James Pallotta traveled to the Vatican on Wednesday in his role as president of the Italian soccer club A.S. Roma, which will take on rival side Lazio in the Coppa Italia final this weekend. Delegations from the two clubs visited St. Peter's Square during Pope Francis' daily general audience as part of a peace initiative, presenting "Papa Francesco" with jerseys from each side, while Serie A President Maurizio Beretta gave the soccer-loving Argentine Pope a football and a small replica of the Italian Cup.
But the Boston-born businessman is also part of the ownership group that runs the Boston Celtics, so Pallotta brought along a home-white Celtics jersey — with "THE POPE" on the back above the No. 1 — to present, as well. How did the Pope respond?
OK, cool. He smiled. He digs it!
FOX Sports was worried he might not, because it just had his generic title rather than his specific name. But it looks like you got all worried for nothing, FOX Sports. No "epic fail" at the Vatican here. Whew! (Nobody should've worried, anyway. As "The State" taught us many years ago, the Pope-a, he's a so nice-a.)
Celtics devotees surely know that No. 1 has long since been retired by the Green in honor of Walter Brown, the team's founder and first owner. So long as Pope Francis doesn't try to check into the Celtics' next home game rocking the retired kit, though, we're betting neither Brown's descendants nor the NBA will mind too much.
Pallotta, who was raised Catholic, called meeting the Pope "one of the most emotional experiences in my life," Pallotta said, according to The New Age. We're sure it meant a lot to the Pope, too, considering the last NBA-connected visitor to Vatican City was a little ... off.
Pallotta's presentation came less than a week after the Dalai Lama donned a Pelicans hat during a visit to New Orleans to show appreciation for his hosts while on a speaking tour. Here's hoping this doesn't start NBA teams scampering to lock down the support of religious leaders. The competition to lock up the backing of Seventh Day Baptist General Conference General Secretary Jan Lek could prove to be quite fierce, and I don't even want to think about the engram-clearing free-for-all that would be associated with courting Church of Scientology President Heber Jentzsch.
Here's another look at Pope Francis admiring his new tank top, via the Celtics' Instagram account:
Hat-tip to Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe's Celtics Blog.