For the upwardly spiraling print platform of Washington City Paper, I wrote this week about Dan Snyder‘s height. I was inspired by a profile of the Redskins owner in the current issue of Forbes. Pick up a copy, read the column, savor the season.
It’s probably the first story I’ve ever read in that magazine, and definitely the wrongest. It occasionally seems that the Forbes writer, Monte Burke, just made stuff up to make Snyder look better than he should. Burke bizarrely even typed that before Snyder came around all traffic to FedExField was “funneled through a single two-lane road,” but then Snyder swooped in and “fixed the parking and egress” problems that plagued game days at the stadium. None of that is true, of course.
Burke’s buildup of Snyder includes bringing him to new heights, you know, height-wise. While mulling Snyder’s feuds with the media, Burke threw in a Napoleon reference from the Washington Post‘s Mike Wise before telling readers that Snyder is actually “5 foot 9.”
Burke says he didn’t supersize Snyder to get him to 5’9″. He got Snyder’s height from Snyder, he says, and adds that after meeting the Redskins owner there seemed to be nothing implausible about the figure.
Five-foot-nine would, according to U.S. government health statistics, make Snyder of average height for an adult American male. I’ve never had one-on-one time with Snyder or hung out with him as Burke did for his story, so Burke knows better than me how tall Snyder really is. But my image of Snyder has always been as a short guy. When I read Burke’s passage about how Snyder really walks tall, or at least walks average, I immediately thought back to photos of the owner with Tom Cruise during their days as partners.
Cruise’s lack of height has long been fodder for detractors, yet in, for example, the Washington Post’s shot with Snyder seen above (a 2008 photo that ran in the paper’s Reliable Source column), Cruise seems the taller of the two by a good bit.
So what’s going on here? Is Forbes insinuating that Cruise just wears more creative footwear than Snyder? If Burke is to be believed, does that mean somebody in the liberal media doctored the Snyder/Cruise shots for effect, like a newsweekly once browned-up O.J.?
Or, has Snyder’s apparent shortness, which lead to all those “Napoleon” slurs through the years, been just some optical illusion? You know, like those “Magnetic Mountains” in the Middle of Nowhere (or New Brunswick, Canada) that my family would run into on summer vacations, where you pay a dollar to have your car roll uphill but it’s not really rolling uphill?
Or maybe Burke just threw out a wrong number. If Snyder’s actually 5’9″, that would be fascinating, if only because he’s had so many stature-related insults thrown at him over the years from journalists and bloggers and fans—”Napoleon” shows up so often it could be mistaken for his middle name—that the image of him as a short guy has stuck.
The funniest thing I learned while writing the column was that there’s a movement among European historians to adjust the real Napoleon’s height at the same time Snyder’s height is getting tweaked to the north over here. If the scholars succeed, Napoleon, who’s been on the business end of shorty slurs for centuries, will get several bonus inches and will be considered to have been of average height.
So, whether Burke got Snyder’s numbers right or not, it turns out a guy 5’9″ could still have a Napoleon Complex. Just Snyder’s luck!