October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason prior to kickoff of a game against the San Diego Chargers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
I was absolutely disgusted to hear that 790 the Zone in Atlanta had the guile to make fun of former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason because he is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The criticism was immediate from listeners in Atlanta, New Orleans, and even from the Atlanta Falcons.
Let me be clear. My disgust is not simply because Gleason is suffering from the harmful effects of ALS such as loss of speech and motor movements. It’s because despite this, he is still making a difference in the world and changing lives despite the fact that he cannot change his own.
If you are a true fan of football then you probably know Steve Gleason was never a starter for the Saints. According to ESPN, he recorded 66 tackles, four blocked punts, and two fumble recoveries in his eight-year career with the team.
Those stats aren’t very impressive, but one catch; one tackle; or in this case, one blocked punt can be all the difference in the world.
Hurricane Katrina had all but destroyed life in the Big Easy and the Louisiana Superdome. People had lost their homes, their loved ones, their hope, and many thought they had lost they might lose the New Orleans Saints.
When the Superdome re-opened and Gleason blocked that kick it shocked life back into the city. New Orleans had a reason to smile and dance again. Gleason gave them back their hope.
When Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, he was told that most people live about two to five years post diagnosis. He has since used the disease to help give the very same hope he gave back to New Orleans to others.
Team Gleason is committed to helping those suffer with ALS live productive and purpose-driven lives, increase the awareness of ALS in the public, and begin a conversation about ALS that results in finding solutions and a cure for the disease.
Gleason sometimes wondered if football had anything to do with his ALS. Current research does show that football players are more likely to have certain brain diseases. If football did cause it, Gleason figures he gave his life to help a city rebuild and to give hope to others suffering with a debilitating disease. For Gleason, that is nothing to regret.