ALS will be in the forefront of America’s minds during Super Bowl week because of two players: O.J. Brigance and Steve Gleason.
Brigance is a former special teams captain who won a ring the last time the Baltimore Ravens were in the Super Bowl. Gleason, a former Saints player, is famous for his blocked punt in the NFL’s first game in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Both have been described as inspirational players, but both also have been stricken by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in their 30s. The New York Times’ Fifth Down blog wrote about them and the public service announcement by the NFL Players Association that will debut Monday.
On Monday, they will unveil their latest and most potent effort: a stark public service announcement, pulled together in about three weeks, in which N.F.L. players and coaches –Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco; Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Coach Mike McCarthy; the Saints’ Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma, among them — explain in excruciating detail the gradual physical failure that results from A.L.S. The spot concludes with a wheelchair-bound Gleason: “Let’s put our heads together and find a cure for A.L.S.”
The P.S.A. was the idea of Gleason and a few others, and it began about two months ago. The point of the message: “A.L.S. patients will no longer simply fade away,” said Scott Fujita, the Cleveland Browns linebacker who has been Gleason’s most prominent advocate. Just before Christmas, Fujita e-mailed a letter Gleason composed to players around the league, asking them to participate. The response was so overwhelming that, because of logistics, not all of the players could be filmed; the Giants and Broncos wanted to help, but film crews couldn’t get to them in time.
Here’s the NFLPA’s public service announcement:
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor.