My regular readers, all four of you, will recall that I have been a fan of the NFL New Orleans Saints since I was old enough to understand the game. I've been through lean times, and more recently good times, culminating in Super Bowl XLIV. But few times in Saints history, even watching Tracy Porter sprint for a pick-6 with The Mighty Manning sittin on his butt in the background, could match the magic of the moment on 25 September 2006, the Saints first home game in the newly repaired Superdome, the night that the horror of a battered lifeboat riding out Katrina, became the focus of a renewed determination not to be defined by failure, but by hope. Give this youtube video time to run, I know it's a little long, but hang in there, the pregame speech is pretty good, and Gleason is interviewed (off camera) towards the end.
I been in the 'dome. I've heard it loud. I've never heard anything (outside of Porter's pick) to compare to the roar that arose from that blocked punt. I never dreamed, nor indeed at that time did Steve Gleason dream that we would be here today, me writing one of the most emotional posts I've ever written (a pathetic comparison), and him facing the awful prognosis that anyone with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) or their loved ones have had to face.
I could never do better than New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Jeff Duncan did in this emotional, gut-wrenching, inspiring piece, found here.
Nor indeed better than the words of Gleason himself:
"In the end for me, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we learn from this. We learn about ourselves. We learn to live the life that we love, no matter what your circumstances are, no matter what hand that you've been dealt. It's important that we learn to share our love with one another. And it's important to learn how to cure this disease."
On 25 September 2011, the 5th anniversary of Gleason's blocked punt, the Saints hosted Gleason as honorary captain, and he led the pre-game ritual: "Whodat? Whodat? Whodat say they goan beat dem Saints?"