The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently published an, um, interesting feature on the faith of the Pittsburgh Steelers with this headline:
NFL players still turn to religion for solace
The top of the story:
Adoring fans carried star safety Troy Polamalu on their shoulders -- passing him off, one to another, as though they could live through his efforts.
Such adulation during the parade downtown honoring the Steelers after their victory in Super Bowl XL in 2006 might have given someone else a bloated sense of entitlement.
Polamalu? He flew to Greece, living for four days in a 1,500-year-old monastery with Greek Orthodox monks.
Polamalu, who is Greek Orthodox, had stepped back to wonder what the victory and accompanying fame meant. He was unimpressed.
"Oh, OK, I won a Super Bowl," he said. "So what? I didn't have that fulfillment like what God could provide for me."
Polamalu is one of several Steelers who make religion and prayer a way of life while engaging in a sport that rewards brutality. It is such a part of the Steelers' culture that Polamalu and other defensive backs pray in a huddle between each series. Back in the locker room, a small carton of scripture books, entitled "Our Daily Bread," sits on a shelf next to a box of footballs.
Now, that's a compelling lede. It makes me want to read the rest of the story. Or so I thought at the beginning.
The story loses steam quickly, even as it keeps going for 1,300-plus words. The problem is simple: Too much information, all strung together under the general heading of "Steelers and faith." Keep reading, and tell me if the constant zigs and zags don't make for an annoyingly confusing set of X's and O's.
After that nice intro with Polamalu, he's pretty much benched for the rest of the game -- er, story -- never to be heard from again.
We move from the Greek Orthodox player to a generic, Bible-believing safety to a Mormon nose tackle to a Catholic team scout to a "Christian" wide receiver. // < ![CDATA[ //
Want a news angle? As the story proceeds, we've got bad boy quarterback Ben Roethlisberger going to church "every Sunday" after he was accused of sexual assault twice in an eight-month period. But we get no details on the church, and once again, it's a drive-by account of a player's faith -- about as deep as the Texas Longhorns' offense this season. (Sorry, Sooner fan here, and I couldn't resist that. Oklahoma 42, Texas 7 in the Red River Rivalry in Dallas on Saturday. But I digress ...)
And, of course, a story trying to pack in everything imaginable about faith in the NFL must include former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who is known for his evangelical Christianity, and oh yeah, that No. 25 draft pick of the Denver Broncos. (Hmmmmm, was there another Heisman-winning, Jesus-loving quarterback picked higher in that draft? But I digress again ...)
Back to the story: The Tribune-Review piece even manages a Brett Favre reference, and that's totally fine since the source is the Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh.
The problem is, this story is like going to an all-you-can-eat cafeteria. You keep piling food on your plate. You stuff it all down your throat. And when you're done, you have a yucky feeling, wishing you'd been a bit more careful in picking and choosing your meats and veggies.
That's how I feel about this story. There was a lot of potential for a nice piece of sports/religion writing. But the quarterback tried to do too much and overthrew the receiver in the end zone.