Three Atlanta radio hosts from ESPN 790 the Zone were fired Monday for their distasteful “comedy” skit mocking former NFL defensive back Steve Gleason. Gleason, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has lost much of his motor skills and so is confined to a wheelchair and needs a computerized device to communicate.
An audio clip of the gag, in which the hosts use a computerized voice to impersonate Gleason in a mock interview, is unbelievable.
Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, Nick Cellino, and Chris Dimino failed to understand that of greater importance than any rivalry, even the Falcons-Saints one, is respect. An athlete and man like Gleason will know not to acknowledge these clowns, because he has more important goals such as spreading awareness for ALS. Most recently Gleason guest authored Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column for Sports Illustrated. His 4,500-word column took 4 hours to type using his eyes. Here’s what Gleason had to say:
“So, how does a person react when he or she learns there are two to five years left with which to live?
"Denial. Frustration. Anger. Despair. But at some point, I understood that acceptance of this diagnosis was not admitting defeat. That was critical for me personally. I think our lives are enriched when our own death is a conscious thought. I am not saying we should obsess over this, but it can be useful, because it makes you focus on the things and people you truly love. After that realization, I started to dig in, to look forward to what might be in my future.
"Because ALS research is underfunded and under-resourced, patients end up fading away quietly. I did not want to fade away quietly.”
The 36-year-old was diagnosed in 2001 in this disease that affects roughly 2 in 100,000 people each year. The progressive neurodegenerative disease affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, slowly removing the ability of the brain to control muscles. Some 50% of patients live at least two years after diagnosis; 20% live five years or more and up to 10% survive more than 10 years.
We can’t rest assured that while Shapiro, Cellino, and Dimino will soon be forgotten, Gleason will live on in the minds of all Saints fans as one of the most iconic players in the franchise’s history. During the first game back in the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, it is Gleason who blocked a punt that led to a touchdown – the first New Orleans score at home in nearly two years. So while Gleason may be a joke to some, he is a hero to many more.
The Saints went on to beat none other than the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 in that game.