Plastic fans ruining World Cup

Laugh at Robert Green all you want - at least he didn't pick Cameroon to win the tournament.

Part of my thinking was home field advantage, but no one has a home field advantage. It's the same noise no matter who's playing. When Ghana scored, the plastic horns got louder. That was it.

(This is going to be a rant about plastic horns - well, not a rant. I did that a few years ago, when I told everyone plastic horns killed Jesus. I sit here before you a man vindicated. Or I would, if it weren't for that Cameroon pick. If you don't want to read another plastic horn jeremiad, well, stop by tomorrow and we'll laugh at Italy together.)

The stands look fantastic, sure. But they sound like garbage. Every game, from the opening game to the Final, is going to sound absolutely identical. How can anyone say that these plastic horns are giving voice to fans excitement, when you can't even tell who's winning? There's no difference between cheering and booing in this tournament. It's all exactly the same. Every stadium, every team, every fan base, every game.

Charles Dempsey, you are forgiven. You tried to spare us this, and you were called an underhanded, oily little bureaucrat out for his own pocketbook, instead of a faithful guardian of the game. We had an extra four years' grace before having the World Cup ruined, but it was better than nothing.

To be fair, I'm not exactly enchanted with this notion that every grassroots fan effort should be nurtured like some golden daisy in the meadow. Hooliganism, after all, was unquestionably authentic, yet authorities were motivated to quell this custom without being lectured on cultural imperialism. So even if Nelson Mandela blew a plastic horn when he was released from Robben Island, I'd still support banning them.

However, seemingly no one can find a trace of the ********ing things in South Africa back before the calendar started with a "2".

Maybe you'll listen to the people - people? Sages. Philosophers. Jedi. - at

Don't believe me? Well, maybe you'll take FIFA's word for it. I'll give you the relevant quote, so you don't have to read the entire sickening pro-plastic horn screed:

Call me a snob, but something "cultural" should pre-date the XBox.

And if Barack Obama, John McCain and Bud Selig were to celebrate the Nationals winning the pennant with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue banging thundersticks, that wouldn't make those authentic part of baseball culture, either. If Sepp Blatter says something embodies your culture, you should stop doing instantly, just on general principle.

Still don't believe me? Fine.

I have at my desk my hardbound copy of "Feet of the Chameleon," Ian Hawkey's wonderful history of African football. South Africa is mentioned throughout the book, especially Chapter Eight, "Burial of the Springbok."

Guess how many times Hawkey mentions the vuvuzela.

Plastic horns aren't part of this grand African sporting culture. It's a fake. South Africa had this great chance to show its authentic love for the game, and instead they bought a cheap, plastic copy. What was the point of years of propaganda about football being the soul of African freedom, if when the big moment comes you rip off Mexico? Plastic horns have made this the Taco Bell of World Cups.

And when you read things like this, laugh like Mozart laughing at Salieri. Plastic horns aren't a reaction against inauthenticity, they're the embodiment of it.

Okay, what about Mexico. South Africa has conned itself into thinking plastic horns somehow express their cultural identity, but Mexico has a much better case. How, then, do we politely have the conversation about how people who like plastic horns should all drink a pint of bleach?

Well, if and when Mexico ever hosts the World Cup again, we can have the talk about banning plastic horns AND work in what the fans actually want. I'd still be in favor of banning them, but at least Mexico fans could say they were using the infernal things the day before yesterday.

Noise for the sake of noise really does have a long history in Mexican football - but it's supposed to make the stadium a hugely unpleasant experience for the visiting team. It's not an expression of the love and beauty of the game bringing people together. Mexico fans blow plastic horns because they think it helps their team win. That's fine, and as an American fan it's churlish to want to take that away from them.

Besides, at least Mexico fans aren't climbing on the table and lecturing us about how it's as fundamentally Mexican as the oom-pah in banda music or cheering for neckless forwards.

And even in 1986, they put down the plastic horns long enough to cheer:

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