Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
- Dr. Manhattan, from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel, Watchmen
Aaron Gleeman is very pleased with himself right now, as well he should be.
I see that comment is going to require some additional explanation.
Once upon a time, Aaron Gleeman was a young man who loved to write. He loved to write so much that he did two things, not entirely unrelated: entered the University of Minnesota to study journalism, and started a blog writing, at least at first, largely about baseball. For a 19-year old kid he was pretty observant about baseball, and very well-written, and though I didn't discover his blog immediately, I did find it early enough to be a fairly regular reader. The one thing that Gleeman did better than almost anybody else in the Twins blogging world, even better than Twins ur-blogger John Bonnes, was write regularly; he could crank out piece after piece, almost machine-like. And he kept it up, year after year.
As with anyone else in life, Gleeman had his struggles and successes; unlike many people, his struggles and successes were largely compartmentalized - when it came to school, particularly advancing in his chosen major or cracking the staff of the college paper, Gleeman struggled, but when it came to being online, Gleeman succeeded, at first being invited to contribute to a growing online baseball community, and eventually taking a role in shaping that community himself by co-founding The Hardball Times. To my mind, Gleeman wasn't among the top-shelf of Twins bloggers; he didn't have the insight and depth of Bonnes or the sheer whimsy of Anne Ursu (um...I mean, Bat-Girl), but he was consistent and he was prolific, and for those reasons he forged a positive reputation for himself in the community.
When I started writing my own pseudo-baseball blog in 2005 under the rubric of John Bonnes's Twins Territory, I did what most folks starting out and looking for a kick-start often do; I mentioned a more popular person in my field as often as possible. In webcomics, this turns into a tendency to reference or make fun of Penny Arcade, one of, if not the most popular webcomic on the 'net. (Heck, even the creators of Penny Arcade did the same, poking fun at the then-most-popular geek comic, User Friendly, even going so far as to publish a comic of the cast of User Friendly decked out in fetish gear. Nice!) So the victim of my self-aggrandizement was Gleeman, whose blog even then was far more popular than mine ever was or would be. At the time, I presumed that Gleeman, based on his experience on the web and his journalism studies, would understand this; that there was no real malice or hard feelings involved, but that I needed some focus until I found my own voice and got my feet under me.
In retrospect, that didn't work out too well.
Gleeman remains the only Twins blogger I've ever met in person, at a community-assembled Blogger Night that coincided with a promotion from local educational charity Admission Possible. I introduced myself to Gleeman in the third inning, and in retrospect it's a good thing I went with friends, as the only times Gleeman and I communicated seemed to be when Gleeman had something cynical to say about then-second baseman Luis Rivas. At the time, I put it down as an attempt to be humorous, as I'd taken to defending Rivas repeatedly in the TT version of Contrarian Bias.
It wasn't until much later, in the comments section of Gleeman's own blog (which changed from Aaron's Baseball Blog to AaronGleeman.com), that I got the impression that what I thought had been good-natured ribbing wasn't really good natured, as Gleeman blasted me in the comments section of his own blog. So I guess we were never really friends, or even compadres.
Of course, Gleeman is doing a lot better now. He's parlayed his dependability into a number of paying gigs, the most current of which is writing for the newly revamped NBCSports.com. He's so pleased with the deal that he spent an entire post basically recapping how lucky he's been, and how great it is to be him over this past year. Which is cool - any time someone finds success, that's a good thing, and expecially when that success is to some degree deserved.
Set the Wayback Machine to 1996. The Internet was just beginning to create instant millionaires, and a good friend of mine had found what he expected would be his opportunity to become one. An entrepreneur in Texas had decided that what the Internet really needed was a giant shopping mall - so she had hired a number of folks, including my friend, to build the Internet Mall of America. Never heard of it? Wondering why there's no link to it? That's because it doesn't exist.
Just before my friend went down to Houston to earn what he imagined would be his internet millions, he and I had what would be the most venomous argument of our friendship; he was upset that I didn't seem happy for him that he was about to make his fortune, while I was astonished that he actually thought this pipe dream that he was chasing was going to pan out. I was disappointed in him, not excited, and he didn't get why. Later, when he finally came back from Houston, not a millionaire, he actually ended up thanking me, saying that the conversation had stuck in his mind, and ended up being one of the most important bits of insight he'd ever gotten, though he didn't care for it at the time. He also came back to a six-figure job, and was now a property-owner in Houston as well; by realizing that his dream wasn't the end of the road, he did turn the experience to his advantage, which only showed how smart he really was.
Which takes me back to Aaron Gleeman.
Right now, Aaron Gleeman is on top of the world. He's finally attained the 'life in writing' he always wanted, and is making more money at age 24 than probably about 90% or more of his peers. Of course he believes he's a success. And to a point, he's right - looking at the income and output of guys like Bill Simmons, (or even one of Gleeman's frequent targets, Jim Souhan), you realize that it doesn't actually take a whole lot of talent to be a success in the world of sports writing. Sadly, however, that kind of success is also almost ridiculously ephemeral, as can be demonstrated by Gleeman's own story - it wouldn't surprise me in the least if, in 2008, some 19 year old kid with dreams of being a professional sports writer starts up a blog, builds an audience, and ends up, in five years time, taking over for one Aaron Gleeman in the hearts and minds of the fickle sporting public.
Nothing ends, Aaron. Nothing ever ends. Except perhaps ephemeral fame.
Best of luck to you.