There, above the mundane world, he’s transfigured in a moment of pure longing and effort, suffused with the beauty of athletic strength and agility. Sports may be the closest some moderns come to the transcendent—to the realm of metaphor where we glimpse spiritual realities through the facts of the material world.
The receiver rises above the horizon, the earthly world of gravity and shadow, into a magically-hued sky, reaching out in the throes of intense effort and intense longing for what might descend from above. It’s not just a football, but also a signifier of glory and meaning.
The story also includes a defender, momentarily hapless, and a referee, judging events by the low standard of rules, which in only necessary, making the game possible. The game itself—that partakes of a different realm. Both the defender and the ref become irrelevant to the hero at that brief moment of success, all power and grace.