This and Tat

Calgary Flames' tough guy Darren McCarty displays some of his tattoos. (MIKE DREW/SUN MEDIA)

Calgary Flames' tough guy Darren McCarty displays some of his tattoos. (MIKE DREW/SUN MEDIA)

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:03 PM ET


Plain as the skin on many an athlete's arm exists proof that there are, indeed, different strokes for different folks.

They come from a small, pointed "gun" that may not kill, but does scar for life.

As well as being painful and permanent, they can be cool and colourful.

Expensive and expressive.

Ugly and unidentifiable.

Yes, generally, their beauty is in the eye of their beholder. Or be-wearer, if you will.

In the world of sports, they have become the signs of the times.

Stickers. Markings. Tats.

"Once you get one," says the Toronto Maple Leafs Wade Belak, "you're addicted."

He should know. He has "seven or eight."

Brendan Witt, Joe Corvo, Sheldon Souray, Andrew Ference .... they are just a few of the heavily stained players in today's NHL. From Long Island to Ottawa to Montreal to Calgary, they have proven they have some definite Hollywood in them.

The entertainment industry, you see, is covered with stars who have at least partially covered their body.

Rapper 50 Cent is widely recognized as the most decorated of all.

Rockers Dave Navarro and Tommy Lee most recently entered living rooms across the continent regularly displaying their body art collection while trying to sign a singer for their band.

But tats can also be found on some of the world's most gorgeous female bodies.

On Tommy's ex-wife, Pamela Anderson. On Christina Aguilera. And Angelina Jolie. And Beyonce. And Janet Jackson. And Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Yasmine Bleeth, Carmen Electra, Lucy Liu, Alyssa Milano .... what?

Oh, sorry.

It's easy to get distracted by tattoos, which is a thought that might have crossed Anna Kournikova's mind the first time she flashed the small of her back. Not a very good tennis player? We didn't notice, and her sexy sticker is just one of the reasons why.

No longer do tattoos signify exclusive membership to a dark or seedy subculture.

No longer are they strictly regarded as defiant acts of rebellion.

No longer are they worn only by bad asses and bikers. This we know, despite what Tank Johnson thinks.

"I'm young, black and have tattoos," the Chicago Bears lineman said during Super Bowl week when asked about the serious firearm charges that would be waiting for him when he returned home.

"So it's easy to stereotype me and put me in a category."

Of course, that he was touched by a tattoo gun is not much of an excuse for a Tank carrying all that ammo, either.

Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated called body art the sports world's most flaunted form of self expression.

"Ten years ago, only boxers and wrestlers had visible tattoos," the mag reported. "Today they are everywhere, in every sport."

Filthy rich soccer star David Beckham has nine tattoos. He started by having the name of his first son -- Brooklyn -- scrawled across his lower back.

"Victoria"

He also has "Victoria," the real name of his wife and former Spice Girl Posh, tattooed on his left forearm in Hindi. Under it is the Latin phrase "Ut Amem Et Foveam" which translates "so that I love and cherish."

Ray Lewis, the outstanding Baltimore Raven middle linebacker, has the tattoo of a panther on his right arm because he loves cats. "I study them," said Lewis.

"They are cunning, quick, crafty, intelligent and focused."

Asked if he plans to get more, Lewis replied: "No, my mother won't let me."

As basketball players perform in the least amount of clothing, their tattoos are constantly on display.

Flamboyant bad boy Dennis Rodman gave new meaning to the phrase "In The Paint."

He is smeared in the stuff, from tattoos of Harley Davidson, a picture of his daughter, a shark, a cross and many others.

Allen Iverson, the NBA's 2001 MVP, displays 16 tattoos that describe his attitude in life -- Only The Strong Survive -- as well as others that are devoted to his family and friends.

New frontiers were recently explored by Dakkan Abbe, the president of New York City-based Fifty Rubies Marketing.

While watching an NBA game on TV, Abbe figured out a way for sponsors to get national exposure without paying for commercial time: Temporary tattoos.

Before considering all the details, he spoke to Detroit Pistons forward/centre Rasheed Wallace about wearing the logo of a candy company during a game.

Wallace declined the deal after the New York media found out about the offer.

The league, it was later learned, would view such an arrangement as a violation of its collective bargaining agreement with the players.

Abbe disagreed.

"The NBA is defining tattoos as part of the players' uniforms, but a player's skin is not part of his uniform," he said, adding that it was a personal rights issue.

"I find it offensive that the league would not allow something on someone's skin."

Especially for the different folks who like their different strokes.


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