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Hail Mary, full of grace

Relatively speaking, a completed hail mary in football is an uncomplicated thing. Yeah, there’s lots of guys running around hither and thither, but only two of them ever touch the ball: the quarterback, the receiver. The ball is in the air, and then it either hits the ground or nestles in the receiver’s hands. Simple.

The new most famous goal in U.S. soccer history was, in soccer terms, a hail mary. 92nd minute. Nothing happening for the Yanks. But Howard saves and makes the best outlet pass of his life to Donovan. Donovan’s first touch tempts the Algerian central defender forward just enough, so Donovan can make a pass to Altidore. Altidore squares for Dempsey. Dempsey pokes the ball at the keeper as the other defender dives at it. The ball squirms loose. And here is Donovan again. And then the ball is in the net.

X to Y to Z to Gamma to Omega. For every dot to connect just so, at that minute, with those stakes, seems beyond imagining. For once the adjective “unbelievable” isn’t hyperbole–I watched it happen, I’ve watched the clip a dozen times since, and I still have a hard time believing it happened. One goal past the 80th minute to keep the team in the tournament is amazing. Two? In back-to-back games?  … … … What?

I find the phrase “something I’ll never forget” mostly empty. There’s tons of useless, meaningless things I’ll never forget. My seventh-grade locker combination. The series “Shirt Tales.” The lyrics to Genesis’s “We Can’t Dance.” To simply not forget something doesn’t mean anything. It means a lot more to say I’ll always remember that.

I will always remember today, that goal. I will remember and remember and remember and every time I’ll smile and remember how desperate we all were, how the lightning-quick-and-yet-agonizingly-slow progression from Howard to Donovan to Altidore to Dempsey to Donovan felt like the slow fall of a football tossed high on fourth down on the game’s final snap. Touchdown. Goal. Hail Mary.

Auburn content coming along later today; sorry for its absence, but it’s been so, so hard to concentrate today.

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