(TB: this from David Wegener, our American-African correspondent on home assignment here in these United States for the coming year.)
Reading the recent article about Pat Summit, the head woman’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, has put me in a reflective mood. If you read the article and are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll feel pretty sad. Sorry that Pat Summit has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sorry that her marriage ended in divorce. Sorry that she’s given her life to basketball. Sorry for her son Tyler.
Sorry Pat is such a man--this last idea was the dominant impression I had after reading the piece by Sally Jenkins (who calls Pat her best friend).
When doctors at Mayo Clinic told her she had Alzheimer’s and urged her to retire, she responded, “Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?” Jenkins describes her as “a marble pillar, ramrod straight, that seems to have stood for a thousand years, while everything around it falls.” She is characterized by “resolve.” Things like surrender and acceptance and vulnerability have never “come naturally to her.” If you watch the interview and see what it reveals about Tyler’s relationship with his mom, well, it makes you even sadder. Even sick.
She is the most successful coach in women’s sports today...Her teams have won 1037 games (against only 196 losses, an astounding winning percentage of 84%), been to 18 final fours and won eight national championships. That’s way ahead of the records of, for example, Coach Knight or Coach Krzyzewski. Hundreds and thousands of young women want to be just like Summit. She has impacted the lives of so many players, but in what way?
So that they’ll be tougher, more impervious to pain, less vulnerable.
There’s something deeply wrong about the way we do women’s sports in this country. A few months back, when I read an article about Danica Patrick, former Indy car racer and newly committed NASCAR driver, I had similar thoughts. She tells her fans that they needn’t worry, she has no plans to have children; her career as a racecar driver comes first.
“I am not someone who has a strong yearning for kids at all … I see all my friends with kids. I will get up at 10 a.m. and text them and they’ll say, ‘ha, funny. One of my sons was in my room at 5:30 in the morning so I can’t say I slept until 10.’ That’s just their life. I think more all the time that it looks hard, that looks like something I am not ready for and doesn’t interest me at this point … My focus is on racing.”
Fathers, don’t let your daughters give themselves to sport. We’ve sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind.