(photos via pearljam.com)
As lead guitarist of the Seattle-based rock band Pearl Jam, you'd think Mike McCready's life has been nothing but glitz and glamour.
The band holding Pacific Northwest rock roots helped pioneer the early 1990s grunge movement and has achieved remarkable success with each of their 10 studio albums, the most recent of which came just more than a year ago, with Lightning Bolt marking the group's fifth No. 1 album on the Billboard Top 200.
But it hasn't been all roses for the now 48-year-old lead guitarist. That's because McCready has spent the past 27 years living with Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract that's part of a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD).
The doctor quickly diagnosed McCready with Crohn's, which is characterized by abdominal pain and an often times uncontrollable and urgent need to use the restroom. McCready, who had never heard of the disease before, said he lived with the condition until 2002 before his girlfriend - and now wife, Ashley O'Connor - urged him to find a foundation that could offer support.
"It was then that I first met others who had the disease and I was inspired to get involved," McCready said. "I started working with the local chapter of CCFA [Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America] and have since met countless people who have incredibly inspiring stories, including so many kids who live with these diseases."
Ever since, McCready has been involved with 5K walks, half-marathons, casino nights, and luncheons that help raise awareness for the disease. His latest work with CCFA is bringing him to the home of the Seahawks, with his inaugural flag football tournament set for Sunday, Sept. 7 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
"The excitement of the Super Bowl and how our city rallied around the Seahawks was awesome," McCready said of the team's 2013 success. "I haven't seen anything like it since the Sonics won the championship in '79, and to a certain extent in 1995 when the Mariners went on their amazing run.
"But the idea of playing football on CenturyLink Field - the same field the Super Bowl Champ Seahawks get to play on - is amazing!"
McCready's flag football tournament is open to the public and as of this writing slots for two more teams were open. Squads are set to compete in 25-minute, 7-on-7 matchups across two divisions (competitive and recreational), with each club guaranteed three games - two in a round-robin setting that seeds each side into an elimination bracket.
A celebrity flag football game will also be held halfway through this weekend's first-ever event. McCready has enlisted the help of Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, Alice in Chains lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell, former Seattle SuperSonics point guard and head coach Lenny Wilkins, ESPN's Kenny Mayne, former Seahawks Lawyer Milloy, Craig Terrill, Joe Tafoya, Kerry Carter, John Moffitt, and more to participate in Sunday's festivities. Spectator tickets run $10 with all event proceeds benefiting the Northwest Chapter of the CCFA.
"I start touring with Pearl Jam next month, so my only wish is to keep my fingers and hands injury-free," said McCready. "Hope we get some people in the stands to watch it!"