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5 Things We Love

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Spain's Andres Iniesta, center, is tackled by Germany's Philipp Lahm, left, and Bastian Schweinsteiger during Wednesday's World Cup semifinal soccer match in Durban, South Africa. Spain won, 1-0.

1. To Vuvuzela …

OK, vuvuzela isn’t even a verb. It’s a 3-foot-long plastic horn that has provided the soundtrack to the 2010 World Cup.

Here’s one app that you’ll want to keep after the madness in South Africa ends Sunday.

It’s Vuvuzela 2010, your own personal drive-everyone-nuts app. It comes with the warning: "Using can be regarded as highly addictive." And it’s free!

Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, it offers a choice of 10 team jerseys. Tap one and the vuvuzela changes to the corresponding colors. The yellow-and-green shirt is no replacement for Kaka but is, as one user writes, "very funny and annoyingly brilliant."

There are 73 other vuvuzela-related apps — plenty of fun until 2014, when the jogo bonita is played in Brazil.


2. … or not to vuvuzela

If you absolutely hate the noisemakers, you are not alone. The incessant droning of vuvuzelas throughout the land caused South Africa to ban the horns from shopping malls, and a London doctor opines that they could play a big part in spreading colds and flu — sour grapes, perhaps, after England’s disappointing early-round knockout from the tournament?

The horns also were implicated this week in a drug case in Peru in which dealers used vuvuzelas to hide their stash, and the SPCA is warning of an increase in frightened pets bolting from their homes upon hearing the ear-splitting horns.

If vuvuzelas are ruining your enjoyment of World Cup broadcasts, then you’ll love this:

Consumer Reports says viewers can minimize their noise on basic televisions by turning down the treble setting as low as it will go to tone down the horn’s highest, most annoying frequencies.

For more sophisticated TVs with equalizer sound controls, the settings that adjust soundwave frequencies can be manipulated to minimize the horns and maximize commentary. For surround-sound systems, turn down the volume on any speakers that carry crowd noise and turn it up for speakers that carry voices.

For video instructions on tuning out vuvuzelas, go to www.consumerreports.org.


3. Not just for soccer matches

How many times have you had to sit there trapped at your desk listening to a co-worker blab on about his latest home improvement project or his kid’s Little League game?

How many times have you dreamed of pulling out a vuvuzela and blasting it in his face?

Or wish you’d brought one of the noisemakers to a company meeting, a council hearing or a politician’s speech to drown out the blather?

Well, sadly, life isn’t the World Cup. But you can still get some satisfaction on YouTube, which is providing a vuvuzela button viewers can activate to their heart’s content while, for example, watching videos of BP execs trying to explain away the Gulf oil spill or Washington politicos plugging their efforts to fix the economy.

Simply click on the soccer ball icon in the lower right corner and vuvuzela away.


4. Don’t bet against the octopus

You gotta love Paul the prognosticating octopus, who is 6-for-6 in picking World Cup winners.

Germans were aghast when the cephalopod, who resides in an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, resisted the temptation to pull a homer and ignored sports pundits by picking Spain to beat Germany in Wednesday’s semifinal match in South Africa — and by "picking," we mean selecting a mussel from the box with the Spanish flag on it. (The Spaniards triumphed 1-0.)

The eight-legged oracle is 9-1 overall in calling German soccer games, and correctly picked World Cup victories against Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina, and the loss to Serbia.

We especially love Paul’s fearlessness in the face of death threats, predicting a German win over Argentina after a prominent newspaper in that South American nation published a recipe for octopus (olive oil, potatoes and a little pepper).

See Paul the Octopus in action on www.youtube.com.


5. Need a list?

» The pageantry and sportsmanship of competitors entering the field holding hands with grade-schoolers, captains exchanging team pennants, players trading jerseys at the end of a hard-fought contest, and listening to the national anthems before kickoff. Where else can you hear the national song of Uruguay?

» Players who are known by a single name. While America seems to reserve that honor for gay icons like Cher, Barbra, Madonna and Liza, many of the world’s top footballers are known simply by their first names: Kaka, Xavi, Robinho and Deco.

» Penalty kick shootouts. Best. Tie-breaker. Ever. Go ahead and argue that it’s unfair and arbitrary, but for our money, there is no better white-knuckle spectacle in sports.

» God bless America, and the U.S. soccer team certainly provided us with some of the biggest thrills of the tournament, but we love the World Cup because it reminds us the planet is a much bigger place than the United States.

» Have you seen the trophy?


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