Steelers/Ravens Playoff Religion Update

Who's the real winner?

This weekend’s Steelers/Ravens playoff game in Pittsburgh will feature more than the two teams, bitter rivals, representing formerly glorious postindustrial American cities. We will also witness the athletic feats of two serious religious practitioners. For the Steelers: safety Troy Polamalu, a devotee of the Greek Orthodox monk Elder Ephraim, with whom he has met in his Arizona monastery. Polamalu says, regarding sports and his spiritual path, “Both require great discipline, and a selflessness in the name of a greater good.” When asked about the rancor between the teams, he said, “I don’t feel that way. There are things that are deeper than football rivalries to me.”

For the Ravens (the most Mormon-heavy team in the NFL!), we have tight end Todd Heap, a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-swearing untattooed Mormon, who was shocked by his first recruiting trip to ASU, coming out of a cozy LDS upbringing in Mesa, Arizona. “Everyone was drinking, there were some adult films playing in the background, and there was Todd, sitting in the corner,” said Scott Peters, one of the ASU players. “He didn’t partake in the debauchery.” At ASU, Heap was known for purchasing twice the fast food and giving a meal to a homeless person outside the restaurant.

A possible matchup of these two on the field, with their inner discipline and eyes on a greater prize, actually makes me want to watch the game. Do they know this about each other?

Surely, the violent and excessive world of professional football must be a hard place for serious devotees. But, if you have been granted great football skills, the best thing to do is use them. I, for one, am reminded of the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna is reluctant to fight, and Krishna counsels him “Perform your obligatory duty, because action is better than inaction.”

Mary Valle lives in Baltimore and is the author of Cancer Doesn't Give a Shit About Your Stupid Attitude: Reflections on Cancer and Catholicism. She blogs on KtB as The Communicant. For more Mary, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.