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Amy Donaldson: Hall's pain a reflection of self-betrayal

Published: Monday, Nov. 30 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

BYU quarterback Max Hall set off a firestorm of criticism and discussion when, after winning a football game, he called the entire University of Utah BYU quarterback Max Hall set off a firestorm of criticism and discussion when, after winning a football game, he called the entire University of Utah "classless." (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."

— Ambrose Bierce

Somebody did Max Hall wrong.

He says it was the University of Utah. He also said it was the BYU fans who doubted and criticized him.

"I don't like Utah," said Hall after he threw the game-winning pass to Andrew George in BYU's 26-23 win against Utah in overtime Saturday. "I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything."

He hates everything?

I don't know Max Hall, but I hope that is not true. Unfortunately, that is the treachery of anger and hate. You can't isolate those toxic emotions. Eventually, more quickly than you realize, they contaminate everything around them — including your own heart.

BYU quarterback Max Hall set off a firestorm of criticism and discussion when, after winning a football game, he called the entire University of Utah BYU quarterback Max Hall set off a firestorm of criticism and discussion when, after winning a football game, he called the entire University of Utah "classless." (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved."

— Mark Antony

For more than year, he apparently swallowed bad feelings about an incident involving his family. He said Ute fans threw beer on them during last year's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It was, indeed, a disgusting act that apparently ate him up inside.

And then there were the critics.

Apparently he listened to what they had to say about him — his inconsistency; his inability to win big games — and he hated them for it.

Life isn't fair. People do bad things and they get away with it. If these are your adversities, Mr. Hall, fall to you knees in gratitude.

"Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

— Buddha

It happens a lot in sports. Talk of revenge, pronouncements of redemption. Winning, it seems, makes everything right. The end, too often, justifies the means.

Saturday night, after being carried on the shoulders of teammates and fans, Max Hall proved that is an illusion.

Winning doesn't change the past. It doesn't erase anything. It doesn't make you a better human being.

He got his revenge. He beat the "classless" Utes and disappointed their "classless" fans.

The win won't change what his critics believe. It won't change the unpleasant experience his family had last year. It certainly will not engender thoughtfulness in those prone to call names and throw beverages.

What winning can do is show the benefits of hard work, discipline and teamwork. It can take you in a new direction and it can offer you hope and joy.

Max had a moment to praise his teammates, to thank his coaches, his family and those fans who believed in him, even when statistical evidence didn't support him.

Instead, he used his moment to belittle players who are, in reality, not that different from him.

"He who loses control, loses."

— Det. Frank Pembleton, Homicide: Life on the Street

Max Hall won.

It wasn't the perfect game for either team, but it was important for them in many ways. And he was blessed with a win.

Seeing him throw that pass, watching Andrew George hold up that ball in the end zone was a moment of triumph. It was pure joy. They earned one of those historic wins in fairytale fashion.

Instead of allowing himself to bask in happiness, in gratitude, he chose to spew venom at his perceived enemies.

Please don't tell me this is part of sports. Do not try to convince me that anger and hatred are motivating.

They are debilitating. They are corrupting. They are not what sports, especially college athletics, is about. Every single football team is filled with young men trying to earn an education, hoping to represent their schools well, praying they won't let their teammates down.

They are not the enemy. This is not a war, and there is no place for hate.

"Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

— Malachy McCourt

Sadly, his comments will cause a lot of people to believe athletics are not a good place to learn integrity, dedication, commitment and hard work. The games are the best place to learn these things because you are not always expecting it.

Each game is a new opportunity. An opportunity to test yourself, your preparation, your abilities and your skills.

Life is just a string of opportunities. Some of them will come on football fields, some will come on a freeway when someone cuts you off and then flips you off. Will you respond in kind? Will you allow their anger to contaminate you? Or will you be who you are, even in the face of unprovoked, undeserved anger?

This is another opportunity. Max Hall can teach us all a lesson. We can learn from it, or we can rationalize it. He can learn from it. Or he can hate everyone who tells him he's made a mistake.

Max Hall really was betrayed. But it wasn't by strangers in red. It was, instead, his own heart that led him to a place of pain.

Forgiveness, someone once told me, really is a gift you give yourself.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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