Sunday, February 1, 2009

Orthodox Steeler

Most NFL fans are familiar with the sight of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu crossing himself during games, but one subset of fans is gleefully aware that he crosses himself from right to left, rather than left to right.

Orthodoxy has no tradition of celebrities who testify to their faith, said the Rev. Thomas Soroka, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKees Rocks. There are lists of celebrities who have belonged to the church, including Tina Fey and Tom Hanks. But none are considered exemplars of Orthodox spirituality. Current online discussions of an Orthodox celebrity that don't involve Mr. Polamalu tend to bewail the conduct of Rod Blagojevich, who was removed as Illinois governor last week after a four-day impeachment trial.

"A lot of times when people are Orthodox, it's more of an ethnic or cultural thing. Troy stands above that by being a practicing, committed Orthodox Christian," Father Soroka said.

"Orthodoxy is quite sober. It's not flashy or attractive to those who are looking for stardom. It's much more introspective, and I think Troy embodies that."

But it helps that Mr. Polamalu is cool and handsome, with Samoan warrior hair that hasn't been cut in seven years. His plays appear to defy the laws of physics.

"Being faithful and devout isn't always cool. So it's great when you can point to Troy Polamalu and say, 'Look, faith isn't stupid. It's something really special,' " said James Purdie, 26, a subdeacon at St. George Cathedral.

"Seeing him crossing himself after a play, or praying on the sidelines, it's a way of witnessing that your faith can be incorporated into your everyday life."

Cross the Orthodox Way

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