Tuesday, June 28, 2016

One Tough Lady Vol

The news is filled with stories about the life (and basketball victories) of Coach Pat Summitt, who died this morning.  I’ve been a fan of Tennessee basketball since I moved to the state in 1989.  Pat Summitt could do that.  For me, the reason was quite simple: she demanded that women and their athletic prowess be recognized and respected.

The second year that I lived in Nashville, some friends and I went to a high school girl’s basketball game in Sparta, Tennessee.  The trip to Sparta was driven by the desire to eat at a renowned meat and three restaurant on the town square.  We needed something else to do on that Friday night, so we went to see the local high school girl’s basketball team.

In those days in California, girl’s high school sports happened at times convenient for the boys.  But not in Tennessee, where the Lady Spartans of White County High School played in a sold-out gym at 7 pm on cold Friday night.  I had never before paid to attend a girl’s high school sporting event.  But in Tennessee in 1992, girls’s basketball was something to behold and fans paid for the privilege.

That achievement was the result of Coach Pat Summitt, then running the show at the state’s flagship university, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville, and showing off some impressively skilled basketball teams.  Her teams earned the respect of the state and the result built a girls basketball empire in Tennessee.  Her contributions to women’s sports are legendary and will remain so.  As for me, I’ll remember a rocking gym on a Friday night in rural Tennessee where the girls knew for sure that they were something else.

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