Tattoos dominate every sporting activity

Published : Nov 23, 2013 00:00 IST

Ted Corbett writes about the current fashion for sportsmen, amateur and professional, big, small and well built, among both sexes and at all ages, to cover themselves in tattoos.

They’re everywhere! By the score on football grounds, at either end of a cricket pitch, in every scrum in both codes of Rugby, wherever there is swimming, or tennis, or horse racing and, I guess since I don’t inhabit such high class fields of competition, they can be seen in every chukka of polo and each hoop of croquet.

I am writing, of course, about the current fashion for sportsmen, amateur and professional, big, small and well built, among both sexes and at all ages, to cover themselves in tattoos.

You may call me an old fuddy-duddy — and I have no grounds for argument — but I find these sporting pictorials revolting.

To start with they are unnecessary as well as being in many cases grotesque. Which athlete, from track and field to open air arena, needs to enhance his body. By their very nature sportsmen are young and fit and beautiful whether they have just won the Wimbledon ladies championship or the Tour de France.

If, by dint of winning a large prize on the Lottery and you were able to buy a picture of your favourite sports personality, surely you would hang it in the most prominent spot in your house and call in your pals to admire it.

“Look at that,” you would say. “Isn’t that handsome?” You would certainly not take a coloured pen and scribble patterns up and down the arms, add a few tasteless scrawls to the forehead and decorate the knees with swirls.

Yet from the greensward to the green baize tattoos dominate every sporting activity by day and by night. Just tell me why.

These men and women are among the most admired people on the planet, with bodies we might all give our eye, teeth to emulate and yet many of them insist on adding décor where none is needed. I do not understand why. Surely in this case less is more.

Well, in a sense I know why. Joe Bloggs of Manchester United sees that Fabio Italiano of Manchester City has a tattoo that stretches from the top of his balding head to the base of his spine and thinks: “He has a big tattoo, he scores a lot of goals, he earns £10m a year. I bet if I had an even bigger tattoo I would score more goals and earn twice as much money. I’m off to the nearest tattooist pronto.”

Once inside the shop there is no stopping him and in a few hours he is outside, admiring his taste, his good sense and his potential for more goals and a bigger bank balance sometime real soon.

In fact he might have been better if he had spent that spare time practising on the club training ground or going for a stamina building run or asking the coach why Italiano was scoring more goals.

A minute or two of deep thought might also have shown him that, to take just one instance, Roger Federer, possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, made his way to the top without pausing for a moment to buy himself a tattoo. So too with Andy Murray, certainly the finest British tennis star, and too many other world sporting experts in the art of batting, bowling, dribbling, shooting, passing, tackling, wrestling and riding.

Perhaps it is all the fault of David Beckham who not only has a bank balance — aided by his singer turned dress designer wife — heading for £170m but also attracts a lot of screaming girls. Now that is a big draw card. Once again Joe Bloggs thinks: “Good old Becks. Earned a fortune and pulled Lord knows how many birds. Back to the tattoo shop.”

Never mind Beckham, there is history to consider and I do not mean the hundreds of years that tattoos have been the choice of thousands. Were there ever greater runs scorers than Don Bradman, Wally Hammond and Sachin Tendulkar? Let me tell you there were not and that there may never be.

Yet I can no more imagine Bradman, an austere man and a stockbroker, Hammond, the descendent of Army folk, or Tendulkar who has a proper sense of the right way to lead his life, getting a tattoo than I can visualise any one of them swimming with sharks as a training routine. In my country I can only guess that tattooists are the bank manager’s favourite customer. As I walk to the centre of the tiny town centre in the Fens where I live, I see dozens of lads and scores of lasses with body art that make Kevin Pietersen’s tattoos look discreet and modest.

From head to foot they have imitated their heroes to the extent that tattooists have a single problem: how to spend all that cash.

When my own Lotto ticket matches all the right numbers I will make contact with those tattoo men and ask if they get rid of their cash by toasting Beckham or will they open yet another shop, earn yet more cash and rival the world’s great sportsmen in their mounting pile of riches.

That is their headache. Those of us who have no tattoos and no wish to cover and colour our bodies after what by its very nature must be a painful process will wish them well, enjoy their skills and try not to notice this 21st century vanity.

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