SALT LAKE CITY — He already had a great job.
A year after graduating from the University of Utah in public relations and journalism, Mike Sorensen was working for one of Salt Lake City’s top advertising firms. He had his name on the door, a nice benefits package, paid vacation, a tremendous upside.
Then the phone rang. Ron Scott, newly hired as the sports editor at the Deseret News, wondered if he’d be interested in joining the sports staff.
Once the conversation got past the part about Sorensen being happy with his current employment, they came up with a compromise. What if Mike covered high school football games on the weekends just to see how he liked it? He could keep his steady 9-to-5 job while he did it.
Mike said yes to the trial run. Three months later, when football season ended, he gave the ad agency notice.
Why’d he switch? Better benefits? Nope. Higher pay? Ha! A bigger office? Not even a consideration.
“I want to do this. This is way more fun,” he told Scott, summing up the career change in 10 words.
It was an opportunity too good to turn down. All fall, as he prowled football sidelines with his notebook, Sorensen’s DNA had screamed at him that he’d found the perfect fit. Mike’s dad was Parry Sorensen, a journalistic legend who taught journalism (Ron Scott was one of his students) and headed the public relations department at the University of Utah. Before that he worked at The Washington Post and, briefly, the Deseret News.
Two things ran in the Sorensen bloodline: writing and a love for sports. Here was a profession that combined them both.
Mike paid his dues covering preps his first four years at the Deseret News. After that? Well, try and name something he hasn’t covered. From squash to beach volleyball to the Jazz to the Golden Eagles to everything in between. Golf and University of Utah basketball have been two of his specialties, but in truth the entire sports world has been his beat.
Now, at 66, he’s calling it a career at an even 42 years, leaving in his wake enough newsprint to grow a rainforest. There may be a sports writer in Utah newspaper history who has displayed more versatility and written more stories than Mike Sorensen, but you’d be hard-pressed to name him or her.
For that matter, you’d be hard pressed to name any writer.
Year in, year out, Sorny, as he’s known, has averaged at least a story a day in the sports section — everything from a news brief to a game story to a longform feature to a column — putting him at 15,000 and counting for his career. He’s written well over 1,000 basketball game stories alone. In just the past six months, he logged over 200 stories during the pandemic.
His reaction to all this prolificness was always “What’s next?”
“I’d just start getting burned out on football and then it would end and it would be time for basketball,” he said. “I loved the seasons.”
He especially loved the lifestyle. Once the personal computer made its entrance in 1983, five years into his career, his home became his office. Covering games at night left him plenty of time during the day to spend with his four growing children.
“I was there to make them lunches in the morning before they went to school and when they came home I was there to greet them,” he said. “My wife (Connie, a schoolteacher) was jealous. The kids thought I didn’t have a job.”
But they soon learned otherwise when he started taking them with him on out-of-town assignments. Sometimes it would be just one of the kids — Carissa to New York for the preseason NIT, Spencer to the Final Four in San Antonio, Scott to New Orleans for a Ute basketball game, Andrew to Puerto Rico for a preseason basketball tournament.
Sometimes it would be the whole family. Several times they all went to Hawaii together. The Maui Invitational was a Sorensen family favorite. Connie was the top sidekick. She accompanied her husband on dozens of trips, especially the assignments to Florida and San Diego. For some reason, says Mike, “No one ever joined me on one of my many trips to Laramie.”
Press Sorny for career highlights and he gets sensory overload. There are so many. Although he does single out the time five years ago when he and Andrew had Jack Nicklaus all to themselves for a lunch interview at Red Ledges in Heber. And there’s no question about his favorite sporting event: the Masters. He covered the tournament seven times, including last year when he walked the final nine holes with Tony Finau and eventual champion Tiger Woods.
The most memorable event of the thousands he’s covered might be the basketball game in 1985 when the Utes were down by one point to Wyoming with one second remaining and Wyoming with possession, and the Utes won. (You can look it up.)
The best story of the 15,000 he’s written? He remembers one he wrote about Mac O’Grady, an eccentric professional golfer who played in the Utah Open in 1991. O’Grady gave him so much great material Mike dashed off a 1,500 word feature that, as is often the case with the good ones, practically wrote itself. That remains his favorite — even if the editors played it the next day clear back on page D4.
Mike got a good start on retirement by playing three 18-hole rounds of golf his first full week off. “Never did that before during football season,” he says. He and Connie plan to continue to do a lot of traveling. Beyond that, like everyone else, he’ll figure it out when he gets there.
But if he’s not entirely sure where he’s going, he absolutely knows where he’s been. “I had the best job ever invented,” he says of his 42 years in the sports writing trenches. “That may sound like a cliche, but sometimes cliches are true.”