The documentary “Gleason” is not for the faint-hearted. This is not about triumph but tragedy. This is five years in the life of former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason as he struggles against Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also know as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There is no cure Gehrig died of the rare autoimmune condition in 1941. The former Yankees’ first baseman, “The Iron Horse” on the field, died at 37. Gleason is 39.
Gleason was originally with the Indianapolis Colts, but in 2000, he joined the Saints. Gleason brought joy to a New Orleans, battered by Hurricane Katrina. In the first home game after that disaster, he blocked a punt in the 2006 game at the Superdome against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints were not expected to win that game, but did.
The documentary is merciless in showing the relentless ravages of the disease. A former Saints teammate, Scott Fujita, is one of the producers. Gleason can no longer speak and must use assistive technology to communicate. Gleason was friends with members of Pearl Jam and Mike McCready wrote one of the songs included on the soundtrack. This is not for the meek, but it shows a different kind of courage and the reality faced by people with ALS. It also might be helpful for people suffering from MS.
The film was released on 29 July 2016 after making a world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.