The crowd of 30,000 in the Carrier Dome was deafening. Bands playing, chants roaring, horns blowing. It was the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. Hayden stood at Center Court, being interviewed by Bob Costas on NBC.
“I’m here with Hayden Daily, the “Miracle Man from Maryland”. He’s come from complete obscurity and now is putting up amazing numbers game after game. Hayden, how do you do it?”
Hayden was tongue-tied.
He knew what he needed to say; he just didn’t want to say it. But he breathed a prayer and then began.
“It’s God. It’s the Lord using me. I’m not sure why, but I know he is.”
Costas motioned to the camera man to cut. “We can’t use this. Get another interview – fast”. He turned away from Hayden.
A crew from ESPN hurried over and shoved a mike in Hayden’s face. “Hayden, we’ve heard you’re under considerable pressure not to play from leaders in your church. Is that true?”
Hayden cringed, and the words stuck in his mouth. Suddenly the buzzer rang, calling the players to the bench. Coach gathered them up.
One by one the players were announced. Hayden knew he would be last, and anticipated a deafening roar. His heart was so far in his throat he knew what he was experiencing must be a panic attack. God help me! It was his first prayer in weeks. God, help me, I can’t do this!
“And now…”, boomed the loudspeaker, “HAYYYY-DEN DAYYYYLEEEE!” The noise was unlike anything he’d ever heard. The stamping of the crowd made his knees shake.
But he stayed where he was on the bench. His team-mates yelled for him, arms raised. The crowd began to chant, thinking it a ploy for hype: “Had-DEN! Hay-DEN!”. But Hayden was paralyzed.
“Get OUT there, Daily!”, screamed coach. But Hayden was like a deer in the headlights.
Now the crowd was confused. Cameras came running over to the bench. Coach slapped Hayden hard on the butt: “GET OUT THERE, DAILY!”.
The slap woke Hayden from his trance. He walked out to meet his teammates on court, but inexplicably, he stopped halfway. And there he stood while the crowd began chanting again.
Sudden resolve gathered within Hayden. He walked over to the scorer’s table and took the house microphone in his hands. The ref, confused, called for a commercial break. But Bob Costas, sensing a “media moment”, yelled “No, get the cameras up in tight on him!”.
As the major networks pulled in close, Hayden spoke slowly into the mike, his voice quavering. He spoke as one pained, and the crowd hushed. Hayden gathered his courage and raised up his voice. “I love this game. I want so much to play in this game. I’ve never come close to being able to play like I’ve been playing. But I think I knowwhy I’ve been able to play like this. It’s not me; it’s God. And he gave me this gift… so I could ask you what I’m about to ask you.”
30,000 people waited.
“Today is Sunday. It’s… the Sabbath Day. And the Lord commands us to keep this day holy. I can’t play today. I won’t. And… and I’m asking you to honor the Lord by keeping the Sabbath.”
At this some in the crowd began to boo.
Hayden drew a breath. He was shaking like a leaf, and the boos and jeers became louder. Hayden spoke over them. “Who’s with me?”, he shouted. “Who’s with me?” Hayden put down the mike, looked over at his stunned teammates as if to apologize… then turned and walked out.
And absolutely no one followed him.