We watch professional athletes because their performances represent a form of entertainment and public spectacle. But it isn't just their actions on the field, court or ice that can provide fans and spectators with something to gawk at – many athletes have embraced tattooing as a way to turn themselves into walking, sport-playing visual attractions.

Athlete tattoos draw so much attention because they're both high profile and tend to be extensive and extravagant. Many famous sportsman have become famous and well-known as much for their ink as for their playing, for better or worse, and have opted to go under the needle for reasons ranging from commemorating family members to hometown pride to patriotism and everything in between. 

Global representation
This summer's World Cup tournament is a unique chance for athletes from literally all over the globe to come together, and an entire planet's worth of tattoo diversity is on display. Not surprisingly, many of the pieces of note are country-themed, as players are keen to display their support for the nation they represent on the field. A particularly interesting example arose in the recent game between the U.S. and Germany, as according to ABC News, the U.S. team is home to players of both German and American descent. These players have taken to body art to proudly display their mixed national heritages: One player has adorned his elbows with an image of the state of Illinois and the city of Berlin, respectively, as a silent tribute to both of his homes on either side of the Atlantic.

Even players who do not boast dual citizenship are proud to etch their love of the red, white and blue into their skin. From flag emblems to state outlines to bald eagles, a good portion of the U.S. soccer squad is very loud when it comes to making sure their national pride is fully and overtly represented.

Some more eclectic choices
Of course, not all athletes feel the need to express their love of country through their tattoos. Representatives of all sorts of sports have made a secondary name for themselves based on their unique and eclectic ink. According to the Associated Press, a common practice among Olympic athletes is to mark their participation in the famous world athletic tournament by tattooing its emblem, the iconic five interlocking rings, onto their bodies – a permanent reminder and indicator to the level of accomplishment they've reached. 

Many athletes across several American sports leagues have generated discussion surrounding their interesting and often bizarre tattoo choices. USA Today listed a few of the most well-known examples, such as the notorious '90s basketball player Dennis Rodman, as famous for his flamboyant ink, spanning most of his body, as for his playing. Other athletes have inked their devotion to their family members or even their religious beliefs on their arms, backs, hands and even necks. 

Of course, while polite company holds that there may not be such a thing as a bad tattoo, there are certainly some celebrity tattoos that have left many scratching their heads. One basketball player has the name of his musical side project tattooed prominently on his throat, giving new meaning to the term "self-promotion." Notoriously, mixed martial arts fighter Brock Lesnar proudly displays a large dagger running down the length of his sternum – a striking and intimidating piece of ink that has left many wondering if the large athlete ever finds himself wrestling with tattoo regret.

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