Pat Summitt passed away today.
There are certain people who give you a sense of comfort just from knowing they are alive. There is a sense that at least something, somewhere is right with the world. Their very existence is proof that all is not lost to those who have heart, and perseverance. And at a time when the light of the western world is fading, and our principles are being abandoned, such examples of hard work and simple dignity being rewarded are more difficult to come by.
It is hard to explain to outsiders what Pat meant to her community. She was the quintessential Tennessean. She came from a hard scrabble beginning to reach the very peak of her profession, but never thought she was better than anyone else because of her achievements. Oh, she might think you needed to get your ass in gear if you were lollygagging, but she was not an elitist who treated people differently, or looked down upon them because of their station in life. You would no more get dispensation from her because you were rich or powerful than you would get scorn for being the opposite. She expected everyone to work hard, play fair, and be judged on their merits. Anyone who did those things was a champion in her book. Anyone who didn’t was a failure.
She was always the same and comfortable with who she was regardless of the company she was keeping at the moment. This used to be the standard to which we all aspired, but somewhere along the way our society became lost. Now our elite think they are a different species and deserve to rule based on “achievements” which come down to little more than backing the correct parasite in an election, or being accepted by the correct gatekeeper.
We are all made less by Pat Summit’s passing because she was an example of what is best in each of us. It is a cruel irony that one of the best people had to fall so early to one of the worst diseases — one that robs you of everything but your life, and leaves behind a carcass that is little but a mockery of what you once were.
But in Pat’s spirit of always striving to come out on top let’s see if we can do something about that.
Here is where you can make a donation in the name of Pat, or of a loved one of your own who was taken by Alzheimer’s.
And here is where you can give to the Pat Summit Foundation which is also fighting Alzheimer’s.
Stories about Pat.
Brian Williams is a former player on the UT men’s team (and so is Brian Williams the news anchor if you can believe him). We really had it good when both Bruce Pearl and Pat were our coaches.
Here is a link to some audio stories, including one where Summitt helped the football team turn around the performance of its QB. I remember this well, and it is notable because UT had just fired Phil Fulmer who was a friend of Pat’s. But she stepped in and helped anyway because that is just who she was. Listen to the other stories at that link as well, they are funny.
Another chance encounter of the sort that were so common with Pat.
ESPN is playing old Lady Vol games in a back to back marathon.
And athletes from every sport and from around the world are chiming in with their condolences.
I have also heard people promoting the idea of naming the Women’s Championship trophy after Pat since the men’s trophy is named after Wooden. I think that would be a fitting tribute. When a team reaches the summit then of course they should get The Summitt Trophy.
I am only including one article here because I think it is the best one in summing up what Pat meant to a generation of young girls.
We grew up wanting to impress Pat Summitt.
Pretty much all of us: every young basketball player, at every summer camp, at every tournament, in every nook and cranny of this entire country — even those of us, or perhaps especially those of us, who would never be good enough to actually play for the Tennessee Lady Vols.
Our reverence for Summitt was understandable. She was the commander-in-chief of the best women’s basketball program in the country; the woman whose legendary precision and steely determination had been immortalized on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and who had, more importantly, delivered widespread respect to our game. As we flew around those summer courts, all kneepads and ponytails and grape Gatorade, we did so believing we were really, truly important — that our game mattered, that we mattered.
And there is no telling what a person can achieve when they feel their efforts matter. That is the very idea our country was based upon.