Clemson University’s football team won the college football championship and were invited to the White House to celebrate with U.S. President Donald Trump. Interestingly, their visit to the White house was—for me at least, as a sport sociologist—more interesting than the victory itself. Indeed, it was the reaction to Clemson’s visit which said so much about the current state of society in the United States of America.

If we as Americans cannot recognize the good in an American President being—for once—real, then what kind of a society (and, indeed, country) are we living in? Predictably, the (lame)stream media chose to criticize the visit (just search on Google, I cannot—with good conscience—do them justice by citing them here; the picture below can suffice). The Washington Post’s passive-aggressive approach was proof enough that the media in our country has become more interested in negativity than objective reporting. The question one then asks is why all the negativity?

 

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A Simple Google Search Reveals Articles Calling the visit “Bizarre” or criticizing Mr. Trump for being “Too Eager to Serve” fast food. Image Courtesy of Google Search.

 

After all, Donald Trump’s hosting of the Clemson team was—indeed—quite American. As he said, “If it’s American, I like it. It’s all American stuff. 300 hamburgers, many, many french [sic] fries — all of our favorite foods”. Indeed, here Mr. Trump is correct. Fast food is American.  It is what America is. As someone who has traveled to 36 of the 50 states (and lived for extended periods of time in four of them), I know that one of the things that binds America together is the ubiquity of fast food restaurants. From San Diego to Portland, Maine one can find the familiar golden arches of McDonald’s. Beyond the banal discussions of health or wealth, we must look at the sociological results of this “social fact” in the Durkheimian sense. In keeping with Durkheim, we should recognize that while this homogenization can be problematic (for many reasons, not least of which is corporate hegemony over our culture), it is also a very real form of social cohesion which connects Americans to one another whether they live in Denver CO, Austin TX, Gainesville FL, or Providence RI. Ironically, in the American context, fast food has come to be a tie which binds us as Americans; it is something which works against the divisions created by the rootlessness of postmodern society and its bizarre reliance on identity politics.

There are other reasons that Mr. Trump’s hosting of the Clemson Tigers was distinctly American. While critics of Mr. Trump viewed fast food as crude, this sentiment was not altogether novel since Alexis De Tocqueville long ago recognized that the United States was less concerned with strict social rules than Europe. Again, this was an “American” act, so to speak. Secondly, the reason fast food was on the menu was the fact that government employees (including the White House Chefs) have been furloughed during the government shutdown; this is why the U.S. President paid out of pocket (you read it right) for a meal for an American sports team. This shouldn’t be too surprising, given that—as I have taught my own students (in order to wean them off the rampant anti-Americanism present on college campuses)—the U.S. is actually one of the most generous countries in the world. According to the BBC citing a 2016 Report by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the United States is the world’s second most generous country. The statistics might have shocked my students, but they didn’t shock me. Having traveled so extensively in the US, I have seen the open hearts of many ordinary Americans who are more than willing to help rural communities devastated by tornados in the Midwest or hurricanes in the South.

 

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What is all the Fuss About? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/14/politics/donald-trump-clemson-food/index.html

 

Given the truly American nature of President Trump’s treatment of the Clemson University football team, it is refreshing to see sport become a way to bring Americans together following the increased politicization of sport in the country. Still, it is surprising that so many people on the internet have taken issue with the event. It is in actuality a glimmer of reality within the Baudrillardian hyper-reality that we are living in—where the symbols have become more important than what they represent—and for that we should, at least, be grateful as Americans.

 

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