Twenty thousand Arizona Diamondbacks fans sported full-arm tattoos at Chase Field over the weekend. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the tattoo artist's needle, but the attractiveness of these intricate nylon sleeves was that they could be removed at the end of the night.
The right to bare arms was protected, and everybody went to school or work or the senior center Monday without needing a tattoo-concealing long-sleeve shirt on a 103-degree day. Ink with no stain, body art with no regrets. As someone who has seen countless inked-up athletes and had the tattoo gun strike close to home, I'm all for these temp tats.
In a clever promotion, the D-backs handed out the slip-on tattoos before their game against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday. A real tattoo, like true love, is forever. Nylon sleeves are the equivalent of a one-night fling, a way for fans to feel the deeply etched passion Diamondbacks ink-stained wretch of a third baseman Ryan Roberts feels – without the commitment. Roberts estimates he has at least 300 tattoos, literally from head to toe, and his arms are completely covered. If he wished any were temporary, he wouldn't say so.
Many athletes, as we know, flaunt body art. Because their arms and legs are exposed, basketball players' tattoos are the most visible. But trust a career sportswriter when he says tattoos are just as prevalent among baseball players. Locker rooms are art galleries, and the most popular tattoo artists, such as Olmy Rosenstock, attain celebrity status.
As with any other art, some tattoos are inspired, creative and brilliant. Life stories are told, something like cave wall hieroglyphics on flesh. Among Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp's several tattoos is one that reads "Tyler," in memory of a brother who died at childbirth. But far too many tattoos are drek: ugly, misshapen images, clutter and preposterous messages.
Remember the idiotic quotations classmates wrote under their senior photos in the high school yearbook? Now they are tattooed on backs, chests, arms and who knows where else. Tattoo boo-boos can't be undone, at least not without a ton of pain and money.
I say public school systems should take a cue from the D-backs and hand out fake tattoo sleeves along with health textbooks. Be proactive. The message: Permanence isn't necessary. Your body can be a work of art one day and a tabula rasa the next.
Arm sleeves could be just the beginning. How about a peel-and-paste tattoo patch of Japanese symbols for your neck or ankle or inner thigh? Or a strip of angel wings to tape just above your butt crack? Out on the town you're bold and bodacious, at work you're prim and proper.
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Detractors would say tattoo sleeves are the equivalent of candy cigarettes. Will the thousands of kids who wore sleeves to emulate Roberts rush to tattoo parlors on their 18th birthdays? Probably not: The player known as "Tatman" is batting .198. Josh Hamilton, however, is the hottest hitter in baseball and he's nearly as inked up as Roberts. Kids beware: Hamilton's crack cocaine addiction began when he was hanging out with the low life at a Florida tattoo establishment.
This diatribe has a personal side, I admit. My wife and I were vacationing on a faraway beach a couple years ago when our daughter shot me a text from home.
howz brazzil, paps?
Fine! How is everything at home, Gina?
i fed the dog. i got a tattoo. i fed the cat.
Cool … Wait. What?
no worries, it's a little sunflower on my back.
Why didn't you ask me first?
i turned 18 paps. it's my decision. luv u!!!!!
IMHO, the tattoo is not little. Since then Gina has added two more. She'll be 21 in June. Great young woman. Works hard. Sweet as caramel macchiato. I just believe she'll regret the tattoos someday, probably after I'm dead and unable to say, "I told you so."
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Not that I'm stridently anti-ink. My wife got a tattoo of a rose on her back the size of a 50-cent piece in the '80s before we met. It's cute and classy, like her. She even had it touched up a few years ago. To denounce tattoos is to appear curmudgeonly and hopelessly out of touch. Yet the huge numbers of inked-up pro athletes and everyday citizens has robbed tattoos of distinctiveness. Now they scream conformity. Quotes from scriptures emblazoned across chests and shoulders qualify as traditional values.
Even the temporary arm sleeves have gone corporate. The D-backs had an auto dealership sponsor the promotion, its logo wedged against Roberts' signature tattoo of a crown and the saying, "Only the strong survive." MLB has licensed arm sleeves and they are available with the logo of any team.
Besides staying pristinely tat-less, maybe the only way to make a radical statement these days would be to tell the entire history of baseball in tattoos.
Check that. The history thing has been done. Mike McWain of Pasco, Wash., has Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb tattooed on his back, arms, chest, everywhere. Yankee Stadium is etched in detail.
His wife says it's freaky when she rolls over at night and sees Cobb glaring at her from her husband's back. Otherwise, she loves it. So does the McWains' 12-year-old son, Christian. He wants his own baseball-themed tattoo collage. His dad says he'll have to wait a few years. Until then a nice nylon arm sleeve would do.
And by the time Christian McWain is old enough to make his own decision, maybe the rebellious act would be to eschew the tattoo. No ink, no stain, no regrets.
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