You remember Kevin J. McCarthy, right? He’s the mildly enthusiastic Redskins fan with a football card-like list of Redskins Hall of Famers tattooed over the breadth of his back, the signatures of every Redskins Super Bowl MVP on his forearm, plus images of Lombardi trophies and Redskins helmets and assorted other burgundy-and-gold ink.
Well, Michael Lindenbaum remembers McCarthy, too. The two used to work together. And while Lindenbaum loves the Washington Capitals with a similar ardor, he never felt inspired to follow suit.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘I love the Caps, but I’m never gonna do that,’ ” Lindenbaum told me this week, when I called to ask him about his 23 Washington Capitals tattoos. “And what do I do? I did that.”
He sure did. The plan, if you’re curious, was to get a single tattoo on his left biceps honoring his grandfather, a World War II and Korean War veteran. As long as he was getting the one, the Germantown resident thought he’d get another at the same time, and since hockey is one of his enduring passions, Lindenbaum settled on a Capitals logo on his right forearm.
While the original Caps tattoo was slightly bigger than anticipated, it was a huge hit among Caps fans at last year’s preseason convention, which is about when Lindenbaum thought about expanding his hockey ink.
So last year around Christmas time, he got both the Caps’ “Weagle” emblem, and the team’s retro “Capitals” logo tattooed onto his body — the former on his right shoulder and the latter on his left forearm.
Then Lindenbaum was at a Caps game last season, thinking about how much he liked the older banners, which featured the faces of players whose jerseys had been retired. Which made him think about finding a way to honor those players on his body. Which led him to a star motif, which he filled in with players names and numbers and sent to his tattoo artist.
After a bit of back and forth, they agreed to put 20 such stars on his arm, honoring players with retired jerseys, and players whom Lindenbaum loved as a child, and even some current players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (who seem certain to achieve franchise legend status) and even scrappers like Matt Hendricks and John Erskine. And let’s be honest, not too many people have tattoos paying tribute to Matt Hendricks.
“You’ve got to give the guy the respect he deserves,” Lindenbaum explained. “He finally gets to the NHL, and he busts his ass off every game, every practice.”
Earlier this month, the 24-year old had the 15 named stars filled in with the color red. Five star shapes remain blank, with one reserved for the player who wins Washington a Stanley Cup, and the other four to be used at his discretion. (He’s even considered opening one up to a fan vote.) He also plans to have an image of the Cup itself emerging from the Weagle logo, when that day comes.
And so, what’s it like to have 23 Capitals tattoos, representing 24 hours of work, on one’s body?
“I wear long sleeves a lot when I’m out in public; I try not to get the attention unless I’m at a Capitals game or Capitals convention,” he explained. “After a while, you just don’t notice them. It’s like clothes. You look in the dresser, you go I’ll just throw this on. It’s like that now. Except I don’t take my arms off and put them back on.”
Lindenbaum, I should note, has played hockey for 19 years. His dad is a lifelong Flyers fan — “obviously he’s disappointed with me,” Lindenbaum joked — and he said that hockey has always been there for him. Players like Ovechkin and Michal Neuvirth have admired the work, while others like Alan May and John Carlson have asked why they aren’t represented. And Lindenbaum told me he has no regrets about turning his body into a shrine for Washington’s hockey team, that he’s “really happy to have a guy like Dale Hunter or Peter Bondra tattooed on my arm.”
As for his former co-worker McCarthy, who once considered getting a Redskins helmet tattooed on his head?
“I won’t go to extremes like that,” Lindenbaum promised.