Well, the pro football season starts this weekend. And I expect I’ll glue myself to the chair in front of the TV Saturday and watch the Pittsburgh Steelers thump the Baltimore Ravens as they begin the annual drive to another Super Bowl title.
Hey, that’s something for all of us in the Steeler Nation to believe in. And no matter what happens, we’re still six Super Bowl wins ahead of Cleveland. Oops. I digress.
thousands one or two of you who read these posts regularly, you know that I don’t much care for pro sports these days. Sort of rooting for Ford to gain market share over General Motors. But I do enjoy watching the Steelers advance in the playoffs just about every year at this time, and I’m convinced that it has a unifying effect on the communities and fans involved.
And a lifetime ago — in my early 20s and freshly out of Kent State, my friend and college roommate, Tom Kollar, and I bought season tickets to the Steelers games. That’s better than 40 years and two Pittsburgh stadiums ago.
When we first bought the tickets in 1970, the Steelers were still a mediocre, at best, team. The Chuck Noll era was just getting started and it wasn’t until the ’72 season when they finished 11-3, winning the AFC Central Division title and then beating the Oakland Raiders before losing to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, that the Steelers established themselves as one of the best — maybe the best — franchises in pro football history.
That was also the season of — and be ready to cut me some slack here — the greatest play in the history of sports: the Immaculate Reception. And I was at Three Rivers Stadium (now defunct) high above the 40 yard line to see it live and in person.
Ah, to be young again and be confident that there is someone in heaven looking out for the Steelers.
Anyway, the foundation of this year’s Steeler team is Troy Polamalu, someone who is characterized not just for his ability on the football field, but for his humility, sacrifice and spirituality. Here’s from a NYT article, “Troy Polamalu, Defensive Anchor for Steelers, Walks a Spiritual Path“:
The book in Polamalu’s hands, “Counsels From the Holy Mountain,” guides him in football and in life. It contains the letters and homilies of a Greek Orthodox monk, Elder Ephraim, whom Polamalu described as his spiritual doctor.
Polamalu, 29, sought out the octogenarian monk, who resides in a monastery in southern Arizona, a few years ago, a meeting that led Polamalu to the place he described as “heaven on earth.” It is a summit of sorts. But not the Super Bowl, though Polamalu won two championship rings in his first seven seasons with the Steelers. Neither of those journeys shaped him as profoundly as the pilgrimage he made to Mount Athos, a Greek Orthodox spiritual center in Greece.
While there, Polamalu said he witnessed humility and sacrifice in its deepest, purest forms and realized that for all their obvious differences, the spiritual path shared much with a Super Bowl journey.
“Both require great discipline,” Polamalu said, “and a selflessness in the name of a greater good.”
So I’ll grab my Terrible Towel — the original, circa 1972 — and watch Polamalu and the others now wearing the Black and Gold.
And I’ll be confident that there is at least one person in heaven looking out for the Steelers: Myron Cope.