Hail Mary (2000)
Posted: 13 May 2007 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Updated (March 31, 2008) 

Includes the full text.

Posted: 18 July 2007 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hail Mary

Publisher:: New York Times, May 7, 2000
Pages: Section 6, Page 85
Special Notes: Essay by Elmore Leonard in “Spirituality: With and Without a Prayer .”

A treatment of how the 35 percent who pray with some hope of reward, the 45 percent who don’t expect their prayers to be answered and the 16 percent who never pray at all manage in a win-or-lose situation.

With six seconds remaining in the football game, fourth down, his team four points behind, Chip the quarterback calls time and jogs over to his coach on the sideline. The coach, his cap mud-stained from having thrown it to the ground several times, stares from midfield toward the goal post. In his Deep South way of speaking, he says to his quarterback: ‘‘Honey, you know what you have to do, throw the Hail Mary. Wing it down there and pray it gets caught by one of ours.’‘

‘‘Coach, who’s gonna block?’‘

‘‘Listen to me, son. It’s the same situation Doug Flutie faced back in ‘84. Even the score’s the same, Boston College down 45 to 41, the ball on Miami’s 48, six seconds left to play. Little Doug hit his roommate, boy name of Gerard Phelan, and won the game 47-45. Run it off the shotgun, Chipper. Drop back, give your people time to get down there and put it up.’‘

‘‘I drop back,’’ Chip says. ‘‘I’m throwing the ball 60 yards. And I’m getting rushed.’‘

‘‘Same as Flutie, and you’re bigger’n he is.’‘

‘‘Coach, it’s raining, the ball’s wet-’‘

‘‘Son, Flutie had rain, mist and a high wind. He went back to near his own 40, scrambled, threw the ball into a 30-mile-an-hour gale and pulled the game out. You know what his coach said? He said, ‘Mary was definitely listening to us as we sure needed that one.’ ‘’

‘‘We actually say a Hail Mary?’‘

‘‘It won’t hurt you none. Go on out there and I’ll pray you got the arm.’‘

In the huddle—a circle of gold helmets and face guards, chin straps hanging, a grumble of pain-inspired obscenities—Chip calls the Hail Mary and tells the players, ‘‘Let’s put our hands in here and we’ll say it together.’‘

Three of his teammates, believers in the efficacy of prayer, start right in. ‘‘Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou -’‘

‘‘Hold it—time out,’’ says the one who has never prayed in his life and isn’t going to start now. ‘‘Leave me out, man. Prayin’ ain’t my style.’‘

Chip says to him, his running back: ‘‘Come on, Scoot. We’re a team.’‘

‘‘Hear what I’m sayin’ to you, Chippy. I score, it’s me doin’ it, not some lady showin’ me the holes.’‘

A voice representing the five players who do pray but without hope of reward offers, ‘‘We can try it, but who says a Hail Mary’s gonna work?’‘

‘‘Even when it does,’’ another doubter adds, ‘‘how do you know it was the prayer that made it happen?’‘

‘‘Yeah, like a guy who’s dying all of a sudden gets better and they say it’s a miracle. What if they didn’t pray and he got better anyway?’‘

‘‘Man dies, it’s his time,’’ Scoot says. ‘‘He don’t, it ain’t.’‘

‘‘They’ll go with a nickel defense.’’ This is a teammate offering an obstacle. ‘‘Be like a jump ball, up for grabs.’‘

‘‘Look,’’ Chip says, ‘‘right now we’ve got a 50-50 chance of scoring. We say the Hail Mary, it’ll put the odds in our favor.’‘

‘‘You get the Heisman,’’ Scoot asks, ‘‘you gonna share it with this lady?’‘

‘‘Come on,’’ Chip says, ‘‘we’re wasting time. Hail Mary full of grace-’‘

‘‘What if they’re praying too? Who gets it?’‘

A whistle blows and they draw a five-yard penalty for delay of game.

The coach throws his hat in the mud and stomps on it.


Posted: 18 July 2007 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Meanwhile, the angel Gabriel hears that Mary has been hailed again and is checking on it.

‘‘Another petition?’‘

‘‘It’s a college game, a good one.’‘

‘‘And tomorrow you’ll have the pros.’‘

‘‘Yes, but their Hail Marys are in name only.’‘

‘‘I understand St. Jude has a few of the more hopeless situations.’‘

‘‘Well, that’s what he’s known for.’’ Mary pauses and looks off, as if listening to a distant sound. ‘‘They’re coming out of the huddle, their uniforms blue and gold.’‘

‘‘Your favorite colors. It’s a Catholic school?’‘

Mary looks him in the eye. ‘‘You know I don’t play favorites.’‘

‘‘Except the last five Hail Mary requests came from Catholic schools, and they won.’‘

‘‘They pray for field goals, third-down conversions, everything. But did I change the natural course of events in those games?’‘

‘‘There are those who say you get defensive backs to run into each other, not unlike the Flutie Hail Mary. This one, the quarterback will have to toss it at least 65 yards.’‘

‘‘And he wants my help, bless his heart.’‘

‘‘Well, you know a third of the team would also like your help,’’ Gabriel reminds her. ‘‘Nearly half of them say they would, but don’t believe you’ll come through.’‘

Mary nods. ‘‘And we always have those who never pray.’‘

Gabriel agrees. ‘‘The usual breakdown.’‘

‘‘I shouldn’t say this,’’ Mary tells him, ‘‘but I don’t think much of their coach. If the two-minute drill works so well, why didn’t he have them running it earlier in the game?’‘

‘‘But then it’s not a two-minute drill.’‘

And Mary tells him in her quiet manner, ‘‘You shouldn’t always take what I say quite so literally.’‘

‘‘Forgive me.’‘

‘‘Now he’s ruined his cap.’‘

Gabriel waits a moment before saying: ‘‘Well, the ball’s in the air. It’s your call.’‘

Mary gives him the smile that inspired Leonardo’s imagination and asks, ‘‘Are you sure?’‘

Chip is blitzed, mired in the turf beneath a pair of linebackers. He doesn’t see the completion, though the instant he hears the crowd he knows and has the presence to offer a thank-you to the wet mass of sky hanging over him. By the time he gets to his feet, grinning, about to be mobbed, he catches a glimpse of a TV reporter on the sideline, shoving a mike at one of his teammates.

‘‘This your first Hail Mary catch, Scoot?’‘

Scoot frowns. He says, ‘‘Hail Mary?’’ glancing from side to side. ‘‘I didn’t see no lady around. I juked the corner, the man’s still looking for me—where’d I go? No, and I didn’t see no lady as I’m takin’ in that wobbly pass over my shoulder, reachin’ way up and then tuckin’ it in so wasn’t nobody didn’t have a gun gonna take it from me. You understand what I’m sayin’?’‘

Yes, but barely, the angel Gabriel is thinking.

Now he turns to Mary because he has to ask: ‘‘You played a favorite that time, didn’t you? Not one person in the stadium thought Chip would get that pass in the air, but somehow he did, just as he was hit.’‘

Mary shows the smile again that can tell you nothing or everything, and says, ‘‘The Scooter wasn’t bad either, was he?’‘


Posted: 18 July 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This post has been updated to include the entire text. (March 31, 2008)


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