On Tuesday, Tennesse women's basketball coach Pat Summitt announced that she's suffering from dementia at 59 years old, and while she'll try to continue coaching, it doesn't distract us from the most shocking news of all: She's human. (via Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Tennesse women's basketball coach Pat Summitt announced that she's suffering from dementia at 59 years old, and while she'll try to continue coaching, it doesn't distract us from the most shocking news of all: She's human. Plus: Earthquakes, training camp pranks, Will Smith's mansion, Apple-topia, and an athlete's ode to Voltron. Talking Points is a series that highlights some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Read the archives here.
Pat Summitt's not dead, but on Tuesday we found out she's human, and that news is almost as jarring. You may not follow her teams or sport all that closely, but as an icon on the sports landscape, the Tennessee women's basketball coach has been a mainstay for years, even just as "that lady who always looks like she's about to kill someone."
As sports superhumans go, Summitt's right up there with Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Tim Duncan, and every other superstar from the past 25 years whose flawless execution was obscured by their apparent lack of vulnerability. She's the coach who could make her best players burst into tears, but still managed to win their allegiance for a lifetime.
And over time, for me, she's become one of those people in sports whose presence just feels inevitable. Like the cranky uncle who shows up at Christmas every year, except this uncle happened to be an aunt who's done more to bring women's sports into the 21st century than just about anyone on earth.
Now she's battling the onset of dementia, and like always with Summitt, the only thing bigger than news itself is the way it enhances her legend. "There's not going to be any pity party and I'’ll make sure of that," she said of her early stages Alzheimers.
So, okay. Pretty much the most badass response to Alzheimers you might have imagined. Just like that, she reminds everyone why we love her in the first place. Sally Jenkins has an extensive feature on Summitt over at the Washington Post, and it's a good read on a crappy situation.
It all reminds me of what's happened to Dean Smith over the past few years. Just like Summitt, he seemed like someone who would last forever in college basketball. Lately, he's disappeared from the spotlight, he's stopped giving interviews, and as of last year, "Smith has great difficulty even remembering people he has worked with and around for years."
As Jerry Stackhouse says in that article, "There wasn't one time before a season that I didn't get a handwritten note or a call from him. He always wanted to let me know that he was watching me and keeping up. I miss that. It was almost like on certain nights you'd get out on the floor and say to yourself, 'Coach Smith might be watching tonight. I have to be at my sharpest.' That was with me for a long time.
But that stopped happening as often. "Father Time humbles all of us at some point," Stackhouse said. "You just hate to see somebody like him who was so sharp mentally and so in tune with everything around him go through this."
And, today, you hate to think that Summitt may eventually face the same problem. But even if she does--her life's work leaves no room for interpretation. She was always the best, her players loved her, and as a women's coach, she was like no woman we'd ever seen before.
I guess what I'm saying is, no matter what happens to Smith, he'll forever be the Grandfather I've always wished I had, and no matter how bad the outlook gets, I'll always remember the Dean Smith from this picture. With Summitt? The memories won't be quite as cuddly, but just an indelible.
She's one of the best basketball coaches to ever live, she's a God in the state of Tennessee, and she changed the way we look at women coaches, and women's sports, in general. Here's to hoping she recovers, and fights this news as hard as we all expect her to.
No matter what happens from here, though, that glare lasts forever.
...As you've probably heard, the East Coast got hit with a decently serious earthquake on Tuesday afternoon. Nothing as horrifying as what people in other parts of the country (and world) experience on a daily basis, but just scary enough to give us a taste of what we've been missing all these years. Anyway, since earthquakes are at the forefront of conversation, let's get into Talking Points.
You Want To Talk About Earthquakes? Then let's talk about real, ass-kicking, s**t-your-pants earthquakes. I can't help but feel guilty about all the people in New York City and D.C. freaking out today. People in other parts of the country must be getting a good laugh out of all this.
What happened on the East Coast was a real, live earthquake, but it's not the sort of memory that's seared into your brain forever. Not like, say, the 1989 World Series. Here's a scene that Michael Rosenberg remembers at Sports Illustrated, twenty years later:
The A's clubhouse went dark. ... Most of them had gone from thinking this was awful to believing everything was OK. Then the news trickled in, each update worse than the last: Power is out ... phones aren't working ... the Bay Bridge collapsed. Parker's wife, Kellye, had driven over the bridge less than an hour earlier.
The Marina, a middle-to upper-class neighborhood built largely on landfill, was by far the hardest hit part of San Francisco. There were films of the collapse of a section of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge that showed one car disappearing into a gaping hole. And reporters were then estimating that 250 people had been trapped in their cars and probably crushed to death when the Cypress Street Viaduct of the Nimitz Freeway fell apart.
If You Read Nothing Else Today... Make it ?uestlove's story about touring Will Smith's house out in L.A. We'll highlight more ?uestlove stories later in the week, but particularly given the news of Will and Jada's separation (or not), this one's probably the best place to start.
Earthquakes On The East Coast, Bull Semen All Over Tennessee. Yikes.
In The Future, We Will All Work On Islands, And Government Won't Exist. So says Billionaire entrepreneur (think Facebook, PayPal) Peter Thiel. As Details Magazine outlines, Thiel has partnered with a former Google entrepreneur to make this happen. That man's name is Milton Friedman. Here's an overview of his plans:
Friedman wants to establish new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters—free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country. They'd be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050. Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together.
Friedman hopes to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year; full-time settlement, he predicts, will follow in about seven years; and full diplomatic recognition by the United Nations, well, that'll take some lawyers and time.
"The ultimate goal," Friedman says, "is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government." This translates into the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.
Sounds crazy, right? Until you get to this part:
One potential model is something Friedman calls Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, "starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate," Friedman says.
Yeah, so... All of this sounds fairly insane, but let's be serious. Appletopia (or "iState") is something that will definitely exist within the next 10-15 years, and it'll be the coolest, most user-friendly place on earth. It was also slowly sap your free will and turn you into a blubbering vegetable, constantly searching in vain for an Apple charger that you know you left somewhere.
And that's the final phase in Steve Jobs' plot to take over the world.
Because There's No Such Thing As A Bad Arrest Prank.
If I coached an NFL-team, I'd fake-arrest my players like, every single day. You could even take it a step further; send cop cars after them on their way home at night, who would then accuse them of driving drunk. The further away from the team facility, the more beliveable it becomes.
Sure, it might lead to an awkward scenario when one of my players actually got arrested and kept assuming it was a prank ("Damn, these handcuffs feel REAL. Nice work!"), but until then: totally worth it.
What NFL Team Should You Be Rooting For? This chart was great.
The Tragic Mystery That Will Probably Last Forever. The apparent suicide of Arturo Gatti in the summer of 2009 has been the source of controversy since the day the news broke, and two years later, that hasn't changed. Was it suicide, or murder?
Chris Jones takes a closer look, and provides a good--if gut-wrenching--look at the situation.
Reading The Wire In Real Life. Keeping with the murder theme... People get annoyed anytime someone brings up The Wire, so there's no need to go on and on about how much this next piece reminded me of The Wire and made me think that a show like that should stay on the air forever just to remind people what the inner city's really like. Nope, not gonna do that.
But if you're looking for an article that's impossible to stop reading once you start--and an update to the story that David Simon started telling in his book (Homicide) and later three different television shows--you could do much worse than The Killing Cycle, from Mark Di Ionno at the Newark Star-Ledger. A sample:
At times the detectives work together. ... At one point, the bad cop says, "What, don’t you think this guy is gonna come back to finish the job? You know whose homicide is next? Yours. Don’t you understand that? Do the right thing."
The witness yells back, "I’m scared."
The good cop counters in a calm reassuring voice. "Look, we’re just trying to help you. But when you walk out that door, there’s nothing we can do to protect you if you don’t help us get this guy off the street." Finally the white detectives leave and Crawley, who is black, returns. He, too, tells the witness the police need help to get killers off the street. He acknowledges the witness’s fear.
"We know you’re scared, we know you’re scared. We’re trying to help you not be scared."
The witness slowly nods. Tears form, and run down the witness’s face. Crawley pushes the picture of Raheem Cleveland toward the witness.
"Is this the guy?"
Finally, An Ode To Voltron. And a reminder that, no matter what happens, earthquake or no earthquake, professional athletes will always give the greatest interviews. Via LA Weekly: