March 24, 2006
My 15 Minutes
This week's Sports Illustrated has a lengthy article about "How the Web is Changing Sports Coverage."
The piece, which centers around the culture and growing popularity of online sportswriting, focuses largely on Bill Simmons of ESPN.com and to a lesser extent Will Leitch of DeadSpin.com, who are two of my favorite writers. In fact Simmons, who is pictured below at the beginning of the article, is my singular favorite writer.
Alongside the main story, as sort of companion piece, is a half-page article and accompanying photo that looks like this:
Here's a closer look (the SI.com link to the story requires a magazine subscription to view it, so I hope Sports Illustrated doesn't mind me quoting it too much):
Cyberscribe: How a Twins nut and wannabe journalist found his niche
By Albert Chen
In the cramped bedroom of his Minnetonka, Minn., town house, Aaron Gleeman is surrounded by the accoutrements of any self-respecting sports blogger: a 35-inch television with multiple premium sports packages; stacks of dog-eared reference books; piles of periodicals; and a laptop that's aglow at all hours of the day. "I write almost entirely from bed," says Gleeman, an online baseball columnist and blogger who, on a typical day, pumps from 5,000 to 15,000 words into cyberspace. Although he seldom leaves his mattress, he might be the most prolific baseball writer working today.
A 23-year-old who majored in journalism at Minnesota but did not graduate, Gleeman is proof that in the Generation Google era, all you need to launch a sportswriting career is a working computer, a broadband connection and a supply of opinions. Four years ago Gleeman turned to the Web after he couldn't land a position at his college newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. "I couldn't even get a gig covering women's gymnastics," he says. Gleeman devoted much of his blog to his beloved Minnesota Twins. "At first I was lucky if two to three people from my immediate family did me a favor by checking the blog out," he says. "But, thankfully, since then the readership has steadily grown. And a few [readers] aren't even related to me."
The blog is, in fact, a daily fix for thousands of readers (2,500 unique visitors a day), and its success has landed Gleeman regular gigs at websites such as Rotoworld.com, a popular destination for fantasy-sports geeks, and InsiderBaseball.com, for which Gleeman writes about minor league prospects. Baseball blogs, in particular, are well-suited to the Web's around-the-clock discourse: There are games every day, off-seasons full of player movement and an endless supply of stats for analysis. Two years ago Gleeman cofounded HardballTimes.com, a site devoted to the statistical analysis of baseball that has provided a platform for aspiring writers. The site attracts more than 15,000 visitors a day and has been lauded by baseball beat writers around the country.
Gleeman, who attends a half-dozen Twins games a year but has never covered a game from the press box, says that he earns more than the average entry-level reporter at a newspaper -- and that he's not looking to get off his bed. He grew up dreaming of becoming a sportswriter at a newspaper or magazine, but his goals have changed. "If I'm in the exact same position five years from now," he says, "I'd be very happy."
I've tried to cut back on the amount of self-promotion that goes on here (really, I have), but hopefully you'll forgive my indulgence this time. Sports Illustrated is the only magazine I subscribe to and read each week, the evolving world of online sportswriting is perhaps my favorite topic of discussion aside from the Twins, and as I've written here many times Simmons is the writer whose work and career path I admire most.
To be featured in an article about "how the web is changing sports coverage" in Sports Illustrated, with my picture next to a picture of Simmons, is without question one of the proudest moments of my life. For the writer to say that I "might be the most prolific baseball writer working today" is just icing on the cake. Plus, having my dog in the picture takes some of the focus away from my many chins (in my defense, the picture was taken about 35 pounds ago).
The main article, written by Chris Ballard, contains some of the stereotyping of online writers that gets tiring, but I commend a mainstream print outlet as influential as Sports Illustrated for running it. I want to thank the writer of the "Cyberscribe" piece, Albert Chen, for turning our conversations into a fair, well-written piece. I'd also like to thank Steve Wewerka, the SI photographer who managed to get my doofus of a dog (and her doofus of an owner) pictured in one of the world's most-read magazines.