Sports Metaphors at Work: Throwing a Hail Mary

Posted on: September 14th, 2012 by Jen Mueller

Sports metaphors can be effective descriptors at work – if everyone is on the same page and understands it’s correct meaning.  Each week we’ll take a look at a familiar sports phrase or metaphor in business, identify its origin, explain it’s meaning and demonstrate how to use it in business.


Sports phrase:  Throw a Hail Mary

This is football reference used to describe a desperation attempt to score.  It usually happens at the end of a half or the end of a game, with no time run a more strategic play.  Typically fans think of a Hail Mary pass as one that also needs a prayer because it doesn’t work very frequently.


Business Application: In business the phrase “Hail Mary” is used to describe a last ditch effort.  There is little strategy involved and a lot of hoping against the odds that it works.

  • For example:  The committee didn’t go for Tom’s proposal.  He’s going to try a Hail Mary with the board to get approval.

That means Tom has exhausted all of his options and is making one last try to get his proposal approved, even though it’s unlikely the board will go for it.


*Take these definitions with a grain of salt.  They’re based on years of being a fan and more than a decade in sports broadcasting and Jen’s status as America’s Expert Talker.