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This Is So Stupid

Washington DT Jonathan Allen: I Would Love To Introduce My Grandfather To Adolf Hitler

WFT defensive tackle Jonathan Allen jogging off the field, thinking of strange answers to big questions.
Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative Photography

The summer I got married, I worked two very different jobs. I had a night-shift job at MLB.com writing brief fantasy baseball notes, and a part-time office job at a real estate agency specializing in SEO trickery. The MLB job was bizarre: I worked out of a bullpen in the site’s headquarters, located above a boutique mall, from whatever desk was open. When I realized that the team’s Royals producer usually worked from home, I made his cubicle a favorite and jammed alliteration into my dumb little notes under the blank gaze of a Brian McRae bobblehead. Once, looking for a pencil, I opened a desk drawer and found it absolutely full—like just teeming to the point of spilling over—with take-out ketchup packets. Everyone that worked there was strange, but I liked them, and I liked the gig.

The real estate job was infinitely stranger, and worse. One of the founders “playfully” bit me one time. Another, who was more outwardly low-key, periodically revealed an inner reality so berserk that it chilled me to the core. One afternoon, I returned from getting a sandwich to find him engaged in a surprisingly heated argument with an agent; it quickly emerged that the question at hand was, somehow, “is Gandhi in heaven?” The co-founder was evangelical enough and uncompromising enough that the answer was a foregone conclusion, but he had taken a roundabout route to the “no” that was always going to be his answer. “I’m not saying he wasn’t a great leader, but let’s look at it,” the co-founder said, with a strained and professorial patience, “So what did Gandhi want? To keep Egypt out of the war.”

I mention this not just as a helpful warning against interacting with real estate people under any circumstances, but as a reminder that no matter what you believe Consensus Reality is, there is no such thing. There is what is, and that can be known and understood and proven, but also that does not have anything at all to do with what people might think about any of it. The things that other people understand as true might not only be strictly speaking extremely untrue, but be things that no one else on earth has ever previously thought.

More to the point, I mention it because my first thought, upon seeing that Washington Commanders DT Jonathan Allen had mentioned Adolf Hitler as part of his answer to a question about which three people he’d most want to have dinner with, was let’s see who he thinks Adolf Hitler actually was. Was he getting him confused with Albert Haynesworth somehow? Did he think that Hitler was the bestselling author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad? Which Adolf Hitler was it that Jonathan Allen wanted to have dinner with, alongside his grandfather and, in an astonishingly distant second place as Worst Person In This Answer, Michael Jackson?

It turns out it was the real guy, kind of, but for reasons that had more to do with grindset football brain stuff than anything more worrying:

Obviously there’s still some worrying stuff here. The volume of motivational Instagram posts featuring pictures of lions that one must ingest to arrive at “I want to talk to Hitler about his approach, and maybe get to know the man behind the legend” is staggering to consider. The idea of Hitler, who fought on a half-dozen fronts simultaneously, including Russia in winter, as a master military tactician is, on its own, not really that much less wrong than the co-founder’s understanding of Gandhi as a trailblazing Egyptian anti-war activist. There is also a famous book in which Hitler goes into depth about his personal struggle, if one wanted to know more about what made the man tick, although you don’t hear it recommended much in light of the catastrophic globe-upending conflict and the towering world-historic genocide that he authored some years later.

If it’s fair to say that Allen gave what is, again, probably the worst possible answer to this hilariously innocuous question, it is also probably fair to say that he gave it for reasons having more to do with the state of history education in America’s schools and the football-brained individual’s natural inclination towards Large Numbers and Big Accomplishments than any kind of affinity for Hitler as a historical figure. “Later,” the Washington Post wrote in its aggregation of the incident, “when Allen faced scrutiny, he initially defended his choice, saying he wasn’t giving Hitler ‘props’ but that ‘I was giving my reason as to why I think it would be interesting to have a [conversation] with him.'” Allen later apologized for the post and deleted it.

The historical ignorance aside, there is still some worrying logistical carelessness on display here. It is not just that Hitler would be a terrible dinner guest, although he would. I have had the experience of dining with vegetarians who are also high on amphetamines, and I cannot recommend it. I also cannot imagine that it would be made any more appealing by introducing genocidal ambitions into the mix.

There is also just the way that dinner parties work, a gravitational tendency towards binary conversations that would, in the moments when Allen was talking to Michael Jackson about say recording Off The Wall, leave his grandfather and Adolf Hitler to talk about the things that people talk about at dinner parties when they don’t really have much in common. “Did you wind up getting into Succession at all?” Allen’s grandfather might ask a visibly twitchy Hitler as his grandson talks to Jackson about working with Martin Scorsese on the “Bad” video. “Or was everyone on it just kind of too mean for you?” Consigning one’s beloved grandfather to a so what do you do? chat with the author of the holocaust is many things, but it is at some level just being a bad host.