LAFAYETTE – "Garry let's not make it about me, but about every survivor in the community and throughout the state of Louisiana, let's get everyone working together." That's what Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball head coach Garry Brodhead feels his late wife Andrea Brodhead would say, right now as she looked down at what the women's basketball team has been doing with their Pink Game and efforts surrounding that game.
Although the game has been something that the Cajuns have done since Brodhead arrived to take over the coaching duties, it took on special meaning on Sept. 10, 2015 when Andrea Brodhead lost the fight with cancer. Since then the game has been about more than just wearing a pink jersey on one game of the year.
This season the game falls on Saturday, Feb. 17 when UT-Arlington comes to town, but it's became more than just one game and the team wearing their pink jerseys throughout the month of February. It became about honoring Andrea's memory. But most importantly it became about bringing everyone together, not just on the court but in the community to spread awareness about a disease that touches everyone.
"One of the things that our University stands for is community and one of the things that we wanted to do was to form an identity that connects the community, the University and our program," said Brodhead.
"I thought that we could do that with awareness, and with this game we could use it as a platform to spread the word. One of the biggest things when dealing with cancer is early detection. We decided to try and echo those comments that it's important to have early detection, and in my experience, I know how important that is.
"The other thing we wanted people to know is that when you're diagnosed with cancer that there's hope. There's care and eventually there's a cure. The thing for me is that it's a never-ending thing, and it lives with you forever.
"You've got to make sure that you're monitoring that and the people around you can make a big difference in helping to maintain a positive outlook with everything involved with keeping up the fight against cancer. We want to bring survivors together because they show that they've been through it and survived with help from the people around them."
Coach Brodhead's relationship with his wife was one that reached across not just a few decades, but an entire lifetime. They met during their childhood and it was the definition of love at first sight for both Garry and Andrea. It sparked a 50-year relationship, that was more about bringing the community together then about coaching basketball.
That idea survivors today, and it's what this game is truly about.
"If she were here today, Andrea would remind me that the game isn't about me. But instead that it's about fighting for the community," said Brodhead. "She was so opened armed, and she was a person that cared about so many people and so many people loved her. Ever since that day, she passed away, I knew that this game had to be more."
And more it has become, with t-shirt sales from the game going to the Andrea Brodhead Foundation, a scholarship fund that helps families effected by cancer, along with this year's game being presented by Lourdes Imagining Center, to help spread awareness with early detection. The Pink Game has opened up a new front on the battlefield in the conflict with cancer that has reached across so many boundaries.
To emphasize that point there will be survivors from cancer remembered at midcourt during halftime, but not just to honor them for one day, but to remind people of the everyday struggle that everyone effected by cancer goes through.
"We wanted to bring survivors together because they show that they've been through it and survived with help from the people around them," said Brodhead. "But I've learned one major thing about cancer survivors. That being, that they stick together, and they appreciate the other battles fought by fellow survivors. It brings our community closer and that's what we want to do, bring the community together to fight this battle."
There's really not much of a better platform to bring everyone together then a national televised sporting event, with the game bring broadcast on ESPN3. But at the end of the day fans in attendance and watching from home can learn from this special evening. And getting involved in any way possible to help strengthen the hope of even one survivor, is what should truly be taken away from the Pink Game.
"What I can say is that you shouldn't wait until it affects you," said Brodhead. "With all of the great organization's that we have out there, you should get involved. Even if it's just a golf tournament that the American Cancer Society is involved with, just getting involved is important.
"I would want someone to leave the game, feeling motivated to help out because they'll grow as a person, and the more people that get involved the bigger and better these organizations are going to be and with everyone's help and support we'll find a cure."
It started as a game but grew into something more. And through the past two plus years, the memory of Andrea Brodhead has been intertwined into the everyday life of the Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball program.
Andrea's passion and voice still rings through the halls of the Cajundome, and her humble personality and caring for people is a part of what makes this game special. And if Andrea was here today, she would remind coach Brodhead of one thing.
"Ok Garry, don't forget to tell everyone that let's not make it about me."