Unless you were totally out of the loop this past weekend, you were aware of the softball and baseball opening ceremonies that happened across the state, including ceremonies right here in Windham. (Be sure to see our sports page.) Every team imaginable from the Little Leagues, both boys and girls on up to high school men and women participated. The Ciccarone Ball Diamond on Lowell Field in East Windham was packed. I suspect there might be one or two players there who hope to become the next baseball great.
Baseball is a perfect way to kick off the month of May. It also seems to be a popular month to bring about awareness to many things in life that are important to us, like eating.
May is known as National Salsa Month, National Hamburger Month and National Strawberry Month.
But it is also the month of more serious concerns that often affect our lives directly, either through personal experience or through that of a loved one. Health issues such as Lyme disease, stroke and brain cancer are a few examples.
Another health issue focus for this month is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It touched and then took a life of a close friend. I have written about this subject more times than I’d prefer and every time I write about ALS, I am usually required to follow those three ominous initials with the sentence, “otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
This will be the last time as an author that I will use that sentence to describe this syndrome, and this is the reason why:
In her book, “I Remember Running: The Year I got Everything I Ever Wanted - and ALS”, Darcy Wakefield my friend, explained her perception of Lou Gehrig and his constant association with ALS.
“Here’s my main concern with calling my syndrome ‘Lou Gehrig’s’: To name this disease after a white male almost allows us to forget that ALS is an equal-opportunity illness . . . to name ALS after someone who died from it isn’t exactly encouraging or hopeful . . . [and] . . . I’m sure he’d rather be remembered for his baseball career.” (p. 37)
Additionally, to use the term “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” when we really mean ALS, softens the realities. There is a vaguely pleasing tone to the name Lou as if he could be one of our jolly uncles. To use his name does not address the struggle, pain and exceptional challenges that go with ALS. If someone reads the words Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and they don’t know what it is, we have Google now. They can look it up. In doing so, the harsher realities of the disease can increase awareness needed to take some form of positive action. But also, if we keep using his name in this way, it’s possible that he will become known more for a disease rather than as a baseball player to be admired.
Wouldn’t you want to be remembered for your life passion and talent? I would. From this point on as an author - it is Lou Gehrig - the baseball great!