October 16, 2015

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Backup quarterback’s example of selflessness, faith are worth emulating

Like many Indianapolis Colts fans, I watched amazed on Oct. 8 as their backup quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck led the team to a hard-fought 27-20 victory on the road against the Houston Texans.

His performance during the win—213 yards from 18 completions on 29 attempts, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions—would have been a sight to see if only because Hasselbeck is 40, usually beyond the age for such feats in the NFL.

But then you add to that the fact that on the day of the game, Hasselbeck was still dealing with the energy-zapping effects of a gastrointestinal infection that had hospitalized him earlier in the week. According to Fox NFL reporter Jaz Glazer, Hasselbeck received 8.5 liters of intravenous fluids on the day of the game itself. That makes his performance during the game legendary.

Interviewed on the field immediately after the win, Hasselbeck fought back tears while sharing his thoughts about the emotional game.

“I didn’t know if I could make it through,” he said. “For some unknown reason, I was able to finish. I can’t explain it. It was amazing. I’ve got nothing left. It’s been an emotional day.”

Hasselbeck could have basked in the glory of his outstanding performance under such harsh conditions, especially knowing that he would go back to the relative anonymity of the bench when Andrew Luck, the Colts’ starting quarterback, recovers from a sore shoulder. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight much longer, so why not soak it up?

Instead, Hasselbeck was selfless in the victory, thinking first of Michelle Bair, a family friend who had died of breast cancer earlier that day. Bair’s daughter and Hasselbeck’s daughter, both 12, are on the same basketball team, which is coached by Bair’s husband, Brian.

After Hasselbeck received a game ball in the Colts’ locker room for leading the team to victory, the quarterback took a photo of it and sent it out on Twitter to nearly 200,000 followers (who retweeted it more than 5,000 times to countless other followers) with the message, “This game ball is in honor of Michelle Bair, who lost her battle with cancer today.”

Although Hasselbeck couldn’t explain his performance, maybe it was rooted in his knowledge that playing professional football, even when you’re pretty sick, is nothing compared to the hardship Michelle Bair bore in her battle with cancer and her family was experiencing in their loss.

Perhaps, too, Hasselbeck’s selflessness was in part formed by his faith, which was evident immediately after his on-field interview after the game when he was shown walking to the middle of the field, taking a knee and praying with members of both the Colts and the Texans.

People of faith, inspired by God’s grace, do selfless deeds of love for others every day in ways that will never be seen by the broader public. And that’s fine. The only audience that really matters for such acts is God alone.

Hopefully, the way Hasselbeck focused his thoughts and subsequently the attention of so many other people on a family dealing with the tragic death of a young mother will inspire others in some small way to think of and act for the good of others before they think of themselves.

This can be a hard thing to do when we’re sick and are naturally focused on our own trials. That’s in part what makes Hasselbeck’s act all the more praiseworthy. Colts fans are blessed to have a team member who gives such a good example. Let’s try to follow it with the grace that God provides.
 

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for the Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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