Sowing the wind, reaping the whirlwind...

(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.

Comments

Both my wife and I played collegiate athletics (it is actually how we met) and when the opportunity came this year for our oldest to start we had a long talk about this and these issues that you note above played a large part in our decision not to enter her into these competitions (though I must say the necessary Sabbath implications also played a large part).

From the last page of the article -
"Tyler divides his time between his mother’s sprawling house on the banks of the Tennessee River, and an apartment just off-campus he shares with two college friends, with her cheerful approval.

Most nights, however, he spends at home. When everyone departs the Summitt household there are two people left, gazing at each other with a deep, indestructible understanding. Suddenly, something becomes clear: Summitt’s qualities and legacy have been vastly underrated. All these years, while she was coaching basketball and teaching other people’s daughters, she very quietly and without any fanfare, did a stupendous job of mothering her son.

“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”

The boy, you realize with a start, is looking more like her all the time. He has the same scotch-red coloring, the same uplifted chin. The eyes are slightly different, a milder more limpid blue. But there is the same look in them, a quality. A candle."

Words fail me when I consider the tragedy of these two. I have a husband, a son, grandsons, a brother. Not a single one of them would ever, ever, ever want anyone to say such things about them. What have we become as a society? What woman will ever want to marry her son? Who wants a "Mama's boy"?

May the Lord deliver us from this evil and return us to His Word, giving us hearts to obey it.

Blessings,
Nancy

I so agree about what women's sports are doing to young women. Recently there was a picture I saw somewhere of young women scrapping it out on the basketball floor and I would bet many of their fathers were on the sidelines rooting for them. Again, what are we becoming as a society?

Blessings,
Nancy Wilson

What is going to be sad to watch is how the University of Tennessee is going to cut her loose after this year. The reason being is that 99% of other coaches are going to use her condition against her in recruiting. When top players are no longer coming to play at Tennessee, she will be gone. She will be sit at her home as her mind slips away into darkness. What will a man give in exchange for his soul? Fame? Championships?

Well, I don't think anyone would want to be told they look like their mother, but I don't see how anything that is written here makes him a "Mama's Boy." He just sounds like a man who respects his mother's accomplishments and is doing what he can to care for her during her illness.

My father abandoned my mother, who is in her early 70's, three years ago. Since then, I've done what I can to care for her, and she has also taught me a lot in this time about how to be godly in the face of such difficult circumstances. She, a schoolteacher, is certainly no Pat Summit. But for a man to say that he has a close and loving relationship with his mother is no shame. It's the author of the article, it seems, who made things sound so mushy and overwrought.

College Jay,

I had the same feelings about Tyler as you did. IMHO, he is honoring the Commandment to honor her mother, whether he is a Christian or not.

If and when Tyler was ready for marriage and was a Christian with beliefs reasonably compatible with my denomination, I would be honored for him to marry a (hypothetical) daughter of ours (hypothetical because there's no young woman of his age group in our family).

My .02,

Sue

Sue,

I think part of the concern is the lack of fatherly influence and mentoring in the young man's life. There is a wrong way in which a young man can give honor and care to his mother.

Kamilla

David Wegener,

so what do you think about Sanya Richards-Ross the 400m runner, currently competing at the World Champs in Daegu, whose dad teaches at John Macarthur's seminary (I think you said a while back).

Has she chosen a foolish path?

I'd love to hear some more thoughts on this. Over here in the UK we have Christina Ohurugu who is a Christian and Olympic 400m champion, and I am uncomfortable when Christians hold her up as a role model.

I think you mean Allyson Felix. She's trying for a 200-400 double at Daegu. Richards-Ross is one of her main competitors in the 400. Felix has owned the 200 for several years now and has lately been doing quite well in the 400.

Allison is single and Richards became Richards-Ross last year. I think her husband is a pro football player. Those kind of two career things don't work, do they? I hope she retires soon.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with society's push to androgyny. Many women in sport (especially post high school) seem to try and be exactly like men. They want to show that they can be as tough as men, as dedicated to their sport as men, as fierce as men. Find an article about Pat Summit that has a photo gallery. Her facial expressions look a lot like Coach Knight, don't they?

All those qualities that are the glory of women are looked down upon by many women in sport. So we need to point that out to our daughters. Are those the kind of qualities we want to see in our daughters? If we are to help prepare them for marriage, will that end be helped by having them emulate Felix or Richards-Ross or Summit or Danica?

Are women's bodies designed for sports? We've been over this one already on this blog. The prevalence of knee injuries among female athletes is astounding.

There are a number of directions I could continue with this and I haven't even mentioned the pink elephant in the room. Or the red fox.

Kamilla,

Certainly Tyler didn't have an ideal childhood and the lack of time spent with his dad (or at least time with a grandfather, uncle, cousin, neighbor, male teacher or male that travels with the team, etc.) did affect him. So have many young (and older) people; it was just becoming less than an aberration in my generation and I'm smack in the middle of the baby boomers).

I know nothing about this, but did Mr. Summitt want to be more involved in Tyler's life and Pat didn't allow this, or was he satisfied with the status quo? Did he travel a lot for his work and feel that Tyler was better off with his Mom?

Having said all that, how can you fault Tyler for doing the best he can under the circumstances? And I mean this question without hostility -- what is he doing that you and others think is so wrong?

--Sue

Back to the quiz I have to finish tonight.

I am not faulting the boy. I think it is a sins of the fathers shall be visited in the sons. Whatever the reasons for father absence in this situation the fact remains that he was absent. Recognizing the absence of fathers as having a deleterious affect on their children isn't the same thing as blaming the children.

I apologize for the typos and the missing word!

Thanks for the clarification, Kamilla. I get your point now.

About the typos...I'm often tempted to type blog posts in MS Word so I can use the spelling and grammar checkers before I cut and paste them into the comment box.

>>There are a number of directions I could continue with this and I haven't even mentioned the pink elephant in the room. Or the red fox.

David, please continue. I read the article and I think, in what ways is Ms. Summit womanly rather than manly and I can't find any; and I look at her son's statements and I think, in what way would these statements be different if Ms. Summit were his husband and he were her wife, and it's odd to not be able to articulate a difference and it seems like there should be a difference...

I see from Miss Ludwig and Mrs. Wilson's comments that they recoil in horror at what they see, and I think I should too, but I have confusion instead. It reminds me of when the Lord first awakened my conscience to the evil of abortion - at first I could read about it and have no feelings at all. It was no small progress to begin to be able to *feel* the weight of the horror of abortion. How can I learn to do the same regarding this man and her wife? Please continue.

If I were you, I would be stopping where you stopped because it gets really dirty and messy if you continue. I appeal to you respectfully as to a father - don't be a woman, show me what it means to be a man.

Well, Daniel, I'll try, but my illustrations go in something of a different direction.

The pink elephant in the room is rampant homosexuality in women's sports. I don't know this topic well, but I'm guessing some of our readers do. Very few authors of sports books or magazines deal straight on with this topic.

The red fox is anoxeria and bullemia among (mainly) long distance runners. I am a subscriber to Track and Field News and the pictures they show of female (usually high school but sometimes college) runners are sometimes scary. African runners (male and female) sometimes just don't get enough to eat, but in America, that is not the problem.

Ah, I thought the elephants and foxes and what Miss Ludwig and Mrs. Wilson were seeing were all the same thing that I was not seeing. Thank you.

I ran across this post in the archives. It prompted me to find out how Pat and Tyler Summitt are doing. In case anyone is interested, here are some updates:

--Sue

Add new comment