Posted by: mdegeorge | June 18, 2010

Weekly Diagnosis: 6/17

The Sports Doctor has had a busy week of non-sports related, rent-paying work. So in order to clear tomorrow for a full slate of World Cup soccer, this week’s diagnosis is a little early. It’s still covering the biggest—and weirdest—stories out of the tournament’s first week.

It’s vuvu-mania!

Attention at the World Cup has been spread many ways. And until play finally livened up with the arrival of the second round of group stage games, the lion’s share of coverage was focused not on the on-field happenings but rather on the cacophonic crowds and their vuvuzelas.

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The fallout from the fourth estate in South Africa has been a palpable fear that the noisemakers will follow nations back to their respective domestic leagues. One club, Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga, has already placed a ban on the bothersome buzzers, while the English Premier League has remained alarmingly mum on the subject, much to the chagrin of many. They have, however, been removed from the hotel at which the English National Team is staying, presumably to halt rampant celebration of beds well made and room service promptly delivered. The racket of the horns has gotten to just about everyone, from Fabio Capello to Adolf Hitler.

One British sporting institution has been stirred to action. The All England Club, which plays host to Wimbledon starting in just over a week, has amended its existing ban on noisemakers (and most forms of non-Victorian jocularity) to include the South African icons. The move isn’t much of a surprise for a club that also has banned the simulcast of World Cup matches during its signature tournament. Or one that requires members to wear white at all times. Heck, the only surprise would be if there’s someone dumb enough to think they could have brought a vuvuzela anywhere near the All England Club.

The crisis has escalated to the point that the BBC is now considering offering premium broadcasts that filter out the endless buzzing. Apparently they’ve received a number of complaints about fans with surround sound systems injuring themselves reaching for EpiPens. We can only hope ESPN utilizes the same technology to offer Joe Morgan-filtered broadcasts of Sunday Night Baseball.

When God-fearing women lose the remote…For some players, the World Cup can be do or die. That’s rarely the case for fans.

The exception came this week in a remote area of South Africa’s northeastern Limpopo province when a man was beaten to death by his family for attempting to change the channel to watch a World Cup match.

The victim, 61-year-old David Makoeya, was pummeled by his wife, 68-year-old Francina, and children Collin and Lebogana, 36 and 23, respectively. David was attempting to change the channel to the Germany-Australia match last Sunday instead of watching a religious program. He repeatedly tried to change the channel remotely and manually, before being attacked by his family members.

I’m not sure what religious program they were trying to watch, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what the sermon was about. And, if you have to beat someone to death in order to watch a religious program, I think it negates any holiness you may derive from even the best televangelist.

Just another Western conspiracy

It’s been reported this week that North Korea, whose team is making its first World Cup Finals appearance in 44 years, was so desperate for fans in their opening game against Brazil in Johannesburg that it allegedly hired Chinese nationals to fake support their eastern neighbors. Most of the speculation is just that, but it’s enough for me to run with here in the blogosphere.

The story portrays the often belligerent, nuclear weapon-stockpiling nation in a whole new light. I always thought of them as an egomaniacal, chaos-loving nation with a major Napoleon complex. But they’re really just that bully who acts out because they need a hug and someone to cheer for them in the school play.

In fact, the North Koreans fit the description of the perfectly likable underdogs in their performance against Brazil: the little guy holding off the overwhelming favorite, frustrating the Samba Kings more with each failed attack. It almost made me root for them. But I just couldn’t ignore the fact that the team represents a pathologically paranoid, power hungry, authoritarian, xenophobic society that would rather see its people starved (of contact with the outside world and food) than allow market-driven competition for fear it would render its backward economy—one in which workers pay factories not to work so they can pursue black market endeavors in an attempt to put food on the table—completely obsolete.

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