JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

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.