Agony of Lou Gehrig’s Disease is no laughing matter
It’s clinically known as “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” or “ALS.”
The public recognizes it as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
My dear sister, mother of seven fine children, died of it.
So did my father-in-law.
And my three sons grew up loving the New Orleans Saints. Our family considers former linebacker Steve Gleason a hero, for his inspirational performances on the field and especially for his courage and dignity as he suffers through the deadly grip of ALS. His diagnosis came in 2011 and he immediately went to work organizing “Team Gleason” to promote public awareness and better funding for research to find a cure and better treatments.
Our family — and thousands more — will attest that there’s nothing funny or humorous about ALS.
And shame on those three Atlanta disc jockeys who last week teased and mocked Steve Gleason in a mindless on-air skit.
An estimated 30,000 Americans are going through the agonizing one-way trip through the ALS experience. About 5,000 are diagnosed each year. To their families and friends, “caregiving” is not an abstraction.
On the day they turned stupid, the Atlanta broadcasters might have heralded Steve Gleason’s sincere efforts to live out his days as an inspiration to other ALS victims. As his physical strength declined dramatically, he went on international outdoor adventures and reached for the latest tools of technology to enhance the qualities of life for the terminally ill.
And with “Team Gleason” and a many other information programs, there is a growing awareness of this broadening incurable disease — and the instant outrage in Atlanta about this inexplicable on-air behavior quickly spread nationwide.
And the three radio idiots were summarily fired. But these men were broadcast veterans and apparently respected for their professionalism.
The public reaction quickly molded into one question — how could they descend to such sick-humored idiocy? Surely no media professional would willfully be so insensitive and hurtful. We are reminded that gratuitous and ugly humor has become a trend of our instant communications society.
But this story now rises above that regrettable point and we’re seeing the announcers’ genuine contrition and Mr. Gleason’s dignity inspire a bottom-line message to America — it’s time to press the efforts of finding a cure and better treatments for ALS.
The apologies and regrets were instant and genuine.
Chris Dimino: “The sheer stupidity of trying to put this as a failed attempt at humor is not lost on me.”
Nick Cellini: “When and if I do work in radio again, I’m going to donate my first month’s salary to the fight against ALS ... I know that feelings are very raw, and I’m very, very contrite ... I realize what I did was a horrible, horrible thing ... I have personally apologized to Steve Gleason and his wife.”
Steak Shapiro: “I love the people and city of New Orleans, always have, always will, I will work tirelessly to make this up to you. ...” (Shapiro is a Tulane graduate and named his daughter “Nola.”) Watch and listen to their contrition and you get the feeling these men fell into a trap of broadcast spontaneity. They made no excuses and did not question their firings. They owned up to abject stupidity.
And Steve Gleason, using his eye-tracking computer software to communicate, turned the affair into a life lesson of dignity and forgiveness:
“I would like to thank the public for their support ... ‘Team Gleason’ now has been officially redefined. Additionally, the DJs have provided genuine apology. Received and accepted. We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are ... everyone can learn from this event. ... ALS is not understood, which is part of why it’s underfunded and largely ignored. In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Let’s talk about this — there are zero treatments for ALS. If you take any action as a result of this event, I prefer it to be action to end ALS.”
Steve Gleason will be an inspirational hero to his end.
As for the three announcers, America responds to sincere contrition, and Mr. Gleason’s forgiveness seems to challenge all of us.
These guys seem to qualify completely for our forgiveness — and maybe even to return to their old jobs. Here’s betting that when they return to the air, they’ll join the tireless efforts of ALS victims and their families in finding a cure and better treatments.
And, no doubt, that will make Mr. Gleason very happy.
Ron Brinson, a former associate editor of this newspaper, is a North Charleston city councilman. He can be reached at email@example.com.