“Pat Summitt is still much more abled than disabled”

Sally Jenkins underscores many of my thoughts in this piece:

“Everybody wants to know how I’m doing,” Summitt says, “but they forget to ask me.”………

This is what she lives with: a disturbing sense of disorientation when she wakes in strange, dark hotel rooms on the road. Difficulty drawing, which means she can’t diagram plays anymore. A weird mental slipperiness when it comes to retaining numbers, especially room numbers in hallways that all look the same. An unmistakable loss of her old ferocity. An occasional pause in her brain function that means sometimes she has to be more patient in answering questions — and that friends have to be more probing of her thoughts, and patient in listening to her — which is all the more puzzling because she can still be so lightning quick.

That’s it. Those are her worst symptoms.

But here is the thing no one talks about: Pat still has many more abilities than disabilities. While she can’t wield a clipboard and make decisions at warp speed anymore, the irony is that her son Tyler would tell you she’s actually better than she was last spring, thanks to treatment. Although she will be restricted in duties by NCAA rules, and by her symptoms, she will continue to attend and observe practice, motivate, discipline and advise players and other coaches.

This is what was irritating me all season long:

Leave it to Pat to make something good out of Alzheimer’s Disease, graceful, even. Which was pretty hard to do, with everybody staring at her for almost a year, wondering when she was going to crack or show telltale traces of illness. She has been under pressure from critics and friends alike to buckle under to the diagnosis and retire, to protect her so-called “dignity” and “legacy” by disappearing from public view. As usual, she has come up with an elegant solution to a difficult problem, and produced another victory.

Every commentator seemed to feel like they had to mention it at least a dozen times every game. The public hand-wringing, and the speculation as to when Summitt would retire. It was a hell of a lot of pressure. I did blog mid-season that everyone should just leave Summitt alone and let her coach. Too bad more people didn’t do that.

I found it odd that the public wondered who would take Summitt’s place, when Holly Warlick has always been the obvious choice. I thought it insulting that people didn’t give enough credit to the Tennessee Athletic Department to handle the matter. Warlick has been there for 30 years; women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, 29.

Though it’s still sad, I am relieved for Summitt too, and I hope she can relax more as she begins her new duties. I can’t think of anyone who deserves that opportunity more.

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