That noise! What is it? Are there bees in my television? Are the stands filled with raging angry Africanized honey bees? Is my living room? Or, is it tinnitus? Am I listening to the death cries of the hearing cells in my ears?
These questions buzzed through my brain while watching US Men's soccer team in the Confederations Cup. As I watched the beautiful game I was forced to listen to a relentless buzzing noise. It was mildly distracting like a not-so-bad toothache. I would go stretches without noticing it. But there it would be ever few minutes.
It was the vuvuzelas of South Africa. The vuvuzela is a small plastic horn (although they were originally tin) blown by futbol fans in South Africa. The horn is usually a bit longer than arm's length and brightly colored. And it is annoying, in my opinion, when heard while watching a game on television. Very annoying. Unfortunately, the South Africans seem quite attached to the horn. Especially if some European (or, I would assume, American) tells them where to stick them.
There are conflicting opinions on the origin of the horn. Those who defend it may claim that it is the descendent of the horn used centuries ago to call clans to meetings or that it recalls the call of the elephant. Those who decry the tone may point out that it didn't become popular until less than 20 years ago and that it produces noise but not music, unlike the drums and songs that fill the air during matches in other nations.
During the Confed Cup, a Dutch coach and a Spanish midfielder spoke out against the horn and there was talk that it could be banned by FIFA for the upcoming World Cup. Native South Africans didn't take kindly to this. For them these horns are a symbol of their nation and the blowing of them is a matter of pride. They will fight tooth and nail to keep the vuvuzelas in the stands. So, get used to it.
(The cartoon above is borrowed from cartoonist Natalie Dee, who is a part of my daily routine)