bench warmer has parlayed a madly successful blog about life as a pine-rider into a career as a columnist and now author with the recent release of Don’t Put Me in Coach: My NCAA Journey From the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench.
“Mark Titus knows a lot of personal secrets of mine,” wrote AAU and college teammate Greg Oden in the book’s intro. “If he revealed any of them in this book, I will kick him right in the testicles. I’m not joking.”
In anticipation of Titus’s July 11th guest appearance at the Thurber House’s Literary Picnic, (614) spoke with The Shark about writing, toeing the line between honesty and asshole-ish-ness, a new professional title, and busting balls to fit in.
What’s it like to be an author? What part of the book-writing process was different than you expected?
It was fun for me because I’ve never done it before. I just played dumb with my publisher – I actually didn’t have to play dumb; I was dumb. I didn’t really know how anything worked. But what surprised me, I guess, the most was how in-depth it was, how long it took. My book wasn’t that hard to write; it took me maybe five months to write the whole thing. There’d be days where I’d wake up and, like, write a few sentences and that would be it. If I really would’ve put forth the effort, I probably could have written it in a couple weeks, to be honest.
It didn’t take me that long to write, but there were so many steps along the way, to edit it. Send it to this guy to look at it, then another guy with the publisher, he has to look at it. And then the legal aspect – you have to get all the facts right. It took more time to edit the thing, I think, than to actually write it. So that was pretty crazy.
So your new title, technically speaking: Author. A little bit different than “blogger.”
I like that. ‘Author.’ Makes me sound like I’m prestigious or something. Anybody with a laptop can be a writer, but to be an author, you have to be somebody, right? It kind of makes me feel important, even though my book is the most juvenile book you’ll ever read. It makes me feel like I’m supposed to be smoking a pipe and have, you know, nice glasses and a corduroy jacket with patches on the elbows.
National sports writer Leigh Montville wrote in a review of your book that it was the modern-day basketball version of the infamous baseball clubhouse expose Ball Four. Do you see a connection there?
I have not read Ball Four – it’s the next book I’m going to read, whenever that’s going to be – but yeah, that’s the comparison everyone seems to be making.
The book is billed – and certainly reads – like a pretty real account of what went on behind the scenes in your locker room and practice facilities – pretty revealing stuff. As a first-time author, how difficult is it to be candid in a book like this when you’re still close with those you’re writing about? Ball Four didn’t exactly endear its author to his former teammates and coaches.
It was really tough, because I wanted to be fair to the fan at the same time. People are spending $20 on my book, I want them to feel like they got their money’s worth; that it has good stories and it was honest. Like you said, I’m friends with most of my teammates, so I didn’t want to embarrass them. I guess the way I looked at it was, I valued honesty over everything else. I wanted it to be as honest as possible. But at the same time, if a story was there just to make someone look bad, and I read it, and it really didn’t add anything or it really wasn’t that funny … then I’d take it out. I did that with a couple stories. I had people read it and tell me what they thought. (If it was) only in there to make fun of this guy, or to point out that he did something stupid … I would leave those out. But if it was something I thought was hilarious or wasn’t really that big of a deal, or added to the story somehow, or added to the experience of being on a basketball team, you know – some of the stories about me getting in fights with players – those were important to me because they show that it’s not all, you know, rainbows and butterflies. On a basketball team, sometimes guys get into it and it gets pretty crazy in a locker room.
Has Greg Oden kicked you in the testicles yet?
(Laughs) No, he hasn’t. I gave him a copy of the book. I’m not even sure he read it – I haven’t talked to him about it since I gave it to him. I told him before the book … all of the stories I was going to write and he objected to a few of them, but he did so as he was laughing … he did so in a way that was like, “I know you have to write about this but I just wish you wouldn’t.” (Laughs) So in that regard, I think he’s cool with everything.
Apart from your non-fiction career, you’re a contributing writer to Bill Simmons’ ESPN.com spinoff, Grantland. How did you get hooked up with the Sports Guy?
Someone sent him a link to my blog – this was a few years ago – and he loved it; he thought it was a funny concept. He had me on his podcast, and after that I kept in touch a little bit, just throughout the years, and he was actually really helpful. He hooked me up with an agent that got my book going. After I wrote the book, he was like, “Hey, do you want to write for us?” I said, “Yeah, I don’t have any money and I have a lot of debt.” So, that’s kind of how it happened. It’s my full-time job. I’m not sure how long I’m going to do it – they do it as a one-year contract, so, I don’t know – I’m technically a free agent.
Those of us who have read your blog or your book or your work for Grantland know you well as a prankster, someone who loves to joke around and have a good time. Who are you when you’re not behind a keyboard?
I am very introverted and very shy, which is probably surprising because it’s not the personality I portray in my blog or in any of my writing. If you really think about stereotypical bloggers, you picture a guy in the basement that, like, hasn’t seen the light of day in a week, you know? That kind of describes me. People recognize me and come up to talk to me and have all these offers for me. Even doing an interview, talking to you now – I’ve done enough where I’m comfortable with it, but it’s still just kind of weird for me. That’s probably the biggest surprise, because when you read my stuff, you probably think I’m like this party animal. I think the reason I pull pranks on people and I make jokes about people, it’s my way of like, fitting in, which is probably why I don’t make a lot of friends. When I got to Ohio State and I got on the team, that’s kind of how I fit in. I was friends with Greg, who was the best player, so that helped me, but you get in the locker room and it’s like, I don’t know any of you guys, and started busting balls and hoped it worked out for me. That’s all I know how to do.
Titus will appear as part of Thurber House’s (77 Jefferson Ave.) Literary Picnic series at 7 p.m., July 11th. Tickets are $30 for dinner and the reading, or $15 for the reading only. For more information, visit www.thurberhouse.org.