Commentary

Vuvuzelas evoke sports annoyances

Originally Published: June 15, 2010
By DJ Gallo and Patrick Hruby | Page 2

Vuvuzelas illustrationESPN.com Illustration

"I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country ... Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"

-- FIFA President Sepp Blatter, responding to calls to ban noisemaking vuvuzela horns at the World Cup.

Agreed. The tolerant, sunny, live-and-let-live souls here at Page 2 would never want to see an outright ban on annoying fan traditions.

Well, not when the construction and deployment of a fully operational Death Star would be far more effective.

OK, OK: we exaggerate. Just a bit. But only to make a larger point. Some sports rituals need to be put down, immediately, for the world's greater good. Like vuvuzelas. Look, we love the World Cup, and Africa is a lovely continent -- humanity's ancestral home. But two minutes into any given match, we're checking the reflections on our plasma screens, looking for the Candyman. Buzzzzzzzz! (On the plus side, we now know why the honeybees are disappearing: they can't freaking hear themselves think).

Anyway, South Africa's decidedly uncharming blow horns aren't the only serial stadium offenders. There's irritating hype men. Migraine-inducing ThunderStix. An entire list of traditions that need serious kiboshing, starting with ...

Network call letter signs

NC State fans
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesWe appreciate the love, NC State fans. But it's time to move on.

E-very S-partan P-ummels N-otre dame. N-obody B-eats C-owboys. Believe it: Contrary to every ingrained instinct of broadcast television, we're taking a stand against our own incessant self-promotion. Why? Because it's tired, worn-out, kaput. There's simply nothing new to say, no novel letter/word combinations to form. (Unless the Oxygen network outbids everyone for the rights to the new Pac-16 Pac-11).

Stadium hype men

EVERYBODY MAKE SOME NOOOOOOISE! Um, sure. Just as soon as your decibel level drops below that of a detonating bunker-buster, and/or the blood coming from our ears scabs up. We're not sure who started the noxious trend of team-employed dudes with microphones imploring fans to get loud -- probably that "DEEEETROIT BASKETBALL!" guy from the Palace of Auburn Hills -- but we're dead certain of three things:

  • Fans don't need reminders of when to stand up, scream, throw their hands in the air in a mock careless manner or of when the fourth quarter starts;
  • If fans occasionally do need reminders of the above, they're better off coming from an actual athlete on the field of play, or even Brian Scalabrine;
  • No Michael Buffer, no Flava Flav, no guy in a gold lame suit holding a pimp cane and a diamond-encrusted chalice? No dice.

Think of it this way: When President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, he did so without the benefit of some carnival barker in a personalized Team USA jersey demanding that listeners RISE UP AND UNITE! Yet somehow, people understood it was a moderately significant speech.

The USC band playing after every freaking play

If Dante were writing "The Inferno" today, the sixth circle would be reserved for whoever thought this was a good idea.

Mass-distributed heckling cheat sheets

Understand: We're not opposed to pre-planned heckling. Some of the best, most creative fan-to-athlete taunting comes out of research and forethought. (Case in point: Washington, D.C., lawyer/uberheckler Robin Ficker reading aloud from "The Jordan Rules" while sitting behind the Chicago Bulls' bench). No, what we're talking about are the mass-produced-and-distributed heckle cheat sheets that pop up in college sports, most notably at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. Dear Crazies: you have a sterling, well-deserved reputation for crass, insufferable taunts. Why spoil it with canned, lame, unoriginal, inorganic claptrap that makes you vulnerable to getting punked in your own building, like the time an enterprising Maryland fan convinced Blue Devil backers to chant "Piggie" -- a self-insulting reference to infamous former AAU basketball coach Myron Piggie, who admitted giving money to former Duke player Corey Maggette. Leave the choreographed stuff to Chinese Olympic fans.

Signs reading "D" with a picket fence

What, is "John 3:16" too clichéd for you?

Apocalyptic NBA scoreboard videos

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, nor with the trumpets heralding the dissolution of the Seventh Seal, but rather with Kevin Garnett releasing a primal scream against a backdrop of flaming basketballs, set to the strains of "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana." Our suggestion? If the arena JumboTron isn't going to transform into Megatron and start brawling with Optimus Prime, don't bother. Dimmed lights, an excitable P.A. announcer and the occasional Bachman-Turner Overdrive riff are all you need.

Indoor fireworks

Chocolate and peanut butter go smashingly together. Professional basketball and smoke do not. Besides, if we wanted a thick, carcinogenic haze with our hoops, we'd find a "Hot Tub Time Machine" and travel back to the 1950s.

ThunderStix

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
AP Photo/Amy SancettaKobe and Vanessa Bryant got caught up in the ThunderStix craze during the 2002 World Series.

ThunderStix generate less noise than clapping. They block the view of everyone sitting behind you. If someone hatched a plot to quiet and humiliate an opposing fan base, they would distribute ThunderStix.

Angels fans infamously popularized them during the 2002 World Series. So vile were the evil inflatables that millions across the country were driven to root for Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds!

What can be done to stop ThunderStix? Well, they're made of plastic. Plastic is made of petroleum. Let's just say that BP makes ThunderStix. There. Over. Moving along ...

Being too cool to do the wave

The wave is dated and pointless. It doesn't motivate the home team. It doesn't intimidate the visiting team. But there is one thing even worse than the wave: people who refuse to participate in it. Look, if your fellow fans care enough to get the thing started, does it really put you out that much to throw up an arm or two every 30 seconds when it rolls through your section?

If so, that says a lot about you. You are the guy who always gives away movie endings. You are the hipster who scoffs at everyone's favorite bands. You like to announce when jokes are not "factually accurate." You are not fun at parties. In short: You are less popular than the wave.

Tomahawk chop

Just have a listen. There's not much more to add. The Tomahawk Chop is the vuvuzela in human voice form, but whinier, with a dash of racial insensitivity and Bobby Bowden, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner thrown in. Braves fans always wonder why they got only one World Series title in their run of success in the '90s and '00s. Was it their pitching failing in the postseason? Their big bats coming up short? No. It was karma.

NBA in-game music

Baseball doesn't do it. Hockey doesn't do it. Football doesn't do it. The NBA is the only sport that plays music DURING play. What does that say about the quality of the product? Look at it this way: The food at Medieval Times isn't going to win any culinary awards, but customers are distracted by people playing dress-up, pretending they're knights. Same as how everything about a Grizzlies-Sixers game is awful, but you're distracted by Top 40 music and people playing dress-up, pretending they're basketball players. Maybe that's fun for some people. But for everyone else, it's akin to the music coming on during a speech at the Oscars: you're boring and going long, NBA. They're playing you off. Wrap it up.

Vuvuzelas

Human pain begins at 125 decibels. Vuvuzelas emit 127. Hmm. That seems like a bit of a problem, no? And that's not all. Based on a scientific scale we just made up, vuvuzelas emit 958 annoyances on a 0 to 100 scale of annoying. That's way beyond the safe range.

But as Mr. Blatter said, blowing vuvuzelas is one of the "traditions" of South Africa. And that's a valid point. So we're good with vuvuzelas continuing at the 2010 World Cup ... so long as next time the United States hosts the World Cup, we're allowed to enjoy some of our fan traditions. Like fighting and vomiting. And Tasering. Specifically, Tasering people with vuvuzelas.

DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.

Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.


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