Sports talk radio shows reached an all time low this week at Atlanta's 790 The Zone.
It's been a trending path for some time. Station programmers have taken much of the actual sports talk out of their formats and push their hosts to be strong on entertainment and sprinkle in some sports in their spare time.
But it hit bottom on The Zone with morning co-hosts Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino and former station owner Steve “Steak'' Shapiro.
In this era of sports talk show hosts trying to be comedians, this trio of over-aged frat boys decided to make fun of former New Orleans Saints special teams player Steve Gleason.
The Zone is the flagship station of the Falcons and the Saints are archrivals. So let's have some fun at the Saints' expense.
They decided to denigrate Gleason. They put what they wrongly thought was a clever, funny skit together with Gleason the butt of their joke.
There was one small problem. It bombed. Blew up in their faces. Gleason is suffering from Amotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. It is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the Hall of Fame New York Yankees star, whose career and life were cut short by ALS.
How on earth the Three Stooges thought it would be funny to poke fun at Gleason, or anyone else with such a horrid, debilitating disease is beyond me.
My wife's sister recently died of ALS. Sharon went to Florida to spend the final days with Sarah, two years older than her.
Our neighbor Alan has ALS, is confined to bed and a motorized wheelchair. He is fighting for his life. I saw him and some of his family going by our home Sunday. On their way back, his young granddaughter was by his side. Alan can no longer walk. In every sense of the word, ALS is a most tragic disease.
And The Zone show, Mayhem in the AM, thought it would be funny to make fun of Steve Gleason?
The joke's on them.
Gleason had been asked to fill in for Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King and to write King's weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback'' column.
You can find it online on SI's website, or just Google it. It is a must read — heart-wrenching, yet uplifting. I can't imagine the time it took, the difficulty it presented for him to write the column and retain such a positive outlook.
You see, there is no cure for ALS. It is a death sentence that kills most victims in less than five years. Doctors told Gleason he had two-to-five years to live. He was diagnosed in 2011, four years after retiring from the NFL. He is now 36 years old and will be lucky to turn 40.
Steve Gleason now writes with the only muscles he has to work with — his eyes. His arms and hands are useless. He has computer software that he can communicate with, using his eyes to write.
In the sickening spoof, the fake Gleason said that he might not live until Thursday. The fake Gleason used a knock-knock joke to say he asked to be smothered.
Someone, anyone, please point out even a modicum of comedy there.
The joke was on the Three Stooges. They were suspended before being fired when angry callers bombarded the station. Management had no other choice. Someone had to stop the madness. The trio quickly offered apologies to their audience and to Gleason. Gleason has since responded and forgiven them.
Maybe those who do sports talk shows will take a hint. Your words carry a lot of weight. Choose them carefully.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.