As I was trying to keep track of the relentless COVID-19 news cycle this past week, two items grabbed my attention and forced me to pause the continuous scroll of my social media feeds.
The posts were about two people well-known to New Orleanians, Today Show host Hoda Kotb and Saints legend Steve Gleason. Hoda is still well regarded locally following a six-year run at WWL-TV in the 1990s prior to her becoming a national TV star and Gleason, who recently received the Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts to improve the lives of others who have ALS, is the most inspirational resident of the Crescent City.
How are they connected?
Hoda broke down at the end of a five-minute interview with Saints quarterback Drew Brees about the $5 million donation he and his wife Brittany made to help feed those in need throughout Louisiana. The Friday morning interview ended with Hoda saying, “Drew, we love ya,” and when Drew responded with "Love you too," the veteran TV host started to tear up, shuffling papers as she tried to regain her composure in front of a national audience for about 20 seconds.
It was the most compelling and moving moment of TV I've seen since the coronavirus started sweeping the world and forcing people to confront an invisible enemy that has killed more than 2,000 Americans.
It immediately made me think of Steve and a series of posts he's been sharing on social media, trying to pass on some of the lessons he's learned since being diagnosed with ALS in 2011, five years after he cemented his place in Saints lore with the blocked punt in the re-opening game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Steve revealed his plan in this post March 21:
"Over the past 9 years my family and I have experienced enormous loss, failure, and suffering. I think I've learned many pertinent and encouraging lessons that are applicable to our current global crisis."
On Thursday, one day before Hoda's interview with Drew, Steve added this gem:
"The best therapy is often a super massive ... cry session dude."
Dude, you were right and Hoda provided that cry session for everyone. The drumbeat of depressing news takes its toll on all of us, even seasoned news professionals, and we all needed a release. Thank you Hoda for providing it.
This pandemic is different from other crises our city and country have had to endure in that we're forced to stay apart in order to try and stem the spread of the virus.
That most unnatural of requirements – keeping our distance from family, friends and neighbors – has created a surreal situation in New Orleans.
It's quiet. Not the quiet you may experience on a still-dark morning run but an eerie silence.
It's as if the entire city is taking part in one giant, never-ending conference call and everyone has pressed the mute button. People are there but you can't hear them.
There's no rush hour traffic, no real traffic at all except for those folks jamming the walking path at Audubon Park, trying to escape their home for some exercise and fresh air.
But New Orleans still is maintaining its uniqueness, from residents covering the faces of statues with masks to the woman in the two-piece bathing suit (covered by a mesh shirt) I saw standing on the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon avenues on Saturday morning holding a sign that read, "Not a bum just a small business owner."
This pandemic is impacting all of us in ways small and large with the end far from sight. We all can learn from Hoda and Steve. Be human, be kind, be resilient and when needed have a super massive cry.
Doug Tatum is the vice president of digital media for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, joining the organizations in 2013 following a 20-year career in journalism.