Jeff Pearlman

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Leah Stewart & fate

In the spring of 1993, I got word from The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, that I was a finalist for an internship in the features department. Patrick Connolly, one of the editors, called me and said, “To be honest, it’s up to a Vanderbilt student named Leah Stewart. She interned here last year, and if she wants to return we’ll take her. If she decides not to, you have the internship.”

I had, to be blunt, no other offers. Not one. I’d probably applied for, oh, 150 internships, and nobody showed any interest.

Hence, I waited for word on Leah Stewart.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, a few weeks later, Patrick called. “Leah’s decided not to intern here again. It’s yours, if you want it.”

I wanted it.

I write this now, nearly 20 years later, because the story has long reminded me of how one moment … one decision … one move—changes a lifetime.

I interned at The Tennessean, and did well enough to be hired as a staff writer, post-graduation, from the University of Delaware.

I spent 2 1/2 years on staff, wrote a lengthy piece on a Tennessee quarterback named Peyton Manning, and was hired (probably largely off of that) as a reporter at Sports Illustrated.

At Sports Illustrated, I became friends with a fellow reporter, Jon Wertheim.

Jon Wertheim’s wife’s best friend was named Catherine.

I was invited to Jon and Ellie’s wedding—just a fringe guest.

Catherine was the maid of honor. She gave a toast, and my heart fluttered.

I got her number.

We met.

We married.

We have two kids.

I’m happy.

All thanks to Leah Stewart.

  • Ted

    Where is Leah Stewart now?

  • Ted

    Oops, my bad. Didn’t catch the hyperlink to Leah’s page on the first pass. Great story.

  • Mike

    A great story indeed. The butterfly effect of Leah.

  • Rick J.

    If not for Leah, I would have never made a rap tape at Opry Land. Thanks Leah!

  • Finish the story, whatever happened to Peyton Manning? Did he ever amount to anything?

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life