To Pull for the Pittsburgh Steelers (There’s Even a Catholic Reason, or Two)

My buddy Blaise Pascal has this to say about sports,

Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure even of kings.

I’m a baseball fan, so I watch professional football once or twice a year, usually. However, my family and I always watch the Super Bowl. And this year, I’ll be pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This is mainly for personal “childhood memory” reasons. Franco Harris, one of my favorite players, and the Immaculate Reception, for example.

Terry Bradshaw connecting with Lynn Swan for catches like this.

Vietnam veteran Rocky Bleier (#20) one of my favorites too, scrambling forward for yardage tenaciously, in this case for a touchdown.

And I can’t forget John Stallworth.

Glory Days! It turns out that the Steelers have a pretty well know contingent of Catholics in the organization from down on the the playing field all the way up to the owner’s suite. Strong safety Troy Polamalu, for example, is a strong witness for the Faith. According to an article from the Catholic News Service back in 2006, Troy,

is not an NFL superstar who happens to be a man of faith. Rather, in his heart, he is simply “a Christian with a passion for Jesus… Success in anything doesn’t matter. As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful. My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it.

NFL players who quote Mother Teresa? Who knew! One of the authors of that article, Gina Mazza Hillier comments that, “the entire Steelers organization is a blessing. The owners (The Rooney Family) are devout Catholics and the players are humble.”

Perhaps the same is true for the Green Bay Packers. I can’t say, because I don’t have the same affinity for the Packers as I do for the Steelers, so I won’t be looking into the matter. I do know that a couple of bishops have a bet (all proceeds of which will benefit Catholic Charities) on the outcome of the game this year.

As Bishop David Zubik says,

Have fun with the game, enjoy our Steelers, but don’t let these things define us, don’t let them become such a passion that we lose perspective.

Amen to that. Go Steelers!

Update: Catholic Roots Run Deep for Both Teams.

  • Dwija {House Unseen}

    Being in Michigan just about halfway between Pitt and Green Bay has inspired me to tally up the jersey count after mass tomorrow morning. Which fans pray harder for Jesus' intervention? We shall see!

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention, Troy Palamalu makes the sign of the cross! by this sign we will conquer!

  • Anonymous

    FYI: Troy Polamalu is a great man, but he's not Catholic; he's Orthodox.

  • Frank

    Keep us posted on the tally!

  • Matthias

    Just to clarify, Polamalu is actually Greek Orthodox. Go Steelers!

  • Frank

    @ Matthias, Are you sure about that brother? My sources say otherwise,Polamalu exudes a gentle, humble spirit, said Father David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, who has celebrated Mass for 10 years before home games with Steelers players and coaches."Since his arrival in Pittsburgh, he has been a permanent fixture at Mass. Even with all of the fame and success, Troy remains committed to the Christian faith," Father Bonnar said. "And if he has changed in any way, he has just become even more humble and spiritual. I have found him to have both the strong contemplative sense of Mary and the fierce active sense of Martha."Raised in Tenmile, Ore., the youngest of five children, Polamalu attended Catholic grade school and was steeped in the Polynesian culture of reverence for family, church and personal honor."I believe that I'm the same person on and off the field. I live my life with a passion and that includes how I play. Obviously, football calls for physical contact, but that's just part of the game," Polamalu said.Go Steelers!

  • Anonymous

    Frank, Here's an article from a few years back. Perhaps he has become Catholic since then, but it is clear from this that he is Orthodox.

  • Anita

    There was one Steelers jersey at the 9:00am Mass in our parish this morning. Go Steelers!

  • Frank

    In the Spirit of the recently concluded Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and my ignorance in this particular matter, I'm glad we can just join hands behind the Black & Gold and say "Go Steelers!" =)

  • Dwija {House Unseen}

    Well Frank, I am surprised and pleased to report that at our new parish here in Michigan, a place where they certainly love their football, the jersey count was exactly ZERO. None! Now how will I predict the outcome? Tsk, tsk. ;)

  • homebase

    Our priest said we as Catholics should cheer for Green Bay, :) Lombardi was a good Catholic and faithful to mass everyday. So "GO PACK"

  • Frank

    Congratulations to the Packers. Three turn-overs…is it baseball season yet? ;-)

  • Anita

    Close. Could have been 32-31 Steelers. Well there's always next year. Congratulations to the Packers.

  • Frank

    It definitely was one of the best "almost" from behind games ever. A win would have been historic on a number of fronts: 3 turnovers, and a deficit of >10.

  • Frank

    @-dweej, good luck on your continuing adventure. You can check the 2BFrank tag for some of our post-California story too.

  • Anita

    Right on, Frank. Steelers will be back as winners (soon). Life goes on in the meantime.

  • Mary

    Palomalu and his wife converted to the Orthodox faith in 2007, which is after the oft quoted article by Fr. Bonnar. Recent article at Catholic Culture are both great teams with strong Catholic connections.

  • Paul

    This would be a good article about Troy’s faith from the NY Times:

    And also his interview just to hear his Christian love from his voice: