For Some, Vuvuzela Is Horning In On World Cup

For the love of all things great and good, please, won't somebody make them stop! Not likely. The ubiquitous vuvuzela horns will be a fixture of the World Cup in South Africa for another three weeks. Cover your ears.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Well, whether you love or hate the World Cup, there is one thing you cannot escape.

(SOUNDBITE OF VUVUZELA)

BLOCK: The vuvuzela. These horns drone on and on and on during the games. To some, they sound like joy itself. To others, they sound like a swarm of angry locusts.

NPR's Mike Pesca is covering all the buzz.

MIKE PESCA: Who put the vu in the vuvuzela? Freddie Mach(ph) was neither sadist nor philanthropist. He got the idea for the large plastic horns from an old bicycle horn. He made one of aluminum in the '70s and by the late '80s was selling them outside the Johannesburg stadium where...

(SOUNDBITE OF VUVUZELA)

PESCA: All right, fine. The history is disputed, anyway. Let's go to Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in a quiet press conference.

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language).

PESCA: He's saying the vuvuzelas irritate all the players. The comments I've been hearing about the vuvuzelas have just been negative. You have to respect it, nobody likes it, but it's part of the game.

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language).

PESCA: Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world's great players. Argentina's Lionel Messi, considered by most the very best, also harshly criticized the vuvuzelas. The French team blamed their disappointing tie on the vuvuzelas, saying the noise hindered communication, though how it adversely affected them and not their Uruguayan opponents is as hard to fathom as the French coach's use of astrology to select star players.

After all this droning on about the droning on, Rich McCondo(ph), a spokesman for the local organizing committee, quieted any suggestion of quiet.

BLOCK: I wouldn't dwell too much on what outsiders think about vuvuzelas. I would dwell too much on what the feelings of the spectators are.

PESCA: But viewer reaction from around the world has been largely negative, and vuvuzelas aren't well-liked by all the U.S. players, either. Are you pro or anti-vuvuzela?

BLOCK: Anti.

PESCA: U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

BLOCK: It's just constant just white noise after a while, you know. And, you know, where in England, you know, you have the good banter between the fans and the chants and stuff like that, and you can't get any of that.

PESCA: Hahnemann's complaint wasn't about game play. It was about game enjoyment. U.S. defender Jonathan Bornstein says they do affect communication on the field, but he wouldn't want to come into another country and tell them how to root for soccer.

BLOCK: You know, we knew going in, you know, playing in Confederations Cup and, you know, just - we also played here in 2007, that, you know, the vuvuzelas were going to be a part of it. And, you know, I know there were efforts, you know, after the Confederations Cup to kind of get them eliminated from the stadiums, but you know, it's the way that South Africa kind of cheers for their team. So, more power to them.

PESCA: U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said something interesting. When he plays the game, he can ignore the vuvuzela, but when he was injured and on the bench during the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year is when he really noticed them. And he may be on to something. Here's how a game might sound on TV or radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF VUVUZELA)

PESCA: But in person, you might hear this.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

PESCA: Just as the human eye has an ability to focus that no camera can match, the ear can discern sounds better than a television speaker can. Indeed, the vuvuzela noise that so annoyed viewers of the U.S. versus England game wasn't nearly as dominant in the stadium as it was on TV. And it must be noted that however off-putting the sound of the vuvuzela, it can't compare to the collective shriek of 60 million after a goalkeeper lets an easy ball slip by.

(SOUNDBITE OF VUVUZELA)

PESCA: Mike Pesca, NPR News - all right, that's enough of that - Johannesburg, South Africa.

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