June 16, 2010 8:44 AM ET
Annoying vuvuzela, adorable jungle cat. Annoying vuvuzela, adorable jungle cat. We are SO CONFLICTED.
We are totally dialed in and have been loving the 2010 FIFA World Cup. But if you’ve watched even 30 seconds of a World Cup game this past week, you are undoubtedly familiar with the sweet song of the vuvuzela, a three-foot long horn commonly blown by fans at soccer matches in South Africa.
You’re also undoubtedly familiar with the question “Is the vuvuzela the most annoying sports crowd noise of all time?” If you look at the number of tweets and facebook posts on the subject, the answer is most certainly, yes. And while we have great respect for the cultural significance of the vuvuzela (said to be descended from the kudu horn), the answer is also most certainly yes because, um, it’s a scientific fact.
So, we think the question deserves a closer examination. After all, would it really be fair to the Thundersticks and "Sweet Caroline" sing-alongs of the world if we declared the vuvuzela the Most Annoying Crowd Noise without a proper comparison? Of course not.
Thundersticks – those long balloons that sports fans crash together to create a thunder-like sound - would seem to have a leg up over the vuvuzela on the annoyance scale, seeing as they not only create a bothersome noise but also create a visual obstructionwhen waved overhead. And Thundersticks (for which, by the way, we can thank the Anaheim Angels and their 2002 World Series run) have even been banned at many sports venues, including the 2010 Winter Games. But we ask you, do Thundersticks have their own twitter feedthat simply sends out an irritating “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” message every few hours? No. Annoying advantage: vuvuzela.
Speaking of noisemakers that have been banned from sports stadiums, we have the cowbell. Long before Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell made the cowbell famous, it was popular with Mississippi State football fans. More recently, the Rays of the MLB have adopted the cacophonous craze. In 1974, though, the Southeastern Conference voted to ban “artificial noisemakers,” including the cowbell. So we’re all agreed: the cowbell is annoying and, in some cases, illegal. But has the cowbell spawned its own smartphone app, which allows you to recreate a take-home version of the stadium turbulence? Not that we know of. Annoying advantage: vuvuzela.
Songs and Chants
Songs (like the eighth-inning tradition of singing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park) and chants (like the Florida State/Atlanta Braves chop) run the gamut from endearing to tolerable to, yes, outright annoying. But are songs so troublesome that they cause networks to considering offering song-free broadcasts (because the BBC is considering a vuvuzela-free broadcast)? Are chants so offensive that companies are selling DIY chant-canceling devices (because the vuvuzela has rendered that necessary, too)? Are rallying cries so vociferous that noise maker manufacturers are forced to create a quieter version of them (yup, here it is, the vuvuzela light). No, no, and no. Annoying advantage, most definitely the vuvuzela.