|University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat |
Summitt revealed that she has dementia, Alzheimer's type.
Photo by CavalierLove via WikiMedia Commons
Comparing University of Tennessee women's basketball coach, Pat Summitt, to Britney Spears seems like an exercise destined to get you punched in the face by any ardent women's sports fan. In fact, I'm pretty certain a punch in the face is what the coaching legend would give Ms. Spears if the two were forced to spend a weekend together.
Both women have become icons in their respective industries. Summitt is the winningest coach, male or female, in college basketball history with 1,037 victories to only 196 losses over the course of a thirty eight year career. While Britney Spears exists in a seemingly different universe than Summitt, she too has an impressive resume in her lengthy (for pop icons anyway) twelve year career with seven number one studio albums and sales in the US totaling 33 million units.
(Note: The sports world tends to be way more conservative than any other entertainment industry. If the sports world were a political commercial it would definitely feature the term 'family values' with an American flag waving and a family holding hands looking super well-adjusted. So, if you are uncomfortable with comparing such a high character person as Pat Summitt with Britney Spears, a woman who was legally deemed a less suitable parent than this guy, I understand your concern. But bear with me, we're only talking about their careers and cultural impact.)
However, by the end of this week, both Summitt and Spears will have been forcibly pushed toward the downhill run of their careers.
On Tuesday, the 59 year old Summitt rocked the sports world when she revealed that she has early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. By Wednesday, the outpouring of support from journalists came in the form of glowing articles about Summitt's legacy, her character, and this touching piece by Summitt's close friend Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post. On Sunday, Spears will go through a similar (albeit far less tragic) transition at the increasingly irrelevant MTV Video Music Awards, where she will receive a tribute.
While the support and recounting of anecdotes from Summitt's career are heartwarming, journalists are now writing of Summitt's career predominately in the past tense. Likewise, although it might seem like an honor, a tribute is Hollywood's not so subtle acknowledgement that Spears' best work as an artist is behind her and she is now considered a luminary.
In other words, both Pat Summitt and Britney Spears have transitioned to the world of nostalgia and memory.