Vuvuzela Ethics

Applied to an international soccer match, the argument that players, fans and broadcasters should be broad-minded and tolerant of the peculiar conduct of various national groups is a good one—up to a point. The point is reached when a custom begins ruining the game for everyone else. The vuvuzelas–those small plastic horns that produce an ear-splitting atonal drone like a horde of cicadas— go well beyond that point at the World Cup, and in any other sports setting are the equivalent of racist taunts, 400 pound naked men, on-field trespassers and giant fart machines.

Some idiot with the Florida Marlins exported the infernal instruments so the few Marlins fans who actually attend games can make certain that the rest stay away forever. I was interested in watching the Rays-Marlins game last night, and when I tuned-in, I initially thought that my satellite was on the fritz (again). There was this loud, persistent buzz…and then I remembered reading that the Marlins had allowed vuvuzelas into the ballpark, an act on par with letting snakeheads loose in the Potomac. The buzz is, amazingly, worse at a baseball game than in a World Cup game, perhaps because of the size and construction of baseball stadiums. The TV cameras showed the fans blowing their horns, and many horn-less fans (also known as “reasonable, considerate people”) grimacing, frowning, holding with their hands over their ears or over their children’s ears. In the field, some of the players and umpires were wearing ear plugs. The game itself was a mess, with the umpires getting confused over the line-ups and the pitchers unable to throw strikes. The vuvuzelas, you see, destroy your brain. I could only watch in five minute increments before I needed to hit the Tylenol.

This is ridiculous. It is also unethical.

Cheering, booing, chanting,and using noisemakers that would not be deemed the moral equal of waterboarding by an objective Amnesty International observer are well-established as fair conduct within the culture of amateur and professional sports. Conduct—and making unbearable noises is conduct—that makes a game ( as in “competition for fun”) less enjoyable for the vast majority of those who have a right to enjoy it, however, is selfish, inconsiderate, unfair, disrespectful—need I go on? Defenders of the vile vuvuzelas argue alternatively that 1) many people hate “the wave” and cowbells too, and 2) we’ll get used to it. But 1) neither the wave nor cowbells are continuous—the vuvuzela buzz never stops, it just gets louder and softer—and 2) we can get used to swimming in oil, too. That doesn’t mean that it’s OK to make us do it.

If the World Cup wants to wreck its TV ratings by being culturally sensitive, fine. But there is no tradition of imitating locust swarms in baseball, and when players have to use earplugs, that’s evidence enough that a particular form of noise-making is a mass tort on the sports world. Stadiums ban smoking, and smoking doesn’t harm fans watching the game on television. They ban drunks, whose irritation range is usually only six feet or so, at least until they start projectile vomiting. It would be nice if American fans would make the ethical, considerate decision not to use vuvuzelas because they will make an idyllic family trip to the ballpark feel like a collective root-canal, but since it only takes about a hundred boors with horns to create Vuvuzela Hell and virtually any sporting crowd will have at least that many, a ban is sensible, fair, and inevitable.

7 thoughts on “Vuvuzela Ethics

  1. This is on par with people bringing whistles into basketball games. A whistle could be confused by the players as coming from the officials, and produce a distraction that makes the game hard to enjoy.

    Exactly the same for the vuvuzelas. Do we allow air horns into stadiums? No. For exactly the same reason — they make the game impossible to enjoy, except for the creep using them, perhaps.

  2. Pingback: Vuvuzela Ethics « Ethics Alarms « Ethics Find

  3. Then there’s the additional factor of Americans just not liking soccer or anything that comes with it. I didn’t even know what a “vuvuzela” was until I started getting all that (unwanted) World Cup coverage thrown in my face on TV. The idea of imposing on baseball one of the stupider aspects of a already stupid game that seeks to be competative WITH baseball is a little mindblowing. Ethics aside, let’s keep baseball civil AND American. Soccer and vuvuzelas belong where they’ve always belonged in America… at kids’ birthday parties.

  4. I think Youtube now has a button to add vuvuzela sounds to any video… click the little soccer ball in the lower-right corner of any Youtube video…

    This one is mine, and I know I didn’t put it there.

  5. Pingback: Newsterm: Vuvuzela – “Vuvuzelling” the world over! « Metaglossia

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