Dinner with a Legend

June 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm (inspiration, Personal, sports, ut) (, , , , )

Pat Summitt and CC jpg

I hope I will never forget one of the greatest moments of my life: I had dinner with Coach Pat Summitt. It means even more to me now, since her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease has forced her to step down from her head coaching position at the University of Tennessee, where she is now Head Coach Emeritus. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month, the highest civilian honor one can receive. 

But back to our dinner.  It was a fund raiser of some sort, the details are lost to me now. But I went with my father, who is a UT graduate, and has always been active in university affairs and a member of various boards. So, we arrived a little early to the event, and I was looking around to see where Coach Summitt was going to be sitting. I remember telling Daddy that I hoped she was close enough that I could see her. He just smiled a little and said he thought I’d be able to see her just fine. 

Just as I was making my way to the table, I heard a familiar voice call out from behind me.  “Hey, Leonard, how are you?” Daddy turned and said, “Well, hello Pat. It’s good to see you again.”  I’m not usually one to get star-struck, but I absolutely could not find any words as I found myself face to face with Pat Summitt–well, not quite face to face–she is quite tall.  But still. I just stood there while Daddy made introductions. She shook my hand, warmly and firmly. She asked me a few general questions as we walked toward the table. She stopped at a seat, smiled at me,  and said, “Well, it looks like we’ll be having dinner together tonight”.  I looked at Daddy, who was sporting a mile-wide grin.  He said, “Oh, did I forget to mention that to you?”  I nearly fainted.  I giggled, then hugged him, then hugged her. She was laughing, too, and told me to “just relax. I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like you do”. 

I did begin to relax and the next couple of hours flew by in a blur. We chatted like old friends as we ate. We taIked a little about basketball, but mostly about other things: our shared love for our four-legged friends and driving fast, fond memories of the peace and quiet of farm life and country cooking, a well-played game, and a well-played prank (the sense of humor came thru). I could not possibly come up with enough adequate adjectives to describe her over the course of that two hours.  She was at times the most engaging, generous, funny, warm, witty, intelligent, kind, successful, determined, courageous, self-deprecating, humble, and considerate woman I have ever met. She left a lasting impression on me that night, the night Pat came to dinner. 

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