By ANNE DONNELL
What is the origin of the phrase “Hail Mary pass” used by commentators? I’m not Roman Catholic, but don’t you think matters of faith are disrespected when phrases like this are used about a game?
-Listening to a Lot of Puzzling Things
“Listening to a lot of puzzling things” covers me with most sports coverage. I’ll discuss your very apt comment after some football coverage in another direction. ONLINE DEPARTMENT “College Football Time” (Thanks, J.A.) Planning for the fall football season in the South is radically different than up North. For those who are planning a football trip South, here are some helpful hints. • Women's Accessories: NORTH: Chap Stick in back pocket and a $20 bill in the front pocket. SOUTH: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, waterproof mascara, and a fifth of bourbon. Money not necessary -- that's what dates are for. • Stadium Size: NORTH: College football stadiums hold 20,000 people. SOUTH: High school football stadiums hold 20,000 people. • Fathers: NORTH: Expect their daughters to understand Sylvia Plath. SOUTH: Expect their daughters to understand pass interference. • Campus Decor: NORTH: Statues of founding fathers. SOUTH: Statues of Heisman trophy winners. • Homecoming Queen: NORTH: Also a physics major. SOUTH: Also Miss America. • Heroes: NORTH: Rudy Giuliani SOUTH: Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning • Getting Tickets: NORTH: 5 days before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus. SOUTH: 5 months before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus, make a large financial contribution and put name on a waiting list for tickets. • Friday Classes After a Thursday Night Game: NORTH: Students and teachers not sure they're going to the game, because they have classes on Friday. SOUTH: Teachers cancel Friday classes because they don't want to see the few hung over students that might actually make it to class.• Parking: NORTH: An hour before game time, the University opens the campus for game parking. SOUTH: RVs sporting their school flags begin arriving on Wednesday for the weekend festivities. The really faithful arrive on Tuesday. • Game Day: NORTH: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV. SOUTH: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over to where ESPN is broadcasting "Game Day Live" to get on camera and wave to the idiots up north who wonder why "Game Day Live" is never broadcast from their campus. • Tailgating: NORTH: Raw meat on a grill, beer with lime in it, listening to local radio station with truck tailgate down. SOUTH: 30-foot custom pig-shaped smoker fires up at dawn. Cooking accompanied by live performance from the Dave Matthews Band who come over during breaks and ask for a hit off bottle of bourbon. • Getting to the Stadium: NORTH: You ask "Where's the stadium?" When you find it, you walk right in. SOUTH: When you're near it, you'll hear it. On game day it is the state's third largest city. • Concessions: NORTH: Drinks served in a paper cup, filled to the top with soda. SOUTH: Drinks served in a plastic cup, with the home team's mascot on it, filled less than half way with soda, to ensure enough room for bourbon. • When National Anthem is Played: NORTH : Stands are less than half full, and less than half of them stand up. SOUTH: 100,000 fans, all standing, sing along in perfect four-part harmony. • The Smell in the Air After the First Score: NORTH: Nothing changes. SOUTH: Fireworks, with a touch of bourbon. • Commentary (Male): NORTH: "Nice play." SOUTH: "Dangit, you slow idiot - tackle him and break his legs."• Commentary (Female): NORTH: "My, this certainly is a violent sport." SOUTH: "Dangit, you slow idiot - tackle him and break his legs."• Announcers: NORTH: Neutral and paid. SOUTH: Announcer harmonizes with the crowd in the fight song, with a tear in his eye because he is so proud of his team. •After the Game: NORTH: The stadium is empty way before the game ends. SOUTH: Another rack of ribs goes on the smoker, while somebody goes to the nearest package store for more bourbon, and planning begins for next week's game. I do think we have extensively mixed the sacred with the profane; perhaps more extensively than any other era. When “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s massive, lovely, and deeply religious master work, Messiah, is dubbed in for commercials as well as recaps of game plays, something’s amiss. But, perhaps not so amiss to most. Where’s the outcry about the casual use of religion’s dearest, most revered parts? Where’s the outcry about the language in films punctuated by profanity including “God” and “Jesus Christ”? From Wikipedia: “A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary play in American football is a term made famous when ‘Hail Mary’ was used by the press to describe the game winning touchdown pass by Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, in the 1975 wild card playoff. It is now a common term often used to refer to any forward pass made in desperation, with only a small chance of success (colloquially speaking, it ‘has a prayer's chance’). The term Hail Mary pass is often used for any long completed forward pass thrown near the end of a game. The phrase became popular after it was reported that Staubach stated, ‘I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary prayer.’” The reference to “Hail Mary prayer” is to the beginning of the traditional Rosary prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” The phrase “Hail Mary pass” has spread to mean any last ditch effort or a hasty effort that could fail. In fact, in 2009 Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) described Senator John McCain’s tapping of then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a “Hail Mary pass.” You make the call.