So in listening to a podcast recently, I heard that Ben’s Chili Bowl, the iconic establishment and purveyor of half-smokes for almost a half century, had painted over their existing exterior wall mural, which included former President Barack Obama, go-go musician Chuck Brown, comedian Bill Cosby and longtime DC DJ Donnie Simpson. The restaurant is soliciting votes from the public for who should grace the wall, including various combinations of the candidates, on their website.
It’s a more than respectable list, though there are some gaps, and it’s missing at least one face in D.C. lore for consideration: D.C. United coach Ben Olsen. Consider for a second that Olsen eventually moved into and stayed in the city limits for half of his life after living in central Pennsylvania. He knows his fair share of D.C. restaurants, probably a little better than nominee Rachael Ray, who mentioned Ben’s Chili Bowl in all of two sentences in a magazine article once.
At least when it comes to Ray I can understand some sort of tangible connection to Ben’s. Why Jimmy Fallon, whose best connection to Washington D.C. appears to be chiding its citizens for a weather closure two years ago, is on this list bewilders me. Is it that Fallon’s a comedian? Well, Ben Olsen gets a little hammy in front of a camera. Ask the Washington Kastles, a team that also plays its games in the city. Olsen’s muggery aside, his support of the other sports teams in the city is long lasting and well known.
And what’s Joe Mantegna doing there? Is it because of his USO participation? Well, it’s not like Olsen hasn’t had his own political causes in Washington D.C. Heck, his political causes are FOR Washington, D.C., supporting voting rights for the city, appearing in advertisements supporting it and even including it in the team’s jerseys. He’s a citizen of the city and supports it how he can. I’m not sure how say, Gabriel Iglesias, figures into that.
If nothing else, Ben makes a case for being on the mural because he would be the first former employee to make it, right?
Don't get me wrong; Ben Olsen probably wouldn’t, or even ultimately shouldn’t be on the Ben’s Chili Bowl mural because other nominees on the list have a palpable connection to the city and/or the community. If I was voting, I’d put Brown back on the wall, and Marion Barry, Muhammad Ali, Prince and Russ Parr could be there at a very quick glance.
But as both a public face in the city and a citizen of it, Ben Olsen has noteworthy claim to be considered for such an honor, more than a number of those nominees.