I love the idea of getting into players’ heads.
An old friend of mine made a hobby of attending minor league baseball games to heckle the pitchers with rousing “WHUPPP-BAMMMM!”-s at inopportune moments, causing the poor guys to toss balls in many wildly different directions that were not the catcher’s mound.
Others see tranquility as an important asset in sports, allowing the athletes to gather their heads and concentrate on their skills. The slightest outbursts from the crowd are frowned upon and those with drunken agendas are often outright tossed from the stadium.
I’m not one of those people. I have fond memories of chanting “Fuck’em up, Fuck’em up, go CU!!” with my peers in a full football stadium, hoping to get into our opponents’ heads. I also have awe-inspiring memories of walking into enemy territory and having the home team’s chants and revelry add an element of fear and danger into my life, along with the explosives/fire/possible death (Go to a Turkish soccer match).
When South Africa kicked off their game against Mexico to open the World Cup, I loved the idea of these Vuvuleza horns. They constantly reminded the Mexican team that the crowd was there, breathing down their necks. All fan-bases have their traditions, created to unnerve their opponents. Mexicans in Azteca often throw bags of urine at opposing team’s players and fans to scare them. We all have our ways and those ways are awesome.
We’re all pent-up, testosterone-fueled animals that have somehow chosen destinies with vast expanses of computer screens and inaction, wishing we were something better. When we go to a stadium, we go to get our kicks out, Roman-style. We go to see our “avatars” kick the shit out of someone else’s and we add a bit of ourselves into the mix to feel like we mattered.
The Vuvulezas are awesome for South Africa in that respect. I’m not sure there’s anything else so droning and omnipresent that it could completely destroy an opponent’s brain stem.
But they’ve transcended their own function.
I tuned into the USA/England match and expected to hear an assault of people bellowing “God Save the Queen” and “The Star Spangled Banner” at each other, cursing 200 years of friendly animosity, talking shit about burning the White House and making fun of tea, with the occasional rousing rendition of whatever Oasis song was clever for the moment.
Has anyone realized that the horns make ABSOLUTELY no sense outside of the fan-bases that regularly use them?
It’s like going to game six of the Lakers/Celtics finals and finding that 75% of the fans there are sporting Knicks jerseys or going to Michigan vs Ohio State in the Big House and suddenly realizing that everyone is doing Penn State Cheers and wearing white. When I go to Koshien to see the Carp and the Tigers play, I don’t expect the Giants’s band to start playing OR be accepted as normal, and when I went to see the Korean National team play Ecuador I neglected to wear a Japanese National team shirt.
The horns are a completely neutral, third element completely fucking up the friction between the two teams and their fans. The droning buzz does nothing to provide a perceived home advantage for either of the teams playing in their stadiums, aside from South Africa and any other horn-using African teams. They get in the way of everything, equally.
They’re probably impossible to stop. A good portion of the fans filling the stadium are South Africans who scored tickets to whatever match they could get to, and they’re gonna bring their horns and go about their usual business. There’s also a good portion of tourists moved by the magic of South Africa or by savvy plastic horn vendors on their way into the stadium. They wanna give it a shot and do “as the Romans do.”
But I gotta think that the uninspiring play to date could potentially be a result of the great neutrality that the horns afford. They drone equally at all, dig into the minds of everyone. The number of fans in the stands, the national cheers belted out, they mean nothing. They won’t add an ounce of courage to a team, nor an ounce of fear to their opponents.
The oppressive droning levels the playing field, and in turn, extinguishes the cultural flourishes of everyone elses’ World Cup eccentricities.
Of course, if we look beyond the game, to the massive battle of international cultures taking place, perhaps South Africa has one the biggest battle of all, completely silencing all comers with their droning buzz.