The Sports Super-Fan/Trump Man Connection
Because I am a casually masochistic sort, I sometimes/frequently find myself clicking on the Facebook or Twitter profile of some random-ass, non-famous stranger who has something terrible and racist and semi-coherent to share with the world via social media.
I suppose I am motivated by morbid curiosity. Who are these people? Where did they come from? Where do they live? What do they do when they are not spreading poorly written hate on the internet?
I can go down quite the rabbit hole on this. If I’m not careful I can devote way too much time to exploring the social media histories of right-wing hate-mongers and all I really get out of the experience is an intense, almost all-consuming sense of rage that serves no real purpose. It just angries up the blood; it’s never constructive or productive.
In my rambles through right-wing Facebook and Twitter I have discovered that certain commonalities exist between Trump super-fans. On the internet, at least, you can generally judge a book by its cover, or rather a person by their social media avatar.
The biggest predictor/indicator of right-wing beliefs, racism and Trump worship is, of course, patriotic iconography. If your Twitter avatar is of a screaming American eagle on fire carrying a machine-gun toting Statue of Liberty giving the middle finger with her free hand underneath the words “Don’t Tread on Me” written in blood I’m guessing you’re not out there canvassing for Bernie Sanders.
No, if your profile is a grotesque caricature of red, white and blue kitsch I am just going to assume that you think Trump is great, and that we should lock up crooked Hillary and build a wall and also that the most reliable source of information about Donald Trump is his Twitter feed. I’m not always right, but 95 percent of the time I am.
I’ve noticed a weird contradiction where post-Trump flag worship is concerned; the shittier and more reactionary someone’s conception of patriotism is, the more intent they are on shoving it down everyone’s throat.
In America, a curious form of right-wing patriotism entails proudly flying the flag of a slave-holding terrorist organization known as the Confederacy and needing lots of powerful guns in case you need to overthrow the government.
These folks revere old, dead traitors and fantasize about taking arms against their own country should it evolve in ways that displease them and they all think they’re greater Americans and patriots than Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe.
The other big indicator that someone digs Trump are profiles overflowing with sports iconography. It doesn’t matter what kind of sports iconography, whether it’s professional sports, or college, or a recreational league. I have discovered that huge sports fans overwhelmingly tend to be Conservative and Trump supporters.
This obviously is not true of everyone. There are plenty of sports fans who love Elizabeth Warren and think Obama is the bee’s knees. But it has been my experience that there appears to be an unmistakable correlation between sports being a huge component of your identity and right-wing beliefs.
Part of this has to do with gender; most sports fans are white dudes. That’s also, not coincidentally, the demographic that catapulted Trump into the White House in angry defiance of common sense and God’s will.
Trump is a big sports guy; the only interesting part of The Art of the Deal involves his characteristically self-serving account of his time as an owner in the USFL, which he depicts as being too good to succeed.
At an Alabama rally in 2017 Trump crassly articulated the feelings of many racist professional football fans when he asked a cheering crowd, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!”
Trump didn’t just want the Colin Ks of the world locked out of employment; he wanted them publicly humiliated for everyone’s enjoyment, to be physically kicked out of the stadium for being insufficiently grateful for the endless blessings of the Donald Trump era.
Trump sees the world through the prism of sports as much as business. Everything is about winning, about humiliating the opponent, about victory above all else. He inhabits a world where someone has to win and someone has to lose in every transaction and interaction, where sportsmanship doesn’t matter as much as continually being on offense as well as defense.
No wonder Trump got elected in a country where sports fandom looms as a major quasi-religion. As far as many super-fans were concerned it was Businessman McSports against a girl.
I don’t want to insult the character of sports fans. I was a huge sports buff as a kid and teenager. That spell did not lift until I went away to college. I know there are lots of great, progressive sports fans out there who genuinely love their country, and not just empty symbols of its ostensible greatness but they definitely seem to be in the minority.
It reminds me of the muckraking 1975 documentary Hearts & Minds, which drew a direct line between small town high school football boosterism and support for the Vietnam War. Forty-four years later the jocks are still overwhelmingly in favor of the most robust possible military-industrial complex but now they’re using shitty patriotic memes on social media to convey that intertwined passion for sports and conservative politics.
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