Religious Studies Professor Joe Price Finds Religion in Sports
by Samantha Woehl `15
RELIGIOUS STUDIES PROFESSOR JOSEPH PRICE is one of Whittier College's most notable faculty members. Students are first introduced to him by the sonorous voice he uses to sing Whittier College’s school song, “Friends Forever,” at the College’s New Student Convocation.
“Forward Ever Whittier, Falter Never Whittier, Friends Forever Whittier, Alma Mater Whittier!”
Just as his voice runs deep, so does Price’s love for America’s great pastime.
A life-long Yankee fan, Price holds the distinction of being invited to sing the national anthem at more than 20 top major league baseball stadiums in the U.S., including Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, Candlestick Park, Safeco Field, Dodger Stadium, and Edison Field. His personal quest, which began in 1977, is to perform in every major ballpark in the country.
Adding to that goal, during the 2011 baseball season, Price toured 104 of the 160 minor league ballparks across the country to help kick off games by singing the national anthem. During this travels, Price, an expert on the relationship between religion and sports, noted that ““singing the national anthem serves as a consecration of the field as it is readied for play.” .
“It validates the action that’s happening at each of the separate ballparks,” added Price “I also found that the trip had become a pilgrimage for me. I saw that overcoming the hurdles to move across the country, to meet other friends and fans were keeping in the way that pilgrimages develop.”
Price’s interest in sports and religion has led to the development of one of Whittier College’s most popular classes, “Play, Sport and Ritual.”
Katherine Back ’15, a kinesiology major with a concentration in sports management, has gained a great deal from Price’s class.
“The class gives you a whole new understanding of what it means to love a sport,” she said.“It gave me an appreciation for the modern sports fan. For someone like me, who is interested in the business of sports, you have to know how to reach these kinds of people in order to do business.”
Price’s teachings of sports and religion have brought him quite a bit of attention from the media. He has been a guest speaker on NPR, appeared in a segment on the CBS Good Morning, and featured in documentaries produced by the NFL. He’s also written a couple books on the topic.
Price is currently working to develop a class called “Muscular Faith,” a course that will study how sport-religion organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Power Team, and the Christian Bow Hunters Association have begun to develop into quasi-churches. The class will seek to understand how faith can be expressed through physical activity and not just traditional rituals like prayer.
“Professor Price is one of the best professors on campus, hands down!” Back said. “Religion is by no means an easy subject to tackle, and he does a really good job explaining ideas. You can tell he is very passionate about what he teaches. His happiness in the classroom makes such a great learning environment.”