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Musings from Arledge: Quoting Hitler, Missing Alabama and Living Lucky

Do we have time for a brief public-service message?  Good.

I’ve started a new hotline for athletes and other public figures who might be tempted to make a certain very big mistake.  The hotline is 1-800-Noooooo.  The hotline will be manned all hours, day and night, and available to anybody who might be thinking about quoting Hitler on social media.

I know this comes too late for DeSean Jackson.  But if I can help just one minor celebrity avoid this mistake, it will all be worth it.  

I’m normally very uncomfortable with the online mob and its efforts to destroy careers and reputations for unpopular opinions or off-color jokes.  But, geez, DeSean – Hitler?  Really?

The comedian Bill Burr starts one of his bits with the line, “That’s the funny thing about Hitler.” He then pauses while the audience laughs. Why? Because everybody knows there is nothing at all funny about Hilter. Have you ever met anybody named Adolf? You never will. We’re talking about a guy so evil that he has literally destroyed a common first name for all time. Can you imagine somebody named John being so awful that people couldn’t name children “John” forever after? Can you imagine being so evil that your (at the time) common style of facial hair becomes not just unpopular but essentially a hate crime until the world ends? Hitler was so bad he made a particular type of mustache able to deliver trauma to perfect strangers 75 years after his death? Think about that. And DeSean Jackson is going to (try to) quote that guy?

Now, in fairness, I note that DeSean seems to be a very quick learner. After the world expressed its disagreement with DeSean—in equal parts shock and horror—DeSean conceding that quoting Hitler (or trying to) is less-than-optimum.  In DeSean’s words, “I probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person and I know that.” Excellent, DeSean.  Yes, Hitler was a bad person. I’m positively giddy to hear that you “know that.”  

And don’t you love the addition of the word “probably” in that apology? I can see the drafting process now.  Friend of DeSean’s: “DeSean are you sure you want to be so definitive that posting anti-Semitic quotes from Hitler is bad? Let’s leave some wiggle room.  Maybe include ‘probably.’” Yeah, perfect. ‘I probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did….’”

Before getting to the substance of the quote – which was not from Hitler (who, contrary to DeSean’s quoted text,was actually far less of a fan of African-Americans than DeSean’s fake quote would seem to imply), but which was sufficiently anti-Semitic to fool some people – let me offer a piece of advice.  If your statement begins, “As Hitler once said,” you should probably pause and think carefully about whether you want to finish that sentence. Because while it’s true that some endings are worse than others, it’s hard to imagine any ending that really works. As Hitler once said, “Puppies are adorable.” See what I mean. It doesn’t really matter what you say, Hitler is probably not be the best authority for your position. (See, DeSean.  I’m getting the hang of it.)  And we can be pretty sure that any social media post ending “Hitler was right” is probably not, itself, “right.”

And, of course, if your quote involves allegations that Jewish people are seeking world domination and need to be stopped, you probably need to re-consider not just this particular social-media post, but also the people you are reading and listening to, and your own moral compass.

Just think, if DeSean would have stuck with his original, silent commitment, some of these articles might read, “Former USC Trojan DeSean Jackson, who approved of Hitler on social media….”  

And can I close by adding one (probably inappropriate) concern. How did DeSean Jackson make it through a few years at Berkeley and still quote the Bolsheviks’ greatest enemy, the traitor who stabbed them in the back? Did nobody teach him that you can only approve of moral monsters of the Marxist variety, like Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, and Che? I know there are more important things going on right now.  I just expected more of a Cal education.

I’m very disappointed that I got no feedback on my African swallows reference in last week’s Musings. Are you Philistines ignorant of the classics? Hang your heads in shame. I’m very disappointed in all of you.  (At least Kevin Bruce enjoyed Ned Beatty….)

I used to think that Ringo Starr was the luckiest man alive. Granted, it didn’t seem like it at first. The guy is short, unattractive, he’s born poor in a not-so-cool part of England while the Luftwaffe is bombing away. That doesn’t seem like a great start. But the dude also just so happens to grow up playing drums in the same city as the two greatest popular songwriters of all time, and he therefore lucks into millions, can buy a giant ring for every finger, marries a Bond girl, and becomes so beloved—just a drum-playing teddy bear—that he can literally sing a song about an affair with a beautiful 16 year old when he’s 33 and nobody even thinks he’s creepy.  The man lives a charmed life.

But I wonder now whether Clay Helton might have assumed the mantle of world’s luckiest man. Some staff changes and COVID travel restrictions allow Helton to start recruiting like a USC coach again. Things are looking good. But we all knew that a day of reckoning was on the way with an angry Nick Saban and an early season date in Arlington circled on the calendar. It may just be me, but I was pretty sure recruits were going to start filling up the lifeboats after that one.

But not now. As it is, Clay may hold onto that recruiting class. He’s going to avoid the Alabama guillotine, he’ll probably avoid the Irish, if he plays anybody he’ll play only conference teams in empty stadiums, which means the road trips to Eugene and Salt Lake City – two of the toughest places to play in the conference – don’t look nearly as daunting. Things are looking up in Clay Land.

In fairness, I should point out that it works out great for me, too.  After my broadside at Alabama football earlier this year, I wasn’t looking forward to dodging drunk, half-literate Bama fans with toilet paper rolls on their heads who were “aiming to learn a lesson to that guy who said all those bad things about us.” Now I get to avoid all that, and the sight of Kedon Slovis trying to avoid Alabama’s pass rush.    

Of course, I suspect nobody will play this fall. Which means Clay gives back only a small portion of his salary so he can do … what, exactly? Create game plans for games that will never be played? Visualize running players through drills in practices that won’t take place? He’s going to make millions of dollars this year, in a job that he held onto despite all reason, and he won’t have to do anything except recruit.  

This thing is a disaster for athletic directors. Mike Bohn actually has to figure out how to keep the department from sinking with all of the normal revenue streams cut off. But for coaches? Yes, I know they’d rather play games. And I know they’re worried about what’s going on just like everybody else. But the coaches do make out pretty well in this whole thing.  No games, no practices, and a big check? And the Dire Straits thought they got money for nothing. 

(Hey, Bama fans!  What great news this is. If the season is cancelled, you can find an obscure preseason poll that ranks Alabama number one and use that to declare your team national champions for the 2020 season. It will be every bit as legitimate as some of the others you claim. And that would make, what, 126 national titles now? Congrats. So proud of you guys.)

Getting back to Clay, in September 2016, after that horrible 1-3 start, what would the odds have been that Clay Helton would survive at USC until at least December of 2021? It’s truly amazing. Houdini made fewer escapes.  

I’ll say this, though: if the season is cancelled, and if Helton isn’t spending eight hours a day writing love letters to Korey Foreman, something is wrong. It’s time for that kid to become the new love of Clay’s life.

Carthago delenda est.

Chris Arledge

Chris Arledge is a graduate of USC’s Gould School of Law and is the co-founder and managing partner of an intellectual property law firm. Chris’s forgettable football career started at Elsinore High School, where his Tigers defeated Kyle Wachholtz’s Norco squad for the league title (Bring on Brad Otton’s team, too!), and ended at William Jewell College, where Chris was a team captain and an all-conference defensive back.

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