Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Coach Pat Summitt Diagnosed with Dementia

Sports Illustrated reports today that the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has publicly announced that she has been diagnosed with dementia. I should say, the Great Pat Summitt has been diagnosed ...  because she should always be referred to as the Great Pat Summitt.

In typical coach Summitt fashion, here's what she told the Knoxville News Sentinel:

"There's not going to be any pity party and I'll make sure of that, ... I feel better just knowing what I'm dealing with. And as far as I'm concerned it's not going to keep me from living my life, not going to keep me from coaching."
I have poked a bit of fun at Pat Summitt here in my blog, I call her the Queen, and The Summitt, and even The Grande Summitt (I think) but it's been in good fun. Even if I didn't always root for her team, I've always loved watching Summitt. Almost single-handedly, she dragged women's basketball onto the front pages of the sports sections. For years, for decades really, she was the face of women's basketball. She carried the sport and, in doing so, she carried all female athletes and all of us. I love her for that.

I love watching her passion on the sidelines. I love what a badass coach she is. I know for a stone-cold fact that I wouldn't last 30 minutes in one of her practices. I mean that as the highest compliment. There are few coaches -- in any sport -- that I respect more than coach Summitt. (One of these days, I'll rank the Top 10 coaches of all time in any sport at any level and I'm guessing that Summitt's going to land in the Top 5.)

So today's news made me truly, deeply sad. Just in your bones sad. I wish her, her team and her family all the best. And I hope that Summitt can find a way to coach for a good while longer at Tennessee. Still I have to admit, dementia is a scary bastard.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information's website, "Most types of dementia are nonreversible (degenerative). Nonreversible means the changes in the brain that are causing the dementia cannot be stopped or turned back."

Summitt is tough and brave and strong. Basically, in a National Championship, my money's on Summitt. In a street fight, my money's on Summitt. In a battle against most diseases or illnesses, my money would always be on Summitt. No question.

But when it comes to dementia, I haven't heard many success stories. I don't think it can be 'beaten,' but if anybody can find a way to thrive despite dementia, this lady is it. Good luck, coach.

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