“The Eighty-Yard Run” Is One of My Favorite Short Stories

Are you familiar with “The Eighty-Yard Run,” a short story by Irwin Shaw? I first read it in 1989 during the fall semester of my senior year as an English major at Buffalo State College, and it’s always stayed with me.

It’s about a former football player at Midwestern University named Christian Darling, who once made a spectacular eighty-yard run for a touchdown. The play was witnessed by his coaches, teammates, and his girlfriend, whom he eventually married. They all predicted great things for him both on and off the football field.

The run is described in vivid detail as a flashback at the beginning, but it’s only afterwards that we learn it happened during a practice in 1925, not a game. Fifteen years after it occurred, Darling views it as the beginning of his downward spiral in life and knows that the most perfect and triumphant moment he’ll ever experience didn’t count for anything in the end.

The title of the story is actually a metaphor for unfilled potential: the protagonist only went eighty yards, not a hundred. Sadly, that’s the story of many people’s lives, despite what it might seem like on Facebook, right?

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