The NBA: Where Tattooed Freaks of Nature Happen.

One of the drawbacks of being a columnist is occasionally having to write insane, rambling, borderline incoherent insane ramblings and then try to justify these random words and phrases as a cogent thought you squeezed out of your very own mind grapes. For example:

In NBA playoffs, less ink means more viewers.

Sigh. Excuse me while I go all Fire Joe Morgan on what is sure to be quite the tone poem, after the jump.

Over the next couple of weeks you’ll hear lots of theories about why TV ratings are surging for the NBA playoffs.

Hmm, well, there may be lots of theories, but the correct ones will be the ones that mention (A) the fact that this season has been repeatedly noted by the press as being one of the most exciting ones in recent memory, and (2) that the NBA has trotted out some pretty great advertising campaigns this year, including these rather awesome split-screen TV spots. Also, with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers now in the Finals, two of most popular franchises ever have been playing their asses off.

Of course it helps that large TV markets with storied franchises (Boston and Los Angeles) are still alive and favorites to make the NBA Finals. And, yes, it helps that the league’s two most successful franchises over the last five years (San Antonio and Detroit) are competing against the Lakers and the Celtics.

Hey, that’s almost like what I said!

But there’s one issue driving improved ratings that likely won’t be touched by all the NBA talking heads on TNT and ESPN.

I’ll mention here that Jason Whitlock is, at times, one of the better sports writers in America — or, at the very least, one of the most fearless. He speaks to bloggers more frequently than most other mainstream media personalities; he takes controversial positions on race relations, but seldom backs down and is always ready to defend himself. Also, along the way, he gained the fabulous nickname, “Big Sexy.” All of this is to say, I like Jason Whitlock, and if he claims there’s another important issue at stake here, I’m willing to listen.

Tattoos. Or rather the lack of tattoos in the conference finals.

Oh, fuck.

Part of the reason more people are watching these playoffs is because the average fan isn’t constantly repulsed by the appearance of most of the players on the court.

Maybe I’m bad at being a basketball fan, but I’m usually more concerned with the incredible feats of strength and agility being performed on a basketball court than the barbed-wire some guy has on his bicep.

Most of the key players left in the playoffs don’t look like recent prison parolees.

Neither do most of the players who have been eliminated, but hey. You’re the nationally respected sportswriter, I guess.

The only accurate way to describe Garnett, Pierce, Duncan, Allen, Manu, Parker and even Kobe is “clean cut.” Yeah, there are a couple of tattoos in that group — Duncan has something on his back, Kobe still has his post-rape-allegation tat — but the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics have far less ink on average than your typical NBA franchise.

For those keeping score at home: Tim Duncan’s tattoo is the exact same as the metaphorical tattoo Kobe Bryant wears in the form of residual shame after being accused of raping a woman. If you have trouble understanding this equation, please see Dr. Whitlock to pick up your crazy-pills.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have more tats on their hands than the entire Spurs roster.

Also, they’re incredibly talented players and often seen as being far more interesting as human beings than the robotic Spurs, who are renowned for lacking anything resembling human qualities.

I know many of you probably think the number of tattoos doesn’t influence viewing habits.

*raises hand*

*shakes hand wildly*

*starts pounding head on desk with hand in the air*

You’re wrong. Like everything else televised, appearances matter. There’s a reason you don’t see nude scenes in movies with fat people. Trust me, fat people have sex. It’s just no one wants to see it. Not even fat people.

And take it from Whitlock, a bona fide fat dude! Anyway, of course appearances matter, but we’re talking about a professional sport where the average height is like eight feet. People watching the NBA should be used to seeing humans who look slightly different than the average person.

No one wants to watch Delonte West or Larry Hughes play basketball. It’s uncomfortable and disconcerting. You don’t want your kids to see it.

True story: West and Hughes are bad at playing basketball. Especially Hughes. Terrible form for your kids to take after. Makes me kind of sick just thinking about it, actually.

You don’t want your kids to think they should decorate their neck, arms, hands, chest and legs in paint. You don’t want to waste time explaining to your kids that some millionaire athletes have so little genuine self-confidence that they find it necessary to cover themselves in tattoos as a way to mask their insecurities.

Oh … you meant because they’re tattooed. Right. Well, I mean, Allen Iverson seems about as self-assured as professional athletes come: when his Nuggets were about to face Kobe and the Lakers, he made several comments saying that Kobe — this season’s MVP — is still not as good as he is. Maybe he just likes tattoos?

You just want to watch basketball and feel like you’re watching people you can relate to a little bit, people you somewhat respect.

Like I said, you’re watching eleven-foot-tall supermen who make no less than $275,000 a year. I’m sure many of them are very nice guys, but on what level are you relating to them? Sure, Gilbert Arenas likes to hang out at home and play video games, but his home is a castle the size of your street and his plasma screen is made out of the actual plasma of endangered leopards.

We finally have that again on the NBA’s biggest stage, and everyone can see it because the league’s substance isn’t covered in a barrel of tattoo ink.

OH BECAUSE OTHERWISE WE COULDN’T SEE BECAUSE OF ALL THE INK LOL

It’s a television show. Pleasant smiles, non-threatening people sell products better than menacing, tattooed brutes.

Like Signal to Noise mentioned, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated features a cover story on Josh Hamilton, the heavily tattooed center fielder of the Texas Rangers who happens to be one of the best players in baseball this season. I mean, considering I don’t know what the fuck Sports Illustrated is and can only assume they’re a brand new “sports” “blog” or something or other that was only created in order to fail miserably, it would stand to reason that they would put this totally unmarketable, tattooed freak on their cover. Fucking idiots. I bet he doesn’t even have a winning smile.

If I was David Stern, I’d commission Nike and/or Under Armor to create a basketball jersey with long sleeves, all the way down to the wrists. I’d make Iverson wear a turtleneck jersey with sleeves. I’d cover the tats.

Good idea. Luckily, David Stern isn’t a moron and would have you forcibly removed from his office before you could even finish making this suggestion. You know, the Nazis had turtlenecks they made the Jews wear.

Do you think Sports Illustrated would let its swimsuit models cover themselves in tattoos? Models are paid to look good.

Also, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models are very frequently airbrushed with colorful designs that may as well be tattoos. And, hey, they still look good! Admittedly, though, I do mean good enough for this so-called Sports Illustrated thing that neither I nor anyone else has ever even heard of.

Athletes are no different from models.

They’re actually completely different, aside from the general lack of body fat.

It’s unfortunate that too many young athletes are too unenlightened to approach the game like a business. They resist almost all ideas that would put more money in their pockets. They have to be forced to do the little things that would help them make more money.

You know, I’d argue the more unfortunate trend is that young athletes are encouraged to be all about the business end of things. Not to say that they shouldn’t be coached and expected to be as professional as possible, but treating the game strictly like a business leads to athletes with no real personalities of their own — just soulless shills for their sponsors, driven by the desire to squeeze a few more dollars rather than enjoying themselves and their status as some of the best athletes in the world in one of the most physically taxing sports leagues in the world. Isn’t there a certain purity in a player who would rebuff sponsors and, instead, get all tattooed and kick ass on his own terms?

Growing NBA ratings is what’s best for the players in the long term. Adopting a non-prison-ready appearance would help everyone in the league earn more money. But no one will talk about it.

Ratings were high all season long, even when these miscreants and ruffians were still in action. Also, the idea that, “no one will talk about it” is as absurd as it is incorrect: just a few seasons ago, NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a new policy that required all players not playing on a particular day to follow a fairly strict dress code and to not wear “street clothes,” which is kind of the same thing, right?

Maybe Stern (correctly) assumed that, considering how many of the league’s elite players have tattoos — I would wager it’s somewhere around 99% — it would be idiotic to tell them to, you know, not get them? Or to punish the ones that do? Wouldn’t that be worse for business — to water down the talent pool to just the ink-free — than letting these goddamn thugs and circus freaks just play basketball?

51 thoughts on “The NBA: Where Tattooed Freaks of Nature Happen.

  1. whitlock makes himself plenty of enemies, no matter what opens his yap about. i’d much rather watch tattooed nba players than see them go back to the short-shorts of the 70s and 80s.

  2. That makes complete sense.

    Most mom’s are ten times more worried about kids looking up to a star athelete who happens to be tattooed…

    Than an athelete who has rape charges. Or is dennis rodman.

    Yeah right.

    Yeah. Since we are forcing the yoke of being a role model onto any person in the spotlight, we should at least pick our battles in what is “acceptable”

    not that I’m to concerned with the whole celebrity role model thing anyway. Last time I checked, nba players, musicians and actors aren’t raising your children. And I would cirtainly hope that as a parent you would be the loudest voice of reason and guidance in your kid’s life… Not some celebrity. I think adults bad mouthing “role models” are just looking for someone to blame, rather than taking responsibility for neglecting their duties of shaping character in their own brood.

    So yeah.

  3. Most mom’s are ten times more worried about kids looking up to a star athelete who happens to be tattooed…

    Than an athelete who has rape charges. Or is dennis rodman.

    Yeah right.

    Yeah. Since we are forcing the yoke of being a role model onto any person in the spotlight, we should at least pick our battles in what is “acceptable”

    not that I’m to concerned with the whole celebrity role model thing anyway. Last time I checked, nba players, musicians and actors aren’t raising your children. And I would cirtainly hope that as a parent you would be the loudest voice of reason and guidance in your kid’s life… Not some celebrity. I think adults bad mouthing “role models” are just looking for someone to blame, rather than taking responsibility for neglecting their duties of shaping character in their own brood.

    So yeah.

  4. that actually pissed me off
    this is what I posted there

    are you serious.
    As a heavily tattooed white male who doesnt watch basketball Im actually quite offended by the comments in this article.I can understand what you think your saying is right, but take a step back and read your article again. People watch sports to watch sports. By stating the increase in viewers to the decrease in tattoos is directly linked you make an assumption based on your own feelings. wheres the data wheres the statistics. How about the fact that over 2/3rd of the population has tattoos, theres data for that . How about 7 out of 10 colledge graduates have at least 1 tattoo and 3 out of 10 have several.. That sounds pretty “mainstream” to me. How about the fact that racism and bigotry and are passed on by the older generations. your not born judging someone because they have tattoos you learn that from your elders. How about tolerance towards others even though they might not look the same as you. I cant wait for another 20-30 years to pass because the antiquated ways of thinking that you and others like you promote will be that much closer to dying off from natural selection. think before you make underhanded comments based upon appearance. I meean not that long ago you couldn’t ride on the front of a bus because your nose was too big and your lips too large and your skin too dark. Not that long ago you were the one who was considered to be thuggish and looking like a prison parolee .

  5. Do a Google search for Jason Whitlock (the author of this article). He looks half-retarded to me.

  6. i don’t know i’d think that ratings being up may just possibly be due to the fact that the games matter more and the season’s almost over
    fucking retards

  7. wow. on all levels that article is just …wow. Fancy watching sport to watch the athletes PLAY!? o.O What you mean thas what you guys are switching on for? Here I was just watching their tattoos … o.O

    And I’m just ashamed by the “sport as a business” comment. How sad. What a business …you’ll be out of in within 5-20 years depending on which sport you choose… not a very stable business. to sell your soul for afew extra pennies? no thanks.

  8. I’m sorry. This is super funny to me. People’s ignorance always makes me laugh. I wonder how long it took him to get his head that far up his ass in the first place. I started trying to tattoo myself far before I started to watch basketball, anyway.
    He probably doesn’t even mean it. Half the shit out of that man’s mouth is likely for the ratings.

  9. Which is why the Red Wings rating were much higher than the Piston’s, I mean who wants to see a bunch of mean looking thugs who apear as if they just got out of prison being pro athletes.

    Um wait. I think I said that wrong.

  10. i agree with Jacinda about the sport as a business part; cause you need a MBA for the NBA. (and with the Olympic games only months way, since we all know it’s not about athletes showing dedication and love.)
    tattooed and skills over clean cut and steroids ANYDAY!

  11. Hey, maybe the basketball players are getting tatts so people DON’T wanna watch them?

  12. In that case, all athletes should get copious amounts of tattoos so no one will want to watch sports anymore, and people will learn how to read books again.

  13. “You’re wrong. Like everything else televised, appearances matter. There’s a reason you don’t see nude scenes in movies with fat people. Trust me, fat people have sex. It’s just no one wants to see it. Not even fat people.”

    You know, I think I should send him a big e-mail with links to all the BBW and BHM porn I can find.

  14. “no one will want to watch sports anymore, and people will learn how to read books again.”

    Or … people can do both! Man, what a time to be alive.

  15. Love the commentary. Pretty much what I thought, word for word, while reading the actual article.

    However, I grew up in the states, and no offense to the poster, Sports Illustrated is one of the most well recognized sports magazines in the country, and has been since I was little, probably since my dad was little. I don’t care much for sports anymore, but I do know Sports Illustrated, even had a subscription when I was 8.

    I live in Montreal now, and I assume, since you’re BME Staff, that you live in Toronto. The US does put out different publications, but maybe, next time, research a little? Great article, just one minor oversight.

    Thanks for putting it together! :)

  16. “Regardless of how I feel about the article (I don’t mind it), the man has a point.”

    ok, So.. whats the point?

  17. I’m even gladder now that I’m not any kind of professional sports fan, if assholes like this are the ones commentating on it. I really don’t know what else to say that hasn’t been/won’t be said already. As far as the ‘lack of self confidence’ thing he mentions – how can anyone think I’d choose to cover myself with ink – well beyond what virtually any other woman I’ve ever met – if I DIDN’T have at least some self-confidence?

  18. #24: Sarcasm. Or wait, am I missing your sarcasm here?

    It was great that he referred to *any* players as “clean cut”. And also that he is apparently a self-hating fat guy who feels a real connection with highly-paid, extremely muscled, very tall men. Because as a short white girl who makes minimum wage, I too feel connected to those who make millions of dollars for playing a goddamn game.

  19. Oh, #16 — “clean cut and steroids”? Tee hee! You are right; I would rather my hypothetical kids look up to someone who cheats and destroys his health than to someone who has tattoos. It just chills me to the bone to think that there are people in the world who think it is acceptable to expose children to these filthy tattoos! Will someone please think of the children?!

  20. That’s mighty impressive Jordan. I was expecting Godwin’s Law to occur somewhere in the comments, but you slung it right in the article! Hooray!

  21. You know, of all of it, I think the fat people sex part made me the angriest.

    How ignorant can a person be? Honestly. The part that made almost no sense to me though was that he suggested that PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES not get tattoos to make more money for themselves. What the hell? Aren’t they already making obscene amounts of money? At least enough to put several others through college.

    It’s so heartbreakingly stupid that I can’t stand it.

  22. Ah. Right. I was so tempted to join up and say something about my 23 year old tattooed female self (with bonus respectable occupation!), but I get the feeling that it’ll be reminiscent of whacking my head repeatedly against the wall..

  23. 25: That the average basketball fan doesn’t want to be intimidated by the large amounts of tattoo’s seen on the NBA players.
    You should also notice that most of the people that are offended don’t actually have any interest in basketball anyway, therefore wouldn’t be in a position to say what that the average NBA fan likes.

  24. WTF do pro sports have anything to do with body modification, or anything even marginally relevant? Professional sports in this country is IMO, one of the most obvious examples of how fucked we are. A bunch of pumped up. ego inflated morons who happen to be able to throw a ball through a hoop, making millions a year, and somebody cares that they choose (for whatever retarded reason) to inject ink under their skin? Come on, these guys are making all that money just to make fools of themselves on national TV! So much for proving that the negro is good for anything other than labor or dancing! No, I’m not a bigot. But these guys certainly aren’t helping their cause.

  25. While I personally agree that the entire article is a load of crap, I think the community still fails to realize that as a whole, tattoo’s are not accepted by society’s standards. People with tattoo’s are still seen as ‘people who have been to prison’ or ‘general misfits’. We are still a far way away till we can be accepted as equal. Like it or not :(

  26. 32: From what I’ve seen, no one even notices the tattoos. Lets look at football for a second- tattoos don’t stop anyone from watching the super bowl. It just seems like even if tattoos were a factor in viewing, they would be a very small one- So small that it’s not worth mentioning. And maybe that’s why “that likely won’t be touched by all the NBA talking heads on TNT and ESPN.”
    Being “clean cut” is for the announcers anyways.

  27. “Like I said, you’re watching eleven-foot-tall supermen who make no less than $275,000 a year. I’m sure many of them are very nice guys, but on what level are you relating to them?”

    Exaaaactly. Thank you, Jordan — that was golden!

  28. I’m not too entirely sure why, but this is actually what bothered me the most: “There’s a reason you don’t see nude scenes in movies with fat people. Trust me, fat people have sex. It’s just no one wants to see it. Not even fat people.”

    How is it that people like this even get jobs?

  29. The man is absolutely right – as far as mainstream WASP TV goes.

    But NBA is not (yet) completely dependent on TV to exist. Once media rules begin over-dictating rules of conduct to the NBA, or any other sport for that matter, NBA will dwindle down to become an over sized, sports-reality version of Friends and it will lose it’s mainstream status.

    That will probably happen right about the time when the alternative basketball league, that will be created by athletes and investors who only want to enjoy good sports, will gain momentum and increased popularity with viewers who will be fed up with the castrated NBA.

    But David Stern, like was said before, is not some spineless media puppet, or at least not stupid enough to shoot himself in the leg by destroying the league.

    And about fat people sex – Of course it exists, but not anywhere on mainstream TV. Popular media is all about programming us to accept and worship the current ideal of beauty, and like it or not, most of us are programmed.

  30. Can this twat not come to terms with the fact that these tattoos could perhaps make these athletes happy? Apparantly not.
    He’s too busy trying to decide wether these tattoos affect their performance, or the “busines of sport”.
    Every morning I look in the mirror, look at some of my mods and smile. Now i’d find it easier to relate to a basketball player with tattos than a “clean cut” player, because perhaps some of the inked athletes look in the mirror some days and smile. Just like me.
    I’m not too successful so far, of course heightening the chance of me relating to a basketball player, but the bottom line is:
    If i were to watch sport, i’d watch it for the sport, not the tattos. If i want to watch TV for some tattoos, si’d switch over to Miami Ink.

  31. 35: And this is the point that I have to ask you how many people subscribe to your blog to hear your views on professional sport?. Secondly how many of those football players tattoo’s are clearly visible from the average spectators seats?

  32. I never much liked basketball anyway…. but thats beside the point. The guy is an idiot. if he doesnt like looking at the tattoos, perhaps he should ignore them. It goes back to the old saying, “the only difference between tattooed people and non tattooed people is tattooed people dont care if youre not tattooed.”

  33. Its like fat people having sex, trust me fat people do have sex but no-one wants to watch it, not even fat people.

    That made me laugh so so hard!! I’ sure there are alot of people in this world (fat or not) who want to see fat sex, totally aside from the tattoo issue…

    Kobe, no visible tattoos so obviously hes a great role model. Of course the rape accusation is nothing, hes what you want your kids to grow up into, not someone who can express their creativity in a way that harms no one. G-d forbid…

  34. 40: Its not my job to write a blog on sports, so- no one.
    And, lots of football players have tattoos, thats why I brought it up. Otherwise that argument wouldnt have made any sense.
    I just think its stupid. I don’t see his p.o.v. comming from any really logical place.

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  37. We’ve got our own heavily-tattooed sports star here in the UK (Well, he’s shifted across the pond now, but the point stands). David Beckham. And he’s still absolute media royalty despite the fact that over the past ten or so years he’s stealthily added to his tattoo collection to the point that he’s now pretty well noticeably modified.

    Statistically, it might be true that less people have been watching games with more tattooed athletes, but there’s probably no significant correlation.

  38. Pingback: BME: Tattoo, Piercing and Body Modification News » ModBlog » The NBA Is Destroying America, Again, With Tattoos

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