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Club Trillion: Intimate look into OSU benchwarmer-turned-blogger’s life

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“You have read this first sentence of the first blog, so you might as well just keep reading.” — intro to Club Trillion, October 24, 2008.

For a guy who doesn’t like writing, Mark Titus has made quite the life out of it.

The former Ohio State basketball benchwarmer, whose witty and juvenile Club Trillion blog gave fans a peek at locker room antics and propelled him to national relevance a decade ago, continues churning out college basketball content imbued with sarcasm, now as a national correspondent for The Ringer.

You’d think he had it all planned out, some sort of creative-writing prodigy intent on leveraging a hobby into a foothold in an ultra-competitive industry. Far from it.

Born and raised in Indiana, Titus was dreaming—like any self-respecting Hoosier—of being a star basketball player.

He couldn’t have imagined even staying in Columbus after college (he hadn’t stepped foot on campus before attending Ohio State in the fall of 2006), much less steering Club Trillion into a career alongside Bill Simmons, creator of The Ringer and a sports blogging and podcasting godfather.

And beneath the affable facade, he battled crippling depression that dragged him to the brink of suicide—something he kept hidden from friends and family until just three years ago.

Getting off the bench

For Titus, introducing Club Trillion—an homage to benchwarmers who record 1 minute played, followed by a bunch of zeroes where statistics should be—was about having a creative outlet, not necessarily about being a writer.

He enjoys much the same creative leeway under the tutelage of Simmons as he did as an amateur blogger. Titus is a college basketball writer for The Ringer, an eponymous website and network of podcasts fusing sports and pop culture in the same effortless way Titus managed to do as a 21-year-old math major with no journalism experience.

Living in Hilliard and traveling occasionally to Los Angeles (where The Ringer is headquartered), Titus spends his time watching college basketball and then writing or talking about it on his One Shining Podcast—a play on the One Shining Moment theme to college basketball’s March Madness tournament – which, in classic Titus fashion, skews more toward sarcastic commentary.

You always write what ya know, which means Titus manages to weave in Ohio State and Columbus perspectives into his work for The Ringer. He signs off every podcast with a “Save the Crew” shoutout. When his college coach, Thad Matta, was let go from Ohio State in June 2017, Titus shared his disappointment in the story, “Thad Matta Didn’t Get the Goodbye He Deserved.” And there was Titus’ riveting story, “Oden on Oden,” about his close friend Greg Oden’s injury-plagued career.

It’s the sort of work that makes clear Titus is a legitimate journalist. It can’t be surprising to loyal Club Trillion followers. He’s a damn good writer, with natural flow and effortless humor.

Sidelined

Even as Titus settled into his role as comedic relief for the nationally ranked Buckeyes squad, there was always more to the affable blogger than what the public—and even family, friends and teammates – could see.

In March 2015, he disclosed in a Reddit AMA “Ask Me Anything” that he had been dealing with crippling depression since he was about 16 years old. He had gained about 50 pounds after college and his marriage almost crumbled. It was a secret known only to his wife.

Titus today says he realized something was seriously wrong when he first contemplated suicide at 21, the height of his fame and college antics.

“The first time I put a belt around my neck, I was like, this is bad,” Titus recalls, more matter-of-factly than as if sharing something deeply personal.

It’s hard to tell if he might tear up or crack a joke. It’s sort of jarring to hear from the guy who’s written so many laugh-out-loud things.

“I started pulling and then I got to a point where, like, I couldn’t breathe and then I just, like, started crying, and let go and fell to the floor,” he says. “And I just started sobbing. And I went to sleep. And then I woke up the next morning and went to basketball practice and, like, was cutting jokes in the locker room. And then when I went home that night I was like, the last 24 hours I’ve had – that’s a problem, there’s a problem there.”

It was Robin Williams’ suicide in August 2014 that led Titus to finally take the burden off himself. And those closest were caught off guard.

“I was beyond surprised,” recalls Oden, a star at Ohio State and Titus’ friend since childhood. “I mean, one of the first things when that came about was me and Coach Matta had a conversation and we both was worried, you know, because we at first really couldn’t tell, or did not know, any of that stuff. It wasn’t on the surface.”

Depression is still a part of life, Titus says, but he’s in a pretty good spot, able to call his dad or brother to talk through things. It’s been like climbing out of a hole.

“And I’m at the point now in my life where I’m out of the hole. I’ve walked, like, 10 miles away from the hole, but the rope is still around my foot,” he says. “It’s just something you kind of have to live with and know that it’s there.”

Suburban life

Titus is 30 now. He’s in better shape. He’s anchored in Columbus with his wife, and has friends from Ohio State close by. He’s still involved with A Kid Again, the charity for critically ill children that was the beneficiary of thousands of dollars of Club Trillion T-shirt sales.

Titus can’t hazard a guess at what his career might hold. He’s more of a day-at-a-time kind of guy, no Uncle Rico reminiscing about his Ohio State days—“once was plenty,” he laughs.

“I’m very happy with being 30 years old and living in the suburbs, as crazy as that sounds,” he says. 

The words of a man now writing his own narrative.

“So now that I kind of have a grasp on all that, I don’t really want to lose [it], you know, like, go back and be a 21-year-old who’s like, what am I going to do with my life?”

Listen to Titus chop up the basketball world on One Shining PodcastFor more, visit theringer.comHis autobiography, Don’t Put Me in Coach, is available on Amazon.

By  / Originally appeared in (614) Magazine March 2018

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Liven up your green space for Earth Day

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The first few breezes of fresh spring air are reminders for how rejuvenating green is after a season full of snow, coats and blankets. Grand ambitions for gardens start to grow as well. But without a plan, many of the intentions for a yard full of blooms can fall into neglect.

To help any aspiring plant parent make the most of their budding green thumbs, Franklin Park Conservatory Supervisor Win Fox shares his wisdom for how to nurture plants both inside a living space and out in a garden.


Think about space and lifestyle

When thinking about what kinds of plants are most suitable for a living space, the first consideration is the window location. Plants need certain amounts of light, so northern or eastern-facing windows are better suited for low-light plants, while southern or western windows can sustain plants that need a bit more sunshine.

Photos by Brian Kaiser

Second, think about the actual amount of space available; the fiddle leaf fig—a crowd favorite, according to Fox—isn’t going to fit on a table, for example. “You’ve just got to make sure you have space for it because that’s a tree,” Fox said. “We have one at the conservatory that fills up our whole Palm House practically. It’s 60 feet tall.”

Finally, Fox says thinking about how much care you are willing to dedicate to taking care of plants is important. There are plants, like the ZZ palm, that only require watering every now and then. But he says that once someone starts working with plants, they’ll only get more involved. “It’s one of those hobbies that, once you get the ball rolling, you can’t really stop.”

Be an attentive, but not a helicopter, plant parent

Although some garden centers will advise plants be watered at specific intervals, say, once a month, Fox says knowing when to water is more based on what the soil looks like. Soil should never be bone dry, but if you stick a finger into it when the top layer is dry and feel some dampness underneath, you can probably wait a day or two to water. Alternatively, the plant’s soil shouldn’t always be wet because then it could rot or even drown.

Fox recommends keeping plants on top of a saucer in a ceramic planter, which allows the plant to breathe, with a drainage hole on the bottom. A decent rule is that in the winter when plants aren’t growing as quickly, they need less water, whereas in the summer they might need more. 

Additionally, first moving a plant from the store to a home can cause the plant stress. Garden centers, for example, tend to be more humid and have more light, compared to the dryness and darkness of a house, particularly during the winter and early spring. 

“Your plant might start to exhibit some signs of stress right away, and you think you’ve done something wrong,” Fox said. “Then you changed the environment again, and it’s still not doing better, and you kind of lose hope.”

When people ask him what’s wrong with their plants, Fox says his frequent advice is to be patient. “[The plant] has just, you know, been through a lot right now.”

 Want to start a garden? Many of the same rules apply

As in picking a house plant, deciding on a concept for a garden also means factoring in lighting. Summer annual vegetables have high light demands, so Fox says the garden needs southern exposure and at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. 

Soil is the next consideration. Here in Ohio the soil has a lot of clay, which means people tend to amend theirs with compost or other organic material to ensure it has enough nutrients for the plants to thrive. With that in mind, Fox also said new gardens will tend to have enough nutrients in the existing soil to grow. 

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Start seeds early, and keep them hydrated once they’re outside
Fox says plants available at garden centers starting in May are typically good options for a beginner garden. Tomatoes and summer squashes like zucchini are great for the warm season, but Fox even recommended trying out fall squashes like pumpkins and butternuts. For those wanting to branch out a bit, Fox says at the conservatory they like to grow okra and beans, though those are prime target for bunnies and groundhogs.

If you want to start with your own seeds in the future, early spring is the best time to get those planted and growing in a sunny windowsill. Starting seeds early gives them time to germinate, sprout, and grow a few inches before it’s time to move them outside in May, once the chance of frost has passed. In contrast, cool season vegetables like cabbages and broccolis can go in the ground in March. 

Unlike house plants, the transition from inside to outside won’t cause as much stress to garden plants. They’re less finicky and tend to be happy in the ground, says Fox. 

The key to a successful planting, though, is to water immediately after the sprouts go in the ground and every day for a couple weeks until the roots expand into the surrounding soil, while monitoring for wilting, Fox said. 

“You’ll be tending to them in their little pots, and they’ll have nice roots down in your potting soil, and they’ll be happy all the moisture’s going to be trapped in there.” Fox said. “Once you get them in the ground, that will stress them a little bit…. Your soil is probably going to draw moisture away from the root zone.”

Keep the animals away

Gardeners have a wide range of innovative strategies to keep their plots animal- and bug-free. Fox says small fences work for rodents, groundhogs rabbits, and a bigger fence, if possible, will also keep away deer. 

There’s also a strange variety of repellents. Some use garlic and other spices and oils like cinnamon and clove. Some people use products that contain dried blood, which elicits a fear response in animals. Others hang aluminum pans that clang when the wind blows, or they’ll snag hair clippings from a local barber shop or salon, stuff those in pantyhose and make the garden area smell as if people are around.

Figuring out how to keep plants alive can seem like a daunting task, especially for those with a dismal history. But Fox says he and the horticulture team at the Franklin Park Conservatory are ready to give advice on keeping plants healthy and happy. 

“If you’re looking for inspiration to anybody who’s looking to get into gardening, we’re a great place to stop by and our horticulture staff will be […] happy to answer any questions that you may have.”

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers gardening classes for kids and adults and several plant sales throughout the year. Visit fpconservatory.org to more information.

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TBT: CPD didn’t “Take it Easy” on Eagles’ Glenn Frey

Mike Thomas

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The Dude may not be a fan, but the fact remains that the Eagles are one of the biggest rock acts of all time. How big, you ask? Their greatest hits album was the best-selling album of the 20th century in the US, and is certified 38x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

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If you found that figure shocking, you might also be surprised to learn that Eagles frontman Glenn Frey was once hauled in by Columbus Police on charges of drug possession and public intoxication.

Knowing the dim view that “the man” took toward marijuana in 1973 (the year of the arrest) we can assume that Mr. Frey was probably shackled for little more than a puff or two on a backstage doobie.

Happy 4/20 and rest in peace, Glenn! Sorry our city’s police force harshed your mellow way back then, and thanks for all the “peaceful, easy feelings” your tunes have given us through the years!

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Serenity now! 614 interviews Jason Alexander ahead of Cbus performance

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If you’re expecting a stand-up comedy routine from a frumpily-dressed Jason Alexander full of jokes about soup and shrinkage and Festivus, move on.

Alexander’s still getting laughs. But, they’re a different kind as he returns to his roots as a Broadway show performer, taking his singing, dancing, piano-playing, storytelling routine across the country with a pops-style show that will arrive in Columbus this month. Alexander will join the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to tell the story of his life on the screen and stage.

(614) recently had the delightful opportunity to speak with the Tony Award-winning actor about the show, his love of poker, and the influence of George Costanza on our culture in 2019.  

(614): “An Evening With Jason Alexander” comes to the Ohio Theatre on April 27. What can our readers expect from
the performance?

JA: (Chuckling.) I’m only laughing because I’ve been doing this for about three years, and that’s always the first question! So “An Evening With” is a pop show that I’ve been doing for about three years all around the country. I know most people may not immediately think of me as a singer if they know me from my roles on television, but it is a more-or-less autobiographical journey through my love affair with music from the Broadway stage.

Some of it is things that I’ve performed on Broadway, some of it is not. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is just great music. It’s a slightly different show in that, although there’s a symphony orchestra up there, it does feel like an intimate evening. There’s lots of storytelling, and at one point in the show I bring about seven people up on the stage—and they are truly not plants, I pick them at random—and they wind up performing a number with me.

How does preparing for a role like this where you’re appearing as yourself differ from a performance where you’re appearing in character?

The preparation is all emotional. I went into performing because I was a really shy kid, so I was able to hide in plain sight. I could be with people, be out in front of people, and I was always more or less hiding behind some character. I’ve always said the five worst words for me in the English language are, “Ladies and gentlemen—Jason Alexander.” That usually scares the hell out of me! That means I have to go out there and be myself. 

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The beautiful thing about this show is the preparation was all in creating the show. If you’re going to go in front of people and take their time and present yourself as an entertainer, what story or stories do you want to share, and how do you want to play with an audience so they have a
very full and very rewarding time? That was all the hard part. In the actually getting up and doing it, I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been playing with some of the best orchestras in the country, so when I’m up there I’m generally having a pretty good time. If I’m not, something’s gone terribly wrong. 

You’ve made a name for yourself in the competitive poker world, even appearing in the main event at the World Series of Poker. How did your interest in poker begin?

Almost everybody in my business bumps into poker at some point, because if you do theater and movies, there’s a lot of down time. More often than not, somebody will say, “Hey, let’s play some poker.” But it was around the time that the celebrity poker shows started in the early 2000’s that I remember being invited to be a player on a televised poker thing, and my publicist represented [professional Poker player] Phil Hellmuth at the time, and he said “Hey, I represent this professional poker player, would you like a lesson?” And I said, “What the hell. The guy calls himself a professional poker player. Let me go see who he is.” After about ten minutes my head was spinning. I realized there was so much about this game I did not understand, never knew, would never understand. But I became fascinated with it. 

It is such a rich game in that there are so many ways you can play it. You can play it as a mathematical player, you can play it as an instinctual player. It is an actor’s game because you are always making impressions about yourself at the table, always trying to understand the impression other players are making. I’m so fascinated by the game, but my fascination does not, unfortunately, mean that I am good at it. I am entertaining at the table, I generally know right from wrong, but sometimes right doesn’t work, and even knowing wrong I have proceeded to do the wrong thing time and time again. It’s kind of like life, you never stop being surprised and learning more about it. 

I also meet amazing people at the poker table, fascinating people that I would never otherwise meet. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years and I work in the entertainment business, so I don’t often meet guys who are driving buses in Cleveland, Ohio, or work in accounting firms in Wyoming, but at the poker table you meet people from every walk of life.

For nine seasons in the 90s, you played the iconic role of George Costanza on the classic sitcom Seinfeld. What lessons can George teach us in 2019, or where in our modern culture do you see the character’s influence?

Well, if I am to believe social media, the president is making a lot of George-isms. The one that keeps being tweeted at me is, people believe the president may be subscribing to the Costanza philosophy of “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” I am afraid, unfortunately if you want to be serious, that the sort of selfishness and short-sightedness and narcissism that George Costanza was certainly guilty of may have infected a lot of our modern culture right now, and to nobody’s good, I’m afraid.

Jason Alexander will perform at the Ohio Theater on April 27th at 8 p.m. For tickets information, visit columbussymphony.com/events.

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