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Back to Home >  Philadelphia Inquirer > 

Daily Magazine





Posted on Sat, Jun. 01, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Tanya Barrientos | Jesus sports statues for children: Less-than-divine inspiration?

Inquirer Columnist

A few years ago, I covered not one, not two, but three Miss America pageants in a row.

Every season, 50 cutthroat competitors clad in thigh-hugging swimsuits and diaphanous silk chiffon gowns would throw one another the evil eye while strutting down the runway.

Backstage, they'd tell reporters why they wanted the crown - world peace and all that - and, without fail, four out of five would go on to say they knew they'd walk away with the title and the rhinestones if Jesus wanted them to win.

I always thought they were asking a bit much.

On any given Saturday night in September, He must have plenty of things to worry about other than whether Miss Ohio will score a 9.6 in evening wear to edge out Miss Texas in the Top 10.

But I guess I was wrong.

Have you seen the latest offering in religious marketing?

Jesus Inspirational Sports Statues.

Yep, turns out the Son of God is into peewee football, weekend soccer and even junior hockey in a big (and I mean Almighty big) way.

Sold by Frank Pollicino of Long Island, N.Y., on his family store's Web site, www.catholicshopper.com, the figurines show a white-robed Jesus hustling on the field with a couple of kids in a Wide World of Sports variety of games.

Fit, bearded and looking a little like a World Cup soccer player for Italy, there he is tossing up the jump ball on the basketball court, in sandals. Or showing a little girl how to swing her nine iron out on the green.

There's one depicting Jesus shrugging off a tackle on the football field, and one showing Him, in skates, slapping a hockey puck across the ice.

I looked for a beauty-pageant Jesus holding the crown above the lucky winner's puffed-up hair, but the manufacturer hasn't come out with one of those yet.

Pollicino, who has run his retail shop since 1996, tells me the six-inch statuettes, developed by the Devon Trading Co. of North Caldwell, N.J., are not intended to be kitschy or blasphemous. They're serious religious items, he says, intended to show children that Jesus is their friend and spiritual teammate.

But can anybody really take a white-robed Jesus on skis seriously?

"I don't think there's anything wrong with having a friendly image of God on a kid's dresser," Pollicino replies.

By the way, a Jesus-as-athlete statue will cost you $19.95, if you are lucky enough to score one. They've been as popular as Tiger Woods since news about them popped onto the Internet late last year. Then, late-night TV comedian Conan O'Brien mentioned them on his show, which led to a spate of attention in newspapers and magazines.

"Last year I sold two," Pollicino says. "In the last three months I've sold 1,000." I forgot to ask whether he owns a statue of Jesus manning a cash register.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I've got an outdated sense of what the divine is all about. I thought we were supposed to appeal for things like moral guidance and spiritual enlightenment, not a three-pointer from downtown.

But I'm willing to change my outlook to catch up with the times.

In fact, I'll even offer a few ideas for statues that Pollicino might market to adults.

How about Jesus in a traffic jam? I've heard plenty of people mentioning His name during rush hour on the Blue Route.

What about Jesus on the floor of the stock market?

Buying a used car?

The possibilities are endless and, I suppose, nothing but harmless fun.

Still, part of me prays the Creator has a supreme sense of humor because, in the end, it's He who knows the final score.


Contact Tanya Barrientos at 215-854-5728 or tbarri@aol.com.
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