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Follow This Man: Michael Cronin, The Web’s Most Prolific (And Ignored) Sports Tweeter

Michael Cronin came into my Twitter stream of consciousness a few weeks ago, while I was following a men’s college basketball contest—New Mexico at Cincinnati—that should have meant very little to Cronin, a North Shore native who graduated last year from Columbia College.

But there he was, tweeting furiously—and, if I may say, fairly competently—about the game. Furiously, it turns out, is Cronin’s default tweet setting.

He is not quite sure when he became aware of the major social media milestone he has since galloped over. It was maybe somewhere around his 99,850th tweet, give of take, that he realized he was approaching the vaunted six-figure threshold—a line that truly separates your run-of-the-mill compulsive Twitter types from the preternatural.

“I don’t really have a goal, per se,” Cronin told me during a recent telephone conversation. “And I don’t really pay attention to the number.”

Well, the number as of late last night was 117,530.

It’s hard to say precisely where this places Cronin among the denizens of the Twitterverse, but according to the ranking website twitaholic.com, he would appear to be just outside the top-1,000 most active accounts in world. And consider: many of these are robot accounts.

Since joining Twitter three years ago, Cronin recalls only once taking a serious break from the action—a two-day period of mourning after his beloved Northwestern Wildcats fell in the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.

Starting in September, Cronin began blogging for Rant Sports, a Wheaton-based niche blog network in the mold of Bleacher Report and SB Nation, covering Illinois and Northwestern. He’s currently looking for a full-time gig.

There is, of course, some precedent for eager tweeters brilliantly parlaying their prepossession into media jobs.

Take, for example, young whippersnapper-turned-BuzzFeed political reporter Zeke Miller, who tweeted his way atop the presidential campaign trail this past year. Whatever combination of self-promotional strategy or perseveration propelled him, Miller undoubtedly made his mark: he now covers the White House and has over 40,000 followers. (And he’s only tweeted 76,000 times.)

Cronin, on the other hand, has barely over 200 followers. According to my calculator, he’s cranking out a rate of 557 tweets per follower. That’s a lot of writing for not much reading. And yet, Cronin doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit bothered by the fact that whatever trenchant points and witty quips he delivers, he’s basically having a conversation with himself. Heck, he rarely even hashtags—fucking crazy, right?

“I didn’t do this to get opportunities,” he said. “I just did this because I enjoy it. Overall, this is a personal thing.”

His big hauls come on college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays. He used to go to the Champps at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, until they did away with their large split-screen TV setup. Now he usually finds himself at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Northbrook; alas, could there be a more inconspicuous place to inconspicuously tweet?

Cronin says he’s quite social. He loves talking to people at the sports bar, loves comparing notes. He did a radio show at Columbia and then interned at WGN for a while.

He tweets mainly from his phone, rarely looking down at the screen as he taps out missive after missive while not infrequently bumping up against Twitter’s tweet-per-hour limit.

“I know my way around the keys,” he said. “I just want to get my point across in that brief span of time, because everything is evolving, and I don’t want to take my eye off the action because then I feel in some sense disconnected.”

Forget the obvious paradox of that last statement and, for goodness sakes, please don’t make him avert his eyes. Start off the New Year with a good deed for the love of sports: Follow this man!

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