Jeff Pearlman

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Mike Organ and the power of just being one helluva human

Mike with Eddie George

Mike with Eddie George

So I was skimming Facebook today when I was greeted by this story ..

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And I thought—YES!

YES! YES! YES!

Just like any profession, there are bad people in journalism, there are so-so people in journalism, there are good people in journalism and there are great people in journalism.

There are v-e-r-y few Mike Organs.

So back in the mid-1990s, when I was a young out-of-college reporter at The Tennessean, I often sat near Mike in the sports section. At the time the department was, oh, 12-to-15 writers deep, and a good number (rightly) considered me to be an arrogant fool. And, perhaps, Mike felt that way. But he never showed it. He always referred to me as “Pearls,” and was quick with advice, encouragement, warmth, kindness, an invite for a bite to eat. When I wrote something he liked, he always let me know. I’m certain, for a fact, I never saw Mike express professional jealousy toward anyone, or try to undermine a colleague for a potential assignment. Again—he was the best of the best of the best people one could work with.

And here’s the other thing: Mike Organ is a helluva writer/reporter. I never told him this, but I learned a ton from observing his work. First, Mike knew how to gain the trust of subjects A. Via the power of legitimate curiosity; B. Via the power of legitimate decency; C. Via a casual way of talking that put folks at ease.

Second, he could work a beat like nobody’s business. At the time Mike was covering Vanderbilt football, and he regularly crushed the opposing paper when it came to scoops, tidbits, info. How? I’m not sure. But I’m guessing kindness and inquisitiveness carried him far.

I actually just thought about this. When I was at the newspaper, I was all flash and bullshit. Truly, I was. Trying to out-write everyone. No interest in reporting. Limited curiosity. Light on decency and empathy. It was all about being great, but without the goods. Mike, legitimately, was my 180. In every way. Better, smarter, more experienced, nicer.

Before tonight, I never knew there was a Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.

Now I do.

And I also know they’re on the money.

Because Mike Organ, in my mind, is Tennessee sports writing.

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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