January 3, 2007

State of the Gleeman Address

Old man take a look at my life
Twenty-four and there's so much more

- Neil Young, Old Man

Today is my 24th birthday and this is my first blog entry of 2007, so now seems like as good a time as any for a State of the Union-type address. I realize many of you are bored by the inner workings of this blog and my life in general, but it's my birthday and the subject obviously fascinates me, so humor me. In other words, I allowed 2006 to come and go with little attention Friday--in part because I couldn't think of an appropriate way to celebrate it blog-style--but reconsidered that stance over the weekend.

I described 2006 as "the best year of my life," which in retrospect certainly seems to warrant more than one paragraph at the bottom of a Link-O-Rama entry. To see why 2006 was such a good year for me, just look back at what I wrote a year ago at this time while recapping 2005. I'll save you the details, since this recap of 2006 is tedious enough, but mainly I talked about how I "finished up with college" and "received several great writing opportunities that allow me to actually do this stuff for a living."

That's a description of what happened to me in 2005--my age-22 season, if you prefer--and in many ways it was a description of my rookie year as a professional writer. That made 2006 my sophomore, age-23 season and I'll admit to having quite a bit of fear about a sophomore slump. After all, the decision to drop out of school is a big one and not something many people agree with. Despite that, and much like Ryan Howard, my second year went much better than I ever could have imagined.

The decision to leave school was a scary one, but something I felt good about from the moment I made it. Because of the writing opportunities that were coming my way while still in school, I felt that putting college aside to pursue a writing career full time was the best move to make. That decision carried an awful lot of risk, both financially and personally, because there's not much to fall back on as a college drop-out and the vast majority of the world thinks you're nuts.

In fact, my aunt is perhaps the only person in my life who deemed quitting school a sound decision, which is ironic given her degrees from Cornell and position as Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She saw that, for whatever reason, college wasn't for me. She also convinced my mom that leaving school wasn't a downright awful move, which qualified as approval given the assortment of bewilderment I got from everyone else in my life.

In other words, I had a lot riding on these last 12 months. The year began with me starting a weight-loss plan and being featured in Sports Illustrated, and shortly after that I took a full-time position as Senior Baseball Editor at RotoWorld.com. As Opening Day approached, I was featured on the nightly news by the local ABC affiliate and profiled on Rosen's Sports Sunday. Later, as the Twins made their playoff push, I joined the staff at NBCSports.com by signing a multi-year contract.

Along the way I lost 90 pounds, started my on-air career, covered the Winter Meetings from Orlando, interviewed Ron Gardenhire, got mentioned in a Bill Simmons column, and watched as over 900,000 visitors stopped by AG.com to check out whatever I had left to say after pumping out content elsewhere. I also got business cards and a Blackberry, learned how to use an expense account, and took business trips to New York, Connecticut, and Florida (with one to Texas coming up in a couple weeks).

The year was also filled with sadness when my six-year-old Boston Terrier, Samantha, died from a brain tumor in May. Watching her deteriorate physically was by far the most difficult emotional experience I've ever gone through and it still makes me sad when I think back to what a wonderful, sweet dog she was. It can't compare to losing Sammi, but giving up my involvement in The Hardball Times--which I co-created back in 2004--was an unfortunate result of my contract with NBCSports.com.

Despite some sadness and less-than-ideal choices that I had to make, it was really one hell of a year and was made even better by the fact that I had no clue what to expect from life as 2006 began. The entry you're reading now is about how well things went in 2006 and how excited I am about what's ahead in 2007, but it could just as easily have been about what a mistake I made dropping out of school and how dim my prospects look heading into 2007.

I grew up a lot in 2006, joining the working world, taking advantage of all kinds of amazing experiences, and making some important decisions. I also learned that one of the best things a person can do in life is trust themselves and be willing to take some chances. I was thisclose to remaining in school, grinding out a degree while being miserable, and passing up tons of great opportunities. Instead, I took a risk, pursued my dreams above all else, and watched as things played out perfectly.

As I've said many times in the past, none of this would have been possible without this blog and the people who read it. This is where my journey started, this is where I smoothed out many of the rough edges in my writing, and this is where I made my name. Throughout all the wonderful things that happened to me in 2006, one of the most rewarding is that the readership here was at an all-time high despite my writing and time being stretched thin between various other places.

It took 30 months for AG.com to reach 1,000,000 visitors and another 17 months to go from one million to two million served, but 925,000 people visited this blog in 2006 alone. That's astonishing to me on a number of levels, not the least of which is that I remember the days when the readership was in single digits and most of those were family members. The traffic here passed the point of shocking me several digits ago and whenever I think you'll start getting sick of me, it seems to rise even further.

It would be expecting an awful lot for 2007 to be as good for me as 2006 was, but there are enough exciting opportunities on the horizon to make me think it's possible. Whatever happens over the next 12 months, I want to thank you all for the support you've given me over these last 12 months. From my family and friends to those of you who only know me through my writing, I want you to know that I truly appreciate the role you played in making 2006 such a wonderful year for me.

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