Tom Mattingly, a former city of Knoxville employee before joining the UT Sports Information Office for 18 years (1987 to 2005), has for the past four years written a Sunday column and daily blog for the News Sentinel. Both are called “The Vol Historian” — and, naturally, that’s what Mattingly also has come to be called.
Mattingly spoke last night to a small group who had gathered at The Orangery for one of the periodic “Dinner and Dialogue” programs put on by the UT Alumni Affairs office.
Here are a few of his observations:
- “Being a blogger is like being at a cocktail party and getting into an argument. But nobody throws a drink on you.” His point: the folks who comment on his blog are very opinionated and not shy about expressing those opinions. When Football Coach Lane Kiffin arrived on the scene, Mattingly made a few suggestions in his blog about what changes Kiffin should make in the team’s football uniform. In no time at all he had 169 comments on the blog post.
- Often, the commenters discuss not only the subject at hand, but the blogger himself. “It takes a somewhat thick skin to take some of those comments,” Mattingly said. “And the universal solution to everything is Google. I can’t tell you how often a commenter says, ‘If you’d just Google it, you’d find out. . .”
- Mattingly said one of his favorite recent blogs was when soon-to-be-fired UT Baseball Coach Todd Raleigh said he hadn’t spoken to Athletic Director Mike Hamilton “since the Christmas party.” That got Mattingly and his wife, Susan, to put together a list of ways people can communicate without talking directly to one another. They came up with 16 different ways including Skype, telegraph, email, Twitter, Facebook, text, fax, Federal Express, UPS, the U.S. mail, and carrier pigeon. “Or tell a woman!” one fellow from the audience shouted. Ha. Very funny.
- After Mattingly’s job was eliminated in the Athletic Department, he spent six months as the interim house manager at the UT president’s residence when former UT President John Petersen and his controversial wife, Carol, lived there. It does not seem to have been a particularly happy experience. “I was basically a cabana boy,” Mattingly told the group. “My job was to keep Mr. and Mrs. Petersen as happy as they could be. I learned that there was a man for everything in the house. You have wasps in the windows? Call the wasp man. Floor needs waxing? Call the wax man.” He said he asked a UT friend recently why the mansion at 940 Cherokee Boulevard, on the market for two years, has not sold yet. “Well,” his friend said, “it’s appraised for $3.7 million and nobody’s willing to pay that.” Mattingly laughed, “Well, if I told you everything I know, it’d be worth even less!” Mattingly said some of the personal experiences he had during that job made him “uncomfortable.” He’s written three books and he joked that he might write one more about that time. The title: “Six Months at 940.”
Now that’s a book I bet would sell a few copies!