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JKINDELRAY
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Two premiere female sports figures made big news this week.

Danica Patrick is going to NASCAR. Pat Summitt is going to be lucky if she coaches another year.

Danica Patrick will be a full-time NASCAR driver in 2012. (AP Photo)

Tennessee's women's basketball coach was diagnosed with early onset dementia, an Alzheimer's type disease. Summitt declared that she does not want a pity party, and I don't intend to throw one here. It's just the intersection with Patrick makes you appreciate Summitt even more.

Both women faced challenges getting to the top. One has tackled them with style.

The other conquered them with substance. Unless I somehow missed the Maxim cover featuring the Lady Vols wearing only bikinis and coonskin caps.

Patrick is hardly a pin-up pioneer. It's just that she's raised cheesecake marketing to a Kournikova-like art form. Her fame far surpasses her accomplishments.

I don't blame Patrick for preying on the male libido. If I could make $12 million a year posing in bikinis on car hoods, I'd gladly volunteer. I only wish so many female athletes didn't want it both ways.

They long to be respected, not objectified. Then they go topless and gripe when the public calls them out on it.

I was going to list a few examples, but it'd be easier to list notable females who haven't posed for Maxim or FHM or Playboy. If they've got it, they usually end up flaunting it.

Frankly, that's fine with me. But it doesn't promote their sports; it promotes them.

Take the 1999 U.S. women's soccer team. The combination of talent, looks and Brandi Chastain's jog bra led to the creation of the Women's United Soccer Association. The league lasted about 15 minutes.

At least Mia Hamm & Co. had a real accomplishment. Patrick is not a fraud, but she also has one win in 109 IndyCar starts. When you look like her that doesn't matter.

The Gal Racing the Good Old Boys will be a media spectacle. The lines in this Battle of the Sexes are already being drawn. Or did you not see Brad Keselowski's Twitter feed on Thursday?

"Her assent up the ladder of the sport thru various branding ???techniques' (swimsuit ads etc) only serves to undermine the ... future credibility of female racers who wish to make it based on skill, mental toughness and a never give up attitude."

For that, we have Summitt.

Sports were not a socially acceptable pursuit for young girls in the 1970s. In most states, including Tennessee, high schools played six-on-six.

There were three players on offense, three on defense, and neither group crossed mid-court. Girls were too fragile, you see, for full-court games.

Summitt was 22 when she got the Tennessee job, largely because nobody else wanted it. She made $250 a month, drove the bus and washed uniforms. Uniforms bought with proceeds from a doughnut sale.

Fast-forward 37 years, eight national championships and 1,071 wins. The Lady Vols have led the nation in attendance 14 of the past 15 seasons. They averaged 12,599 fans last season, a figure most men's programs would die for.

It's all due to Summitt refusing to compromise the values she learned growing up on a dairy farm in Henrietta, Tenn. You want resolve?

Summitt was in labor and went on a recruiting trip to Pennsylvania. She did cut the visit short because she was determined to get back and have the baby in Tennessee. She barely made it.

Summitt requires players to sit in the first three rows of class. She patrols the sideline looking like Bobby Knight after a bad meal, but her players almost universally adore her.

To be fair, Summitt has probably never been asked to pose in a bikini. But if ESPN the Magazine showed up wanting the Lady Vols to strip for its Body Issue, Summitt would run them off campus.

"I don't coach women," she once said. "I coach basketball."

The way she's done it has helped change the way we view women. They are more than delicate flowers or sex objects. They are athletes worthy of sporting respect.

Patrick also deserves respect for making herself into a multi-million dollar name brand. But her popularity is a house of cards that, sans more than one win, will collapse when her looks fade.

Summitt's legacy will last long after she fades away. She showed that women athletes can be successful, famous and achieve all their goals.

And they don't have to take off their clothes to do it.



August 28, 2011  11:10 PM ET

I had to read this twice, what a slam.

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August 29, 2011  05:49 AM ET

Good role model.

August 29, 2011  06:50 AM ET

you see, yet again we are mixing what is real in life and true sports (Pat Summitt) with hype and fantasy and marketing (business) (Danica Patrick).

The author does an excellent job of calling that out.

August 29, 2011  08:00 AM ET

If looks were all that counted in racing, then lets get Lucy Pinder, she already has the Airbags.:>

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August 29, 2011  09:30 AM ET

Don't know if Brad said it or not but it sounds right.

August 29, 2011  09:51 AM ET

Is it just me or does her left thumb look like it's bending in a way it shouldn't be?

The article is interesting, although somewhat misguided I think. I don't think it is quite fair to be comparing coaches and players when it comes to "success", especially across different sports.

Yes Danica is a marketing machine with mediocre driving skills, but in today's BYOS, Bring-Your-Own-Sponsor, those who are marketable will get the sponsors and rides. How many times in recent years have we seen drivers and/or sponsor hesitant to sign unless the owner could guarantee that the current driver/sponsor are staying. Welcome to the business of NASCAR where the racing is secondary.

I will admit I know little about basketball, even less about college basketball, and even less about women's college basketball, but I know it is less sponsored then racing. And I will commend Summitt on pushing her athletes to excel in the classroom as well as the court, but I bet her program would be completely different if she had companies throwing money at her players they way they do these drivers. you just have to look at the men's college basketball and the issues the coaches have with players there. How many players are opting out of completing school because of companies throwing money at them once they hit the NBA? Women's Basketball doesn't have the same lucrative deals.

And you have to also look at the "years competed". Summitt has an almost 40 year career to pull from, while Danica only has less than 10. Danica could hit her stride next year and go on a tear that makes Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson's domination look like a Jr Year, while Summitt is in the twilight of a very successful career.

August 29, 2011  10:39 AM ET
QUOTE(#10):

Danica could hit her stride next year and go on a tear that makes Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson's domination look like a Jr Year, while Summitt is in the twilight of a very successful career.

You had me somewhat agreeing until this point. LOL I think I detect a little tongue in cheek.

August 29, 2011  10:58 AM ET
QUOTE(#11):

You had me somewhat agreeing until this point. LOL I think I detect a little tongue in cheek.

Some yes, but then again look at Brad K over the last 2 months.

August 29, 2011  11:26 AM ET

Brad had shown some talent last year. He was a little too testy and once he payed attention to business, good things happened.

August 29, 2011  11:40 AM ET

I'm not trying to take anything away from Brad, but I think he needs a few more good seasons to be qualified to make that statement.

And I hear about women who pose are exploited. With the money most of them make for it, who is exploiting whom? But it's rare in life to have it both ways. I think a woman has a right to make her own choices and live with the consequences. One of those being that they are probably taken less seriously if they pose.

Look how much crap Menard has gotten, only because his dad has supported his racing. And this is a guy who has improved at every stop.

So Danica needs to control her emotions, grow some thick skin and realize she has a lot to learn about NASCAR.

August 29, 2011  12:08 PM ET
QUOTE(#14):

I'm not trying to take anything away from Brad, but I think he needs a few more good seasons to be qualified to make that statement.

I'm not saying hes going to have a KB/JJ buster career, but if asked June 30th I'm sure all of us here, including Uh, would have said "Brad K. better luck next year." And yet now not only is he in the Chase, he's threatening to drive into it, and quite possibly be a contender this year.

For all we know Danica might actually be a stock car driver who floundered in open wheel like the open wheel guys floundered in stock cars. And who knows she might have the luck of "debris" cautions Jimmie seems to have all the time.

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