In tribute to one of soccer’s most popular gay trailblazers, the San Diego Loyal last week unveiled a public mural of Collin Martin in Hillcrest — a neighborhood recognized as the hub of their home city’s LGBTQ community.
As a recognition of a prominent gay athlete, the mural did its job.
As a piece of art, though…how do I phrase this delicately? It looked like someone took a picture of Martin’s face two seconds after the Thanos Snap in the Avengers movies.
A hero for the LGBTQ+ community, San Diego, and athletes everywhere.— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) March 3, 2023
Introducing our 2023 @CharlyFutbol Home Kit and mural of @martcw12, located in Hillcrest, a neighborhood at the forefront of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. Available now at https://t.co/lDCS2uwPVY.#StayLoyal pic.twitter.com/xiNSIMDYp8
If you’ve seen even one photo of Martin, you can state with certainty that he definitely has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth in their typical places. But the mural of Martin makes it appear that an evil child rearranged his features into a series of abstract shapes like a cursed Wooly Willy.
But this is an important point — even though the mural is kind of an artistic misfire, it still underscores how important Martin is to the San Diego sports scene. As a well-known athlete turned into questionable public art, Martin is joining some very impressive company.
In St. Louis, for example, Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Stan Musial famously didn’t care for the 10 foot statue of himself standing guard outside Busch Stadium.
The lithe hitter with the corkscrew stance was bizarrely depicted with a chest that looked like he was caught in mid-transformation into the Incredible Hulk. Perhaps this was why no one ever saw Musial get angry.
Like Martin, the face on the Musial statue was unrecognizable.
As another example, when the Washington Nationals opened their new ballpark, they wanted to commemorate Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in D.C. history. Taking a bold step, the artist decided to cast the Johnson statue to make it look like it was in motion delivering a pitch.
Unfortunately, the end result made it look like the reason why Johnson was able to set so many strikeout records was because he was allowed to pitch after grafting three right arms onto his torso.
Finally, in Martin’s own sport, there was the infamous bust of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo that went viral for all of the wrong reasons. For this project, the artist was tasked with sculpting only the face of one of the most handsome men in sports history. What could possibly go wrong?
“Hmm…you don’t look like your profile pic. At. All.”
However, while these works of art were all a bit underwhelming, they didn’t dampen the accomplishments of their subjects one bit. Musial, Johnson, and Ronaldo are all legends and it shouldn’t be lost that every one of these pieces was still a good-hearted attempt to pay homage to them.
If that’s the kind of company Martin is keeping, that reflects well on him. While he’s not a Hall of Fame caliber player like the others, his role as an out gay athlete in pro soccer is definitely worthy of that kind of public celebration. The Loyal certainly thought so too.
Hopefully Martin will be the subject of more tributes in the future that will give him reason to reflect on his accomplishments and smile. Especially if next time, they remember that he has a face.