The statue of former Saints safety Steve Gleason blocking a punt against Atlanta is probably one of the coolest statues I personally have ever seen. Gleason’s blocked punt sent him into the annals of Saints history as a symbol of the rebirth of a city ravaged by natural disaster. The controversy, though, is that the falcons don’t want to be remembered as the team on the receiving end of that blocked punt. When asked, the Atlanta Falcons refused to grant the Saints and sculptor Brian Hanlon permission to use the Falcons’ symbol or the punter’s name in the piece.
If you haven’t seen the statue of the famous blocked punt, which took place in a Monday Night Football game that marked the Saints return to the super dome, here it is. It is titled “Rebirth“.
The funny thing about the statue is that the name “GLEASON” and his number, 37 are clearly visible on the statue; the name of punter Michael Koenen, though, (who was the victim of the famous blocked punt) as well as his number and the Atlanta Falcons symbol had to be omitted. Nola.com reported that though the Falcons organization had been contacted more than once, but refused to allow anything to do with their team to be used in the statue. It might have something to do with not wanting to re-live the 23-3 beating they took at the hands of their of a Saints team that was still unproven on September 25, 2006.
Even without the name of the punter or the falcons logo on the punter, it’s still a really interesting sculpture. Steve Gleason is a legend in New Orleans now for giving his team a spark to beat their division rival in the first game in the New Orleans Superdome in 21 months. Hurricane Katrina had torn the city apart, and seeing the Saints beat the Falcons in the first game back was a much needed boost to a city that needed it. Gleason recently acknowledged the gravity of his play, saying:
“That statue is not about football. It’s a symbol of the commitment and perseverance that this community took on before that game.
Gleason struggled through the ceremony in which the statue was dedicated because he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly refered to as “Lou Gherig’s disease) in early 2011.
The former Falcons punter that is depicted, though nameless and faceless on the statue, tweeted a congratulations to Gleason, saying: “Awesome day for an inspirational man … God bless you in your fight partner!! Half of me likes your statue ;)”
Gleason retired in 2008, but will be forever remembered now that his statue sits outside the superdome. As for the Falcons not wanting to be a part of the statue at all… I think every Saints fan knows where they were and who their team was playing on that fateful Monday night.
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