On September 25, 2006, ex-New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason stoked a fire under his football team with a courageous block of a punt which ended up becoming a touchdown only minutes into a historic moment. That one play sparked a rag-tag orphan of a team which on that night was returning to a rehabilitated Superdome, post Katrina. The emotional Saints went on to beat the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night football in front of millions of television viewers. It was a game that perhaps left more people with tears than cheers. Before then, people even wondered if this World’s Wonder of a building which housed thousands of Katrina refugees only the summer prior would ever be home to a professional team and certainly would not be the black and gold which had taken root in Oklahoma City. Even some well-respected voices openly shouted that the City of New Orleans was cursed, was too expensive to repair and should be forced to retire into oblivion
Five years later to the same date, Steve Gleason appeared on television once again. To many and certainly to me, Gleason was a changed man. On Sunday, this once chiseled muscle of a man carried a much weaker frame hardly a symbol of a sport of brute strength. Gleason did not let his body go over the years. Instead, his body has let him go.
To the sorrow and surprise to many (including this writer), Steve Gleason is now competing with the opponent of his life as he has been stricken by ALS. In front of millions before the Saints took on the Texans, Gleason walked gingerly but with dignity. He stood proud knowing that beside him stood the spirits of stadiums of people who have been affected either in person or by relationships inflicted by this terminal disease that, as many, sorely needs the world’s attention and treasured resources.
New Orleans and Louisiana owes plenty to Gleason for being igniting the hope that finally resulted in the most ultimate of sports victories, the Super Bowl. Despite the odds of continuous embarrassing seasons and the crippling blow of a furious Mother Nature, Gleason's Saints persevered after that play and finally convinced all doubters that indeed the weak could inherit the earth.
We do not know how long Steve Gleason will honor us with his presence on our earth. ALS has defeated even the most iron men in our midst. Ask Lou Gehrig after whom the disease was named.
Yet, for those in New Orleans and hopefully for those throughout the world who are and will be somehow touched by the face, name and history of this proud man, we can only carry his torch and that of others like him who bravely struggle in silence with one of most vicious and disabling diseases man has ever known. Despite the odds, Gleason is clearly beckoning us to once again have faith.
For now, Steve Gleason is a quiet hero whose presence is and will be an inspiration to so many others who hope for the cure and who are praying to the Saints for peace and strength illuminating the future.
Below are videos of the 2006 miracle and Gleason's return to the Superdome five years later
by Stephen Sabludowsky, Publisher of Bayoubuzz.com
Below are a few of Steve Gleason's latest tweets as of this writing:
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