Sports Tattoos

There are many kinds of tattoos that will age well: symbols like shamrocks or musical notes; a date to commemorate a loved one’s passing; butterflies and swirls. There are just as many that are fine initially but could easily become regrettable, like a girlfriend’s name. Sports-themed tattoos are no different. A team logo is probably harmless if you’re a fan; not so much if you’re the team’s coach.

At some point during his tenure as New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan got a tattoo depicting his wife wearing a No. 6 Jets jersey. That he chose the number of then-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is among the many warning signs that this was a bad idea. Ryan was fired by the Jets at the end of this past season and, a few weeks ago, hired by the Buffalo Bills. Not wanting to have a tattoo of another NFL team, yet alone one his new team will face twice each season, Ryan had the tattoo’s jersey color changed from Jets green to Bills blue. Had he landed with the 49ers, as some were speculating, the transformation might not have been so easy.

Ryan isn’t the first coach to get a tattoo honoring his team. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino promised his team during the 2013 season he’d get one if they won the national championship, and they did. And so Pitino, 60 years old at the time, got the Louisville ‘L’ tattooed on his back, along with text that reads “2013 NCAA Champions” and the team’s record. I suppose the NCAA could always make the school vacate the title, but then Pitino could simply add an asterisk in ink.

Pitino knew what should be obvious to all sports fans: A tattoo commemorating a title is far wiser than a tat predicting one. Last March, a Kentucky hoops fan got a tattoo of the UK logo inside an emblem that read, “2014 NATI9AL CHAMPIONS,” the 9 being a reference to what he expected to be the Wildcats’ ninth title. What looked like a terrible gamble nearly turned into a brilliant forecast as Kentucky, an 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, went all the way to the championship game before losing to UConn.

A Seahawks fan made a choice that ended in similar heartbreak last Sunday, when his “Back to Back Super Bowl Champions” tattoo officially became inaccurate. On the other hand, before the previous NFL season, another Seattle fan was correct in identifying his team as Super Bowl champs.

I don’t think I’ll ever get a tattoo, especially one that’s sports-inspired. What would I get, anyway? The New York Mets’ interlocking NY logo could become obsolete if the team ever moved cities. The NCAA might try to sue me for getting Michigan’s block ‘M’ without permission. My favorite players could easily change jersey numbers or get traded. Then again, I have a good feeling about the Mets this year…

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