We’re a lot more liable to hear cursing instead of a prayer during a televised sporting event these days.
But ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky surprised viewers and maybe himself during Tuesday’s edition of NFL Live on the sports network.
Orlovsky’s short prayer, 50 seconds and unrehearsed and sincere, was for Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football early in the Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game, which was postponed after Hamlin was taken to the hospital in Cincinnati.
A family member said Wednesday that Hamlin, 24, was still in critical condition but stable and improving.
He was injured while making a tackle, one that was not overly violent. Doctors have so far agreed that it seemed to be a perfect storm of where and when and how the collision occurred that caused the injury.
Players were crying. Coaches and announcers all shaken. And the phrase “thoughts and prayers” was used more than once.
Orlovsky, who quarterbacked at the University of Connecticut and was a backup for 12 NFL seasons and five teams from 2005-2015, took it a step farther. With host Laura Rutledge and former LSU All-American and Dallas Cowboy Marcus Spears joining him on the desk, Orlovsky offered what seemed like a humble, quiet explanation before praying as the three discussed the outpouring around the football world of well-wishes for Hamlin.
“Maybe this is not the right thing to do but it’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m gonna do it out loud. I’m gonna close my eyes, I’m gonna bow my head and I’m just gonna pray for him.”
Spears said something, maybe “Amen” or “Go ahead,” and Orlovsky did.
“God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God, and coming to you and praying to you has impact,” Orlovsky said.
“We’re sad, we’re angry, and we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen.”
Often in the locker room or on the field after practice, teams will kneel in a circle and recite the Lord’s Prayer. And often there are prayers over the PA before games. But that was a first for me, seeing the replay of Orlovsky’s straightforward, precise prayer on a news show about sports.
That moment was refreshing in its sincerity and spontaneity, and because of the very exact reason for it. We say “thoughts and prayers,” but Orlovsky actually did it, right then, for one person in one particular situation, and maybe partly for some viewers who wanted to pray for the young player but didn’t quite know how.
It reminds you of when presidents used to pray and encourage prayer (think Washington and Lincoln) and generals used to pray (Patton and Eisenhower), when Martin Luther King prayed aloud and often and for us all, and when school kids used to pray or be led in prayer.
Hopefully, Hamlin will regain his health. And hopefully we’ll all keep praying, for Hamlin and his teammates and family, for Orlovsky, for each other. Not just when one of us is hurt. But all the time. We all need the prayers, and we all need the practice.
Contact Teddy at email@example.com or on Twitter @MamaLuvsManning.