Religion maintains a very visible presence in sports across the United States, and this relationship between the two is no different in Boston. As a city with a rich Catholic tradition, Boston is used to seeing religious artifacts, churches and other iconography throughout the area. Its professional sports teams are no exception, with notable players of the past and present holding religious beliefs that are sometimes visible through their actions and even their appearance.
The visibility of Boston’s religious background comes in various forms, from tattoos and clothing accessories to even a simple gesture toward the sky. With that in mind, here’s how some of the more prominent athletes from Boston’s sports scene have chosen to reveal their faith to the public.
Some athletes choose to let an image say more than their words. And even though his tattoo is often obscured by his Boston Celtics basketball jersey, Paul Pierce has a large tattoo on his back that features angel wings and two hands holding a heart. Underneath this image is the title, “Chosen One,” which has strong Christian tones. Pierce got the tattoo following a scary incident at a nightclub in which he was stabbed 11 times and rushed to the hospital.
When it comes to religious beliefs, few athletes are more vocal than former Boston Red Sox player Carl Everett. While being a productive player during a long and successful career, Everett also held somewhat radical religious beliefs that drew more than their fair share of media attention and controversy. He was a noted conspiracy theorist who believed that significant moments in history had been fabricated for various reasons. For example, he did not fully believe the moon landing was a legitimate occurrence. He also did not believe in the existence of dinosaurs, concluding instead that they were planted in the ground by humans. Everett noted that the Bible never made any reference to the creation of dinosaurs by God.
Everett also had a penchant for verbally abusing umpires and getting into tiffs on the baseball diamond, but it’s unclear if his outbursts were related to his religious beliefs.
Attributing Personal Success to a Higher Power
Further enriching religion’s legacy in the Boston Red Sox franchise is Curt Schilling, regarded by many in the Christian community to be one of the better representatives of faith in the sports world. Schilling is a future Hall of Famer and was a superstar pitcher that led Boston to numerous playoff appearances and a World Series title.
Schilling said he became a Christian after going through the struggles of watching his wife, Shonda, endure skin cancer treatment. After his notorious “bloody sock” performance in the American League Championship Series in 2004, which made Schilling famous for his endurance through the pain of a sutured ankle wound, a number of conspiracy theories arose questioning whether the blood-soaked sock was real.
Nevertheless, Schilling insisted it was, and he attributed his triumph over adversity to God’s presence with him as he performed a game-winning, all-time great performance.
These are just a few of the higher-profile instances of religion’s presence in Boston sports. And while not every player with spiritual beliefs is going to plaster religious images on their arms or fix Jesus fish to the bumpers of their cars, many other professional athletes in the area practice a particular faith and may just prefer to do so privately.
Even if that is the case, there are still moments and individuals through which Boston’s religious roots are visible, offering a deeper look into the rich tapestry that continues to connect the city and its sports teams.