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24 August 2011

Pat Summitt in For Fight of Her Life

By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Founder & Publisher 

If there's anything I dislike in sports more than the game of basketball, it's women's basketball. The game is intensely slower — and those screeches from the crowd go through my like long fingernails on a chalkboard. And though I have a dislike for the sport, I've always had great admiration for the athletes and the coaches who persist in women's basketball, despite its second-class citizenry. 

One of those coaches I've always admired is Pat Summitt. This woman is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible sports stories in a generation. What she's done with the Lady Vols of the University of Tennessee is nothing short of amazing. She has consistently won — and in doing so, has demonstrated a love not just for the game, but for the women she's coached over the years.

She truly is a rare breed in a time where coaches seem more absorbed with the spotlight than they do caring for the kids they coach.

And so it was with great shock and sadness that we all learned yesterday that Summitt has early-onset dementia — a form of Alzheimer's. Pat Summitt is 59, and at such an incredibly young age, is faced with a disease that often hits the elderly.

But not always.

Think about what Alzheimer's can do to a human being. Though physically all there, the mind begins to deteriorate. The patient could be in a room with a spouse, children, grandchildren and a slew of other relatives and have absolutely no idea who one of them would be.

The mind forgets every good memory. Every bad memory. Every iota of information that once helped life be more meaningful.

Though it's in its early stages, Summitt will, admittedly, need the help of her core of assistant coaches. As the disease progresses, she, too, will begin to forget all those fundamentals she's drilled into countless young basketball players. She won't be able to remember their names. She may not even be able to recall she was the coach of one of the most prestigious women's basketball programs ever.

No one deserves this fate. But for some reason, it seems all the more unfair when it happens to someone who had yet to hit 60. She could live many more years, could Summitt, and yet in just a few short years, it's possible she won't remember anything that happened to her before she was 60. 

It is very cruel. Extremely unsettling. Yet if there's anyone who could battle this and come out a victor, it's Pat Summitt.

She'll coach this year — and beyond that, nothing in her life will be very clear.

But one thing IS clear, and that one of the nation's greatest coaches is in for the fight of her life. 

The best thing we can all do, now, is pray for her. And hope that somehow, she gets through this.

God willing, for Summitt and all who suffer from Alzheimer's, one day soon, there will be some sort of cure, and we could all look back at this with a smile.

Until then, God bless you, Pat Summitt. God bless you!


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