Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Chance encounter

March 27, 2012

Fourteen or so years ago, my brother and I cut across a parking lot by Thompson-Boiling Arena on the way to a Tennessee/Notre Dame football game. We wove among tailgaters talking about our mom’s cancer having come back, trying to make sorts of the crushing news and the next thing I knew my brother was sprawled (and I do mean sprawled) out on the ground having been taken out by a kid. I looked at the kid to make sure he was ok, smirked at my brother and in with in a second was paralyzed by fright. A voice said something like this “Tyler, I’ve told you a hundred times”. I REALLY made sure the kid, one Tyler Summitt, was ok. The last thing I needed in my life was my brother harming the prince of East Tennessee. Everybody knew Tyler, everybody knew Pat and now my brother was sprawled out on a parking lot having taken out a kid. Great.

The first thing Pat Summitt did was make sure my brother was ok. | stood there stunned. Pat made Tyler apologize, then she apologized and we parted ways. As we walked away, I looked at my brother and said you had better be grateful you didn’t harm Tyler Summitt.

Since I went to my first UT game in 1988 until last year, one thing was the same. Pat would prowl the sidelines, barking at her team, the officials, Smokey and just about everybody at TBA. This year has been nothing short of painful. Every game, every venue opposing fans would pay tribute. Reporters from major outlets have talked about how Pat Summitt single handedly changed the perception of women’s athletics (with a major assist from Title IX). As clearly as I can see the fantastic title game in Kansas City, I can see the painful losses – the national title game in Philly where they carried Geno around … and the back door cuts after back door cuts. The loss in the 2001 regional semi final where I was so mad, I went out at got something good that was orange. A cat (really) – it’s how Jackson came into my life. He was almost named Pat – but I had a nephew Patrick and well, Jackson is a boy.

Pat Summitt has done it all in her sport: the first Olympic Captain for women’s basketball, 1098 career victories, more than one court named after her, legions of fans, a 100% graduation rate: last night 3 graduate students started for Tennessee. I turned the game off at half time. I couldn’t watch it anymore. Tennessee was going to lose. I couldn’t see through my tears. This wasn’t the most talented team – Baylor deserved the win. I wanted a fairy tale ending. I wanted one more title.

The answer is that this is the legacy of Pat: more teams are more competitive than at any other time in women’s basketball. Stanford, Baylor, UConn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia all have or are building in the case of Kentucky, deep basketball traditions. Women in sports are becoming more the norm: I work with a former DI hockey player. My niece is a fantastic ball player. A daughter of a friend is on a traveling volleyball team. There were other programs that embraced Title IX (Anson Dorrance at UNC leaps to mind with soccer) but basketball is a sport that most individuals will probably play (from H-O-R-S-E to competitive) at some point during their lives.

I watched the clips from Holly Warlick and Kim Mulkey today. Both were fraught with emotion and near tears. At some point, Pat will step down. Probably this off season. It hurts. Alzheimer’s is an ugly, brutal disease that does nothing but rob people.

As I’ve thought about how much this feels painful, I remember that crisp October afternoon. A chance encounter with an iconic figure. And oh, how she will be missed.

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Sigh, and the the response? Oh, never critique college athletics!

January 4, 2012

Earlier this week, I had a post about a now former UT player who wrote a letter to the editor that demonstrated exceptionally poor grammatical skills.  Look, I’m not a wordsmith.  Being terrifically dyslexic I rely on spell check, grammar check and often have to go back and make basic corrections because I simply do not see the errors.  What disturbed me about the letter was the capitalization (hey, English is pretty clear on this *one* rule!) and a letter with so many errors, that for me, it demonstrated an individual who did not have the basic writing skills that should be indicative of a high school graduate.  I received a reply back to my blog….and approved it….and have been chewing on it:

This is such an ignorant arguement. Their are thousands of international students that attend Universities that can barely even speak the English language yet alone write a coherent sentence, but they are graduating from the top Universities with math, science, and engineering degrees. Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. Who are you to speak for Notre Dame, Michigan or Michigan State and who they decide to accept into their institutions. Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over. They make up less then 4% of the entire student body. Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. Yet all these students are leaving college 50-60k in debt. For the average student colleges say to them, “You pay us, we’ll educate you in whatever you want to study.” But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”

So if anything, college athletes have more of an advantage to a more effecient college education because these college’s and Universities have more of an investment in these students athlete’s for them not to fail, as opposed to John Doe who is majoring in Art History or Archeology of the Aztec Empire. Hence, college athlete’s leave their respective Universities  better prepared to succeed in life and with as much education then the average student.”

Sigh.  I think I just proved my point.  A few responses:

“Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over.”  Put it this way: if somebody goes through high school and college/university and cannot write a basic letter to the editor, there is a fatal flaw in the education system.  I’m not into stalking former wide receivers at a university: I do hope that when an athlete leaves his/her sport she has the skills to succeed in life.

Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. I’m not judging his intelligence.  I am saying that there is a major problem with the system. Look, we all receive judgement based on a first impression: when you look for a job, it is often your cover letter/resume.  When you apply to colleges, it is often your essay.  Both require writing skills that were not demonstrated in the letter.

Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. I do.  Having a BA in American History and a Master’s in Theology, I don’t exactly have the most practical degrees.  I’m hacking down my student loans, live very bare to the bones and after being laid off from one job, my ability to write is what landed me the interview (how do I know? I was told by the person who hired me).  That being said, if you are going to major in political science, you need a plan b.  You need to develop marketable skills.  Being able to write a proper sentence IS critical to success, even in our hyper-abreviated forms of communication.

But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”  Ok, the university better not be PAYING anybody to play except via a tuition/room/board/books stipend.  And given the letter to the editor, isn’t it concerning that despite the resources available, the individual still could not write a correct letter to the editor? Again, this isn’t the fault of the University of Tennessee: where were the high school English teachers?

The NCAA and member schools are doing a disservice to the athletes when they do not ensure that the students enrolling are able to make the grade in the classroom.