Athlete blogging done right: Mark Titus' Club Trillion

When it comes to athletes and social media, the experts in the area preach about education. Athletes must be educated on what they should say and what they really shouldn't share. Often times—at least on blogs—their language is cleaned up to the point that it lacks any kind of distinguishable voice. So, what happens when you play things a little bit more loose? When the athlete actually writes and sometimes comes dangerously close to going a bit too far? Mark Titus of Club Trillion gives us an idea of how athlete blogging could be done, and its potential effect.

From Pete Thamel's great New York Times article (free subscription required; shorter registration-free blog post here):

He is so popular that student sections in opposing arenas hold up signs and chant his name, and the Ohio State star Evan Turner admits that Titus is the most popular player on the team.

And what's so appealing? The blog title itself hints at Titus' style and sense of humor:

trillion is basketball slang for a player entering the game and not recording any statistic other than minutes. That leaves the box score with 12 zeros, or a trillion, and Titus’s followers are known as the Trillion Man March. (People have actually booed him for getting a rebound and ruining his potential trillion.)

Athletes, teams and the marketers they work with could learn a great deal from Titus, who doesn't consider himself a journalist, but more an entertainer. His take: "Here, I have some stories and jokes to go with them."

Titus' approach to blogging may not work best for everyone but its impossible to deny the fact that his style has been successful. Here are three things other athlete bloggers and those who direct them could learn from Mark Titus.

1. Show some humility

It's cliche and attempted frequently but rarely accomplished: show the fans that you're just like us. It may be slightly easier for Titus, who's probably closer to you and I than some of his teammates when it comes to athletic prowess but the truth is, he isn't 'just like us. He travels all over the country with future professional athletes, watching major college hoops from courtside seats.

Still, an example of humility:

On Saturday, our record dropped to 7-2 as we lost to Butler in what many people were calling “The Battle of The Burg”.  By many people, I mean that absolutely nobody referred to it as that until I typed it out a few seconds ago.  The reason the game was dubbed as such is because it featured two alums (err…featured one alum and involved another) of Brownsburg High School in Gordon Hayward of Butler and yours truly.

As a fan, I want to know what the athlete thinks about themselves. I want to know that they're not an arrogant hologram devoid of any personality. I want to see strengths and flaws. This includes owning a teammate is some 2k.

2. Have a voice

As I mentioned earlier in this post, it's too often athletes' original thoughts are watered down in PR speak. For example, take a look at the opening paragraph on the most recent post on Kevin Durant's blog:

What’s good everyone? We had a good win at home last night against the Bobcats. We did what we were supposed to do on our home court, now it’s time to take get back to work on the road.

Really? We hear enough of this talk in postgame press conferences and read the quotes in the gamers, a blog is an outlet to express thoughts exactly as intended. Now, this must be a bit guarded (no bashing officials), but if an athlete is going to use the same language and tone used with the media, what's the point?

Now, not every athlete (or any?) is as talented as Titus when it comes to writing but polishing an athlete's post—if that is what is happening, as opposed to simply writing it for them—shouldn't dissolve it of any flavor. Clean up the grammatical mistakes (when necessary) but leave what makes it unique. And if you are writing the posts for them? Don't. It's as simple as writing an email. It takes 20 minutes, tops, to write a three paragraph posts containing an athlete's thoughts after a game. For the insight this gives fans, and the implied desire to stay connected, it's well worth that time.

3. Blur the line

Blogging is becoming increasingly popular, obviously. More and more athletes are using blogs as a means to market themselves. We've seen this rushing tide before, with sports blogs. And what happened? Not only did these bloggers need to develop a voice, but become a bit edgy and at times controversial. I am by no means advocating for athletes who stir up controversy and distract their team from winning games. As an aside, let's look at an example of this 'blurring' in one of Titus' posts:

After dropping a game to Butler last week, we’ve bounced back and won our last two games by 30 and 16 points.  Our first victory came against the Presbyterian Blue Hose and even though they might have the single greatest team nickname in sports today, I think everyone can agree that their nickname would be much cooler if “hose” was spelled differently.  Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of a prostitution ring being the backbone of the Smurf Village economy is much more interesting than some blue tube your grandmother uses in her garden to water her geraniums.

And Thad Matta lets this go. Sure, there are times when someone will step in (the compliance office, for example, when he posted a teammate's GPA), but if those in charge have a general understanding that the blog author won't do anything completely idiotic, they should give them a very loose leash.

To wrap this up, teams and organizations need to utilize talents like Titus. Every organization may not have a Mark Titus but it's very possible they can find at least one player who can give fans a transparent, humorous and opinionated look at the innerworkings of the team they worship. But if they're not giving fans a unique and entertaining perspective, its effect will be much more limited.

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