When you turn on the TV to watch a World Cup match, it sounds as if it’s being played deep inside a very noisy beehive. You may think your TV is malfunctioning, as some viewers thought at the conclusion of The Sopranos. You may wait for the noise to subside. (It won’t.) Maybe you’ll even change the channel. That’s what I’d be worried about if I were running ESPN, which is carrying the World Cup here. The noise is that distracting, and has brought complaints from fans, players, and viewers. If you care at all about this, you already know that the noise comes from vuvuzelas, the plastic horns that South African fans blow nonstop in the stadium. (Such horns are hardly an African invention, or nuisance: my friends and I used to blow them for our stellar team at Appalachian State University.) You may even know that there is some talk of banning the horns. (Can’t be too hard: they’re not allowed at rugby matches in South Africa.) But if I’m running ESPN, I don’t want to take that chance. I’d send a bunch of interns with sacks of cash inside the stadium to buy up every vuvuzela within earshot. It’s hard to imagine I couldn’t quiet things down for a five-figure sum.
Fan noise is a funny thing. I’ve always thought it was strange that basketball fans can do just about anything imaginable to distract an opposing player at the foul line, whereas you can’t make a squeak as a tennis player is about to serve. Is it really so much harder to hit a tennis serve than sink a free throw? I would love to see what the Cameron Crazies could achieve at Wimbledon.