Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gabriel, Blow Your Vuvuzela

I was puzzled for the first several minutes of the first World Cup game I watched this year, USA v. England, as it sounded as though every wasp in Africa had converged on the stadium. I have now come to understand that strange buzzing noise was in fact thousands of vuvuzelas, elongated plastic horns that South Africans seem to love to blow (and blow and blow, and then blow some more) while watching what the rest of the world calls football, and we soccer.

I read now that this type of plastic horn has been popular in Mexican stadiums since the 1970s. Well, I had one in the autumn of 1966, when I began to live away from home for the first time, at a dormitory at the university where I was a sophomore. Excruciatingly shy at the time, I would take pains to be the first person in the dinner line every afternoon at five so I could dash into the dining room, gobble my dinner, and then get the hell out so that no one would see I had no friends with whom to sit; I needed to be first in line so I could keep my back turned on everyone else, and thus avoid having to converse. This went on for about three and a half weeks, from the time I moved in to the Saturday night a leggy freshman girl resident approached me while I was playing at a dance and asked if I would teach her to play the drums.

Once having bolted my dinner, I would hurry back up to the room I shared with a Mr. John Blodgett, a nice guy with whose friends I didn’t want to be seen dining because they were inexpressibly uncool, and blow my horn. Oh, did I blow it. The sound would travel across the valley between my dormitory and the one a bit up the hill from it and then bounce back at mine. I wouldn’t be surprised if I startled the sad old drunks in the awful bars that used to line San Vicente Blvd. across from the Veterans’ Administration.

It was classic passive aggression, exactly the sort of thing you might expect from a desperately shy kid inside whom a frightful showoff yearned to burst free. I think I stopped it after the leggy freshman officially became my gal.

Apparently the players in the World Cup detest the merciless buzzing of the vuvuzelas, but I can think of one huge advantage to it. I remember reports of drunken England fans yelling at David Beckham, as he left the pitch after a subpar performance in international competition, that they hoped his children got cancer. Can you imagine what they must have been bellowing at goalkeeper Robert Green, whose shocking lapse on Saturday allowed the USA to tie the score? Far better, I think, 90 minutes of vuvuzela buzz. Far better 180 minutes of it.

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