Should This Horn Be Banned?
The Vuvuzela Is Coming Under Harsh Attack, but We Kind of Like Its Buzzing Sound
We're writing this column under proper World Cup conditions—with vuvuzelas blasting in both of our ears.
Is everyone already exasperated with the Infamous Plastic Horn of Distraction? WE SAID, IS EVERYONE ALREADY EXASPERATED WITH THE INFAMOUS PLASTIC HORN OF DISTRACTION? There are reports that World Cup organizers are already considering a ban on the vuvuzela, the ubiquitous narrow instrument that's making every contest in South Africa sound like a ferocious swarm of radioactive bees—or a Hollywood publicists' luncheon. Vuvuzela-mania is threatening to drown out national anthems, quick-witted soccer chants and tender conversations about 19th century literature between U.S. and English fans. It's apparently irritating TV viewers more than the chatter on "ESPN Sunday Night Baseball," or that Kia commercial with the anthropomorphic hamsters who enjoy hip-hop. Vuvuzelas are even suffocating—zut alors!—the competitive passion of the French World Cup team. "We can't sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas," France's captain, Patrice Evra, said after Les Bleus played to an uninspired scoreless tie versus Uruguay.Oh really, Mr. Evra? That sound you hear right now is the entire nation of Ireland stepping out to buy a container ship's worth of vuvuzelas—payback for Thierry Henry's handball last November that kept Ireland out of the World Cup.
But we're not ready to give up on the vuvuzela. We might feel differently in three weeks, but right now, we like the noise. They're clearly popular in South Africa. We say if you go to someone's house, you have to play by their rules and traditions. Go to a New York Jets game, you have to sit next to a guy in a Joe Klecko jersey who smells like nacho-flavored Slim Jims. Go see a World Cup game in Johannesburg, you get vuvuzelas. It's part of the deal.Besides, who are we in the U.S. to complain about vuvuzelas? We gave the world Twitter and Ke$ha.We'd probably like vuvuzelas more if we had vuvu-experience. Let's give some vuvuzelas to the Cameron Crazies at Duke. Tell those little kids at Phillies games to put down the beers and grab a horn. Ask the White House to fill Helen Thomas's front-row chair with a healthy-lunged vuvuzela-ist. Hand one to Lady Gaga the next time she crashes a Mets game. OK, maybe that's not such a great idea.
Honestly, vuvuzelas are more charming than some of the unpleasant chants we heard in Boston at the NBA Finals. Vuvuzelas don't insult Kardashians. And they sound like Stradivariuses compared with those dopey, inflatable Thunderstix. And really, if the vuvuzelas are driving you crazy, you're not watching your World Cup in the right forum. Where are you, inside the Library of Congress? We've said it a thousand times, but World Cup soccer is meant to be watched in a crowd. (It also, apparently, can be watched live, unlike Winter Olympic alpine skiing on NBC). If you find a loud, happy, well-lubricated group to watch with, you shouldn't be able to hear those vuvuzelas at all. That's what we got on Saturday after we pushed our way into the sweaty throngs at Floyd, a sprawling neighborhood bar in Brooklyn where we saw the U.S. tie England 1-1 in The Reasonably Entertaining Draw Heard Around the World. In a grave organizational error, we had spent the first half of the U.S.-England match watching at an establishment that was a bit too PBS/Wimbledon for our taste.
But at Floyd, we were thrilled to find ourselves standing among a perspiring cluster of England fans who sounded as if they'd worked their way through at least three-quarters of the "Beers of the World" poster. These guys were frustrated with their team, but funny. Brooklyn is home to a lot of bookish dudes in droll T-shirts and well-considered glasses who think they invented liking soccer, but they are no match for a crew of seasoned England fans with a songbook of (mostly, but not always) crude and clever chants. Our favorites included "You Don't Know What You're Watching"—a shot at newbie U.S. soccer fans—and its sister chant, "Can You Name Your 23?" a dare to tick off the players on the U.S. roster. They also offered a bright melody called "Oh, Turn On the Baseball Game," and when the U.S. fans began a chant telling the England fans to do something untoward with the English soccer hero Wayne Rooney, the England fans urged them to perform the same with Derek Jeter. (Please trust us that this was much funnier, and filthier, in person.)
As soccer crowds go, the one at Floyd was good-natured and cerebral. The only thing that could have possibly broken out in there was a Paul Auster reading. And of course the last laugh belonged to the U.S. fans, who saw their team capitalize on a blunder by England goalie Robert Green, who now joins Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman at the Home for Unfairly Demonized Sports Villains. Mr. Green probably wouldn't mind if someone blew a vuvuzela in his ear. Even the Infamous Plastic Horn of Distraction is less shrill than the panic coming from his homeland.