On the John
Hooked by horns
Originally completed June 23, 2010
The vuvuzela is on everybody’s lips. Either you’re blowing it, or you’re discussing it. Certainly some non-blowers enjoy the vuvuzela’s enveloping soundscape. But the bulk of conversation centers on distaste for the instrument.
There are three basic arguments. The first is disruption to players and coaches as they attempt to hear each other’s signals and so forth. The second is the domination of fan sound: the drowning of national cheers and songs performed by non-South African fans. The third is a basic aversion to the constant buzzing.
Each of these arguments holds merit and reason. And I am not in South Africa, have not heard these horns in person, cannot speak from an in-person perspective, and am new to soccer/football.
But I love ‘em.
From my perspective on television, the hornet sound cocoon is EXACTLY how I imagine a high-stakes international soccer/football tournament. The never-ending pulsing buzz creates a death-match atmosphere that I find appealing and appropriate, as if world events are actually being shaped by sporting results, with the losing players hauled into what I imagine as tunnelous dungeons deep within Royal Bafokeng and Peter Mokaba stadiums where they will serve extended prison sentences for athletic incompetence…
My appreciation of soccer/football has quadrupled in the past two weeks. At bars or at friends’ homes, I have taken great delight in seeing these games, these players, these foot-fancy feats of endurance and quick-strike accuracy, especially on 48-inch HDs with crackling sound.
The work of these athletes suddenly interests me more than their “American football” counterparts, a pretty major sporting evolution for a Chicago Bears maniac such as myself.
And my television-enjoyment of this “world sport” is nearly an exact inverse of my live-repulsion for Arena Football, a sport I finally witnessed in person this past Saturday.
On television, the Arena League offers a fast-food athletic diversion both thrilling and curious. In person, there are few public events I’ve reacted to with greater nervous hostility than the Arena League.
Ye gods! Where to begin? I suppose, more than anything, the undying A.D.D. audio assault was the real problem. It started when Ric, Rota, and I stepped inside Allstate and were startled by the blasting of cannons before we even reached the arena, and it continued to such hideous extremes that we abandoned the whole nightmare at halftime.
Imagine everything you dislike about the entertainment presentation of modern NBA games – especially during the regular season – and multiply that by the number of points scored in an average AFL game. (Our game felt slow, and was 35-21 Milwaukee at the half. So thar ya go.)
All professional sports now contain high volumes of Stupid Crap. Thankfully, the games themselves are paced so that said crap lays in the intervals of excellent athletics.
We are given no such reprieve in the AFL. The music seems at the whim of an Adderall-fueled 11-year-old whose iPod happens to be attached to a state-of-the-art arena sound system. The kickoff in each Chicago Rush game is accompanied by the opening chords of “Battle Without Honor or Humanity,” better known as “that song from Kill Bill: Vol. 1.” We get the first five seconds of that before the kicker’s foot strikes the ball. The field is 50 yards with eight-yard endzones… the ball is set on one goalline and fielded at the other… so kick returns last maybe four seconds.
Then we get about ten seconds of another song, often from The Hangover soundtrack, laser-light club bangers Right Round, Live Your Life, and Yeah!, along with rumbling tunes from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, all of which are limited to chorus excerpts so that we are simultaneously breast fed the loudest AND most popular/best known portions of the song…
Then it’s first and ten. This play will probably be a ten-yard slant that gets behind the de-fense and scores a touchdown. If by chance the defense prevents the offense from scoring, we get another six seconds of chorus from The Playlist, followed by another ten-yard slant. That one usually scores.
Five more seconds of music. Then the point-after. And before another five seconds of the Kill Bill song, we are Entertained with some kind of on-field event featuring this exchange:
“Let’s go down on the field to Beth!”
“Thanks Sean! I’m down here on the field with the Panther Brothers of Naperville, and they’re about to see who can drive this bulldozer blindfolded to midfield and back… let’s cheer ‘em on…”
If you’ve ever attended a Bar Mitzvah on the North Shore, you know the inflection in the voice of Sean the PA Guy. In fact, Arena Football plays like the world’s most annoying Bar Mitzvah party interspersed with live-action NFL Blitz and fanatically sponsored by EVERYONE. When we finally escaped at the half, my body was tense and uneasy, and my instincts pointed toward chaos and random assault.
I’ll take the vuvuzela.
Copyright 2010, jm silverstein
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