Sunday is the fifth anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. Outstanding columnist Jeff Duncan marks it with what might be most outstanding piece of work I’ve seen in a long time.
He’s got a very lengthy and moving feature on Steve Gleason, who was one of the heroes of that first game back in the Superdome. Gleason made a huge and memorable play, blocking a punt against the Atlanta Falcons.
That’s all mentioned in the column, but it’s not the main theme of a story that’s tragic and uplifting at the same time. The real story here is that Gleason was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) back in January, just before his wife found out she was pregnant with the couple’s first child. It’s a terminal disease, but Gleason isn’t giving up.
Gleason had kept his condition quiet, but decided to go public with Duncan because he wants the world to know his story and he wants to help others. Gleason said he had several concussions while playing football. He said he doesn’t know for sure if his football injuries might have led to him coming down with the disease, but there have been several studies that have suggested football players and other athletes in contact sports seem to be prone to the illness.
Despite the grim outlook, Gleason and his wife, who is due in late October, are going about their lives as normally as possible. Gleason will be an honorary captain for the Saints on Sunday.
That’s only fitting because he played such a big role on this date five years ago and he remains a very popular figure in New Orleans.
If you haven’t seen it already, I urge you to go read Duncan’s column.