1. From 2000–2006, Steve Gleason played defensive back for the New Orleans Saints.
2. Gleason mostly made his career as a reserve safety and special teamer, and there’s a statue outside the New Orleans Superdome commemorating a punt he blocked during the first Superdome game following Hurricane Katrina.
3. In 2011, Gleason announced he’d been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, he’s been active in the New Orleans community as an advocate for ALS sufferers. He has lost nearly all of his motor functions.
That’s the setup. This is the story: Because of his disease — a diagnosis of ALS usually results in death after three to five years — Gleason communicates via a computer that he controls by blinking. And he wrote an essay about his disease and his family via the same means, which Sports Illustrated’s Peter King ran as his column this week. It’s emotionally touching, and it’s intellectually impressive in its analysis of what science can and can’t offer us as people. It’s worth reading in full.
A few radio hosts in Atlanta — Steak Shapiro, Nick Cellini, and Chris Dimino — decided that this was grounds for humor. They were wrong, of course, but that didn’t stop them from launching into one of the most ill-advised, obscene, and, frankly, deranged segments likely to ever happen on live radio. Listening, it’s hard to believe that what you’re hearing actually happened; even the hosts sound like they’re being tortured, and yet they plow on.
You can listen here if you’d like, but you shouldn’t; it’s not worth it. Instead, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what happened.
During Monday’s “Mayhem in the A.M.” on 790 The Zone, the hosts pretended they had Steve Gleason on the phone. Instead, it was a robot voice, which told knock-knock “jokes” that were actually just perverse excuses to reference death. The robot voice says, “I wish I could play,” “I may not be here on Thursday,” “I’m going to hell,” and asks the hosts to, “Smother me … do me a favor.” Throughout, strained silence punctuates forced responses; it sounds like the men were being forced at gunpoint to do the segment. Which, of course, they were not.
All three hosts have since been fired, with a complete and total disavowal by 790 The Zone. They’re gone, but Steve Gleason remains, as does his Team Gleason effort to raise money for ALS. Visit their website here. And do read what Gleason wrote.