The Minnesota Vikings had some sad news to share on Wednesday - former All-Pro safety Orlando Thomas had passed away. Officials from Orlando’s alma mater, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, had informed the team of Thomas’ passing, so the Vikings put up the story on their official website. Upon learning this information, the MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE also put up their own blog post about Orlando’s death.
Yes, it would be very sad news - had Thomas actually passed away.
(Contrary to the Vikes, Cajuns & Trib, Orlando Thomas is not dead yet. And contrary to this photo, he does not have four arms.)
As Mark Twain was once quoted, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” And now Orlando is free to use that clever quip for himself. However, although he may still be alive, he is not in the best of health.
Thomas is suffering from ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Those who suffer from the incurable neurodegenerative disease are given a life expectancy after diagnosis of two to five years - and Orlando has been fighting it for the past five years.
But Orlando’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, says the news about his client’s death isn’t true. When asked to confirm the story, Bartelstein talked to Thomas’ family on Wednesday night, and they said that Orlando is sick but still alive.
Bartelstein has this reponse to the Star-Trib about Orlando’s current condition:
“He’s still fighting as hard as ever. I don’t know anybody to fight a disease or illness the way he has fought this. He’s continuing to fight the fight and is cheering on the Vikings every day.”
Also weighing in on the Orlando-isn’t-dead issue is former Vikings receiver Jake Reed, whose been Tweeting frantically to dispel the rumors of Thomas’ demise. Most specifically:
Attention All…………Orlando Thomas is NOT dead!! Thanks for your concern! Please continue to pray for him and his family!
So, how did this Thomas-is-dead story come about? As with everything that’s wrong these days, it’s the fault of the dreaded scourge known as social networking media:
“Somebody put it on their MySpace page down in Crowley, La. [near Youngsville - where Orlando lives with his family], and I guess the local media ran with it or something,” Bartelstein said. “You know how in today’s world once rumors start, it spreads like wildfire. You know how people communicate nowadays. But it’s totally false. He’s sick, but he’s good and and he’s fighting the battle he fights every day.”
Let’s hope Orlando continues to fight strongly, and hope that he can delay the actual factual reporting of his death for as long as possible.