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Requiem for a blogger

I'll say this from the outset: I didn't know Marc Boland personally.

The most I really knew about him was that his Twitter account had a hot dog avatar. Heavy on the ketchup.

He also lived in Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines. Most of what I know about the Philippines is courtesy of my brother-in-law, who met his wife in the small city of Cebu. I'm not sure why he lived there - maybe he visited there during his 20-year US Navy career. I suppose I could call his family and ask... but now's not the time for me to be nosing around in their affairs.

The thing that most of you who will read this will know about Marc is that he was the publisher of Full Throttle, a multi-discipline motorsports blog. The thing you may not know or may not have heard is that he died ten days ago.

A few of you might be wondering why I chose to write about a guy who I probably don't know from Adam. And indeed, I wondered that myself. Certainly, I doubt that Marc would have written any words about me if I had been the one to pass on from this life.

After all, our interactions were limited to 140-character bursts on Twitter. I didn't get to know anything about his personality outside of a taste of his sometimes caustic, often pointed opinion about motorsports.

In fact, I had to do a bit of digging on his site to get a better idea of who he was. What I found were the fingerprints of a fellow who had very matter-of-fact ideas and the backbone to back them up if challenged. "Everyone has their own opinion of what happened, but... no one is entitled to their own facts," he wrote in response to a commenter on one of his stories. "You're right and true enough I'm a jerk but at least I [am] far from being a nitwit," he posted to another.

Marc considered Full Throttle to be his house, like most bloggers do. Whereas for most mainstream journalists, the little space they carve out on the Internet is largely an extension of their "real job" and therefore doesn't count for much sentimentally, Marc was pointed about the rules for playing in his sandbox. He encouraged outside participation, but clearly Full Throttle was his private stage from which he could make his voice known to the world about things he cared about - at least in motorsports.

Therein lies the great addictive quality of blogging. A blog allows you to be heard - and, if you're good enough, be considered relevant - by an audience that extends beyond your natural bailiwick. Some use it poorly or capriciously and aren't taken seriously. But others rise above the constraints of their normal - sometimes humdrum - personal lives and in a sense find fulfillment or a sense of worth by having their opinions mean something to others.

Marc clearly believed that his words and efforts with Full Throttle meant something to someone. He submitted his site to blog rankers and was overjoyed to be an award finalist by a couple of them. He was also proud to note that, by one metric, his blog was the fifth most influential NASCAR blog on the Internet. That may seem like a mild accolade at best to people who do this sort of thing for a living, but for a blogger any sort of recognition outside of ridicule and criticism is welcome. For most, it has nothing to do with stroking one's ego and everything to do with payment. Since the large majority of bloggers will never earn a dime for their work, public respect for their efforts is nearly as good as a paycheck.

The thing about bloggers is that when one of us dies, we don't get the retrospectives, the honorifics, or the posthumous recognition that a "real" journalist gets. The NASCAR world was shocked and mourned extensively when writer David Poole died of a heart attack at age 50. But even with the fifth-best NASCAR blog on the Internet, it is unlikely that Marc Boland will get much more than his local obituary and some well-meaning comments from some of his more loyal readers.

And I guess in the end that's why I decided to write this screed. I've lived through the deaths of several friends who wanted to make a mark on the world - and did, even though they didn't get the recognition they deserved for it. Maybe it was an overdeveloped sense of empathy that spurred me to try and get them that recognition - after all, their troubles were over and it's not like they were capable of caring about it.

I finally decided that my motivations were selfish. After all, in the grand scheme of things Marc Boland wasn't any more special to the world outside of his social and familial circles than... well, than I am. He was known on the Internet largely for being a blogger and, let's be frank, that's not something that most people consider to be a mark of distinction. I know this from first-hand experience.

The thing I do know about Marc Boland was that he was a person, a human being who shared part of himself with the world when he didn't need to. Some people admired him for it, and others called him a jerk. He was just a blogger, but in my mind that made him a brother of sorts. It may be belated, it may be relatively worthless, but here's my salute to Marc.

It's a pretty lousy eulogy, brother, but I thought you deserved it.