If anyone can beat this …

So I was watching SportsCenter tonight when a couple of anchors I didn’t recognize began reporting on the sad news that Pat Summit has been diagnosed with early dementia. It’s obviously tragic, and Summit, only age 59, made a very graceful announcement above.

Yet sometimes ESPN just can’t avoid itself. In the course of the, oh, seven-minute report, the theme “If anyone can beat this, it’s Pat Summit …” was uttered in one form or another, oh, 15 times. I guess it’s not merely an ESPN phenomenon—we always do this shit when famous people (especially in sports) are hit with terrible news.

As glum and horrible as this is, a woman’s ability to coach basketball has (I’m guessing) zero to do with how she’ll cope with dementia. Zero. One ESPN commentator—a woman calling tonight’s Liberty game on ESPN28—said Summit would give dementia “the full-court press.”

Uh … A. What the fuck does that mean? B. Really, what the fuck does that mean?

There’s no silver lining here; no “with toughness and determination, Summit will find a way …” No. Odds are, Pat Summit won’t find a way. Oh, she’ll handle this with the class and decency and determination we’re used to. But whether you’re a coach or a writer or a whatever, when stuff like dementia attacks, it doesn’t let up.

We should be honest about it.

9 thoughts on “If anyone can beat this …”

  1. Well written, I agree 100%.

    ESPN has to quit treating this as if it’s UConn, it’s dementia. And while I feel bad, no amount of full court pressure is going to break this disease.

    It’s ok to give us the news as if we were adults. The nation is not six-years-old wondering why daddy doesn’t live with mommy any more.

  2. Well put. This is terrible news for the coach, her family, the hundreds of women she has lead and the countless lives she has touched through the years. No amount of dog-eared coaching clichés will change that.

    There is always a silver lining:

    1. A famous face brings an illness into the consciousness of society. Sadly, this will likely do nothing to help Coach Summit. However, future generations may benefit from her struggle.

    2. We’ll properly acknowledge Pat Summit’s greatness. It’s unfortunate that most sports fans (myself included), struggle to name a Women’s Basketball Coach that hasn’t died prematurely or been publicly insulted by a washed-up morning show host. Summit’s tragic illness doesn’t change that last problem.

  3. 12 years ago attended a Tenn. Games with my 8 year old daughter
    And waited outside for her ( @ my daughters pleading ) to sign a copy of her book ” Raise the roof ” Players and staff all gone when Ms. Summit walked out and made my daughter day by not hurrying but taking the time to ask if she was working hard in school since basketball would not last forever , spend the extra minutes. a true class act! My thoughts are with her and her family

  4. I agree with Jeff about EPSN, I try not to watch any of the talking heads if possible.

    My dad suffered with dementia and it was downhill for years. Really sad and there is way out it just gets worse and worse. It was a blessing went he finally passed away.

    But there might be hope down the road as they are making headway on the disease. Lets hope they find something to stop or reverse it in the coming years

  5. Always telling a friend what they want to hear is being a bad friend. It isn’t completely necessary to always tell a friend the brutal truth, but they also can’t get false hope or validation from a trusted source, or else they risk losing their status as a trusted source.

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