To Sum It Up, you want to read Pat’s new book
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you haven’t read Pat Summitt’s new book “Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective,” go buy it today but reserve a little time by yourself or go ahead and call in late for work tomorrow because you won’t be able to put it down.
It really doesn’t matter if you are a Pat Summitt fan or even if you are a Lady Vol basketball fan, you will find it fascinating. Sure, the basketball junkie in any of us will find the basketball stories worth the purchase price but the life stories ... oh, my.
It’s about her life and the progression of a disease that will most surely progress. That may sound harsh but that’s the terror of this thing we know as Alzheimer’s Disease.
I wrote about her disease when it was first announced but the book is so much more. It reveals a lot about the person who is Pat Summitt. A person that the universe would call Coach Summitt to her face but just “Pat” everywhere else (and “Your Mama” or just “Mama” to her players).
To sum it up, it is worthy, relevant, and nearly profound. And it reminded me of how far women’s athletics have come.
Girl’s basketball when I was growing up consisted of this bizarre half court game, where there were three offensive players on one half of the court and three defensive players on the other. Elsewhere in the country, most girl’s teams were already playing the five-person full court game we know today. Tennessee was one of the last states in America to make that switch.
I’m not sure why that was so but I do remember going to my high school principal with the idea of a girls-only “powderpuff” football game only to be told that girls should not be playing any kind of contact sports. That it would “bruise their breasts” (I kid you not) which would lead to breast cancer.
When Coach Summitt was playing basketball, the women’s game wasn’t within a half court shot of second-class status. They had no status.
When she was given the job as Head Coach at the University of Tennessee, immediately after graduating from UT-Martin, she had to carry a teaching load in the physical education department to justify the position and was paid a pittance. My wife actually took a Physical Education class from Coach Summitt in how to play tennis.
Scholarships? Recruiting trips? You’re kidding, right? They practiced and played in old Alumni Gym that I remember well as being run-down, dreary, and certainly lacking air conditioning. You could never look at the program now and guess those humble beginnings.
You would also not guess at how badly women were treated. In the book, Coach Summitt recalls her brothers and father holding their empty tea glasses up and rattling them at the dinner table, a message to any female in the vicinity that they needed a refill.
I know that if my son or I had ever tried anything like that, we would have gotten whomped or worse. A friend my age tells the story of doing that little trick to his new wife one time. One time. It’s just the way he was raised; what his mom did for the males in the family.
Respect and opportunity for women came hard and took a long, long time. And people like Pat Summitt on a basketball court are a big reason it ever happened at all.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)