Another football weekend, yet another chance to venture into the arena of faith and sports.
For starters, The Washington Post had an interesting story about former Philadelphia Eagle running back Herb Lusk, who is better known for what happened after one of his touchdown runs than for the actual events of his short but sweet National Football League career. Here’s the top of the story:
The play was 48 Toss, and 30 years later, Dick Vermeil remembers it as if he called it last Sunday. Herb Lusk took a pitch from Ron Jaworski, headed around left end, and breezed unscathed 70 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Four steps over the goal line at Giants Stadium, the Philadelphia Eagles’ running back rewrote the playbook. Alone in the end zone, with a crowd of 48,824 looking on, he celebrated with a gesture in what has since become a watershed moment in American sports.
With little ceremony and no advance warning, Lusk kept his eyes straight, dropped to his left knee, and bowed his head in prayer. A few seconds later, he stood back up and returned to the sideline, his legacy sealed.
It was, according to the experts at NFL Films, the first end-zone prayer, and it opened up an arena of public speech and symbolic actions that remains alive and well and controversial to this day.
But the story that fascinated me, for obvious reasons, came early in the week — care of Jasan Cole at Yahoo! Sports. This was a simple Q&A about Pittsburgh strong safety Troy Polamalu, who is, perhaps, best known for the awesome mane of hair that flows out from under his Steelers helmet.
But it seems that Polamalu is also a Christian believer, and Cole not only allows this subject some space in his interview, but gets into some interesting details. Cole just keeps asking questions and printing the details of the answers.
Still, I had to smile at the reporter’s reference to Polamalu having a “carefully arranged series of religious items in his locker at Heinz Field.”
Religious items? What might those be?
See if you can fill in the gaps based on this section of the interview proper, which centers on the fact that Tuesday is on the only day in the week when Polamalu and his wife have the time to go to church.
Why is that? Does their church have extra long services, or what?
Polamalu: … Tuesday is also our only opportunity to go to church together, so we do that.
Cole: When and where do you go?
Polamalu: It starts at 8:30 (a.m.). … It’s the Nativity of the Theotokos monastery (in Saxonburg, Pa.).
Cole: I know you’re devoutly Christian … but exactly which denomination?
Polamalu: Greek Orthodox. Theotokos literally means the Mother of God.
Cole: How long are you in services?
Polamalu: They usually go to about 12:30.
Cole: That’s a four-hour service. Is that a normal service?
Polamalu: Pretty much, especially at a monastery.
Cole: Can you describe it?
Polamalu: What’s really neat about the Orthodox church is that it’s like walking back in time 2,000 years to the time of the Apostles, when they created these services. You walk into that and it’s really like â€¦ living it. They have maintained the truth ever since the beginning.
And so forth and so on.
So, since he is an Eastern Orthodox believer, what do you think those “items” were in his locker? Might they have been icons? You think?