How “Hail Mary” Became Inextricably Linked to American Football

I am revamping an existing “News Writing” course so that it becomes “News, Arts and Sports Reporting,” and am thus trying to educate myself about sports writing. Good writing is engaging no matter what the subject is. This is a great example. The headline is written for an international audience. Without assuming that the reader already knows what a “Hail Mary pass” is, and without assuming that the reader knows what the “Hail Mary” prayer is, the writer informs without belaboring the obvious or alienating the informed.

img_4694The Hail Mary, like an anvil falling from the sky toward Wile E. Coyote’s head, has an inexorable and painful nature to it. What makes it maddening for defenses is that they know exactly what is coming and yet are sometimes powerless to stop it (according to ESPN Stats & Info, roughly 10 percent of the Hail Mary passes attempted over the past five years have worked; as a metric for success, that is low, but as one for prayers answered, you could do a lot worse). —Newsweek