With the upcoming vacancy at the head of Roma FC (that’s Rome’s Favorite Christians, for you sports fans who aren’t so ecclesiastical), it seems only fitting that the sports world should put forth some candidates for the job. Who can we entrust with St. Peter’s Stadium? For starters, it’s nice that the College of Cardinals (no, that’s not Stanford) is going to adhere to the Rooney Rule, and consider a couple of minority candidates for the job. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana seems like a good fit for the position, although there’s concern that his play-calling may be too conservative. And Cardinal Marc Ouellet really does seem more suited to remain in the CFL (Canadian Faithful League). Who does that leave to take over the @pontifex Twitter account?
2. Manti T’eo: without a doubt he was the spiritual leader of America’s top Catholic sports program last year. And as someone who is already an expert on creating a loving relationship with an invisible entity who he won’t actually meet in person even though they have daily conversations, he’s uniquely qualified to be the infallible conduit to the Lord.
3. Eddie Pope: need I say more? The retired DC United star and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame played defense in two World Cups that the USA hadn’t a prayer of winning, so you’d have to say that he could fit right into the role of “defender of the faith.” And with the Vatican wanting to appeal to its growing base in Latin America, a futbol hero is the right way to go.
4. Diego Maradona: staying with futbol, but let’s go right to Latin America by choosing the Argentinean superstar. Isn’t it enough of a sign from above that he scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal in 1986, dismissing the godless Anglicans, um, I mean British team from the World Cup? He’s also proven his managerial skills by coaching the Argentinean national squad without getting himself killed by his own players, fans, or mobsters.
5. Megan Rapinoe: this seems like a longshot, but again, soccer’s appeal carries some weight. She’s a gay woman, so her selection might signal that the Church is changing its stance on some touchy social issues.
6. Lou Holtz/John Thompson/Jerry York: any of these three have what it takes. Thompson, the former basketball coach at Georgetown University (a Jesuit school) has minority appeal, and a proven ability to stand up to unsavory types, like Washington D.C. druglords and Episcopalians. York, the all-time NCAA leader in hockey wins at the Jesuit Boston College, has demonstrated the ability to succeed while looking good in the burgundy and gold garments traditional to the papacy. Holtz, obviously, is the last guy to lead America’s Catholics to the Promised Land (Notre Dame’s 1988 NCAA championship). Also, if you saw him in The Blind Side, you know that any guy who’s comfortable in the war bonnet of the South Carolina Gamecocks would be equally at home in a papal miter.
7. Tony LaRussa: as he proved in 2011, even when the Cardinals seem to have no hope he can take them all the way. With both Italian and Spanish ancestry, he appeals to Latin Americans and those who think that the Pope should first and foremost be the Bishop of Rome. Not to mention that as the founder of his own Animal Rescue Foundation, he’s clearly a follower of St. Francis of Assisi.
Which of these contenders will get to ride in the Popemobile (which is what I assume Eddie Pope calls his car)? It’s a tough choice, but we’ll know for sure when we see white smoke over Yankee Stadium (unless it’s the day when Brian Cashman is burning the paper trail connecting Alex Rodriguez to banned substances).