Most Annoying Sports Sounds of All Time

The World Cup vuvuzela horns are just the latest in a long line of nuisances.

June 16, 2010— -- Millions of World Cup soccer fans have been putting up with the constant buzz made by the vuvuzela, a plastic horn blown by fans in South Africa.

The sound can be deafening and a major distraction, but it's also part of a long line of annoying sports sounds and chants.

Since the days of the Roman gladiators, spectators have cheered, booed and just made a racket. But certain sounds from recent sports history really stand out.

"It's like the old melodrama when you booed the bad guy," said Sheldon Anderson, a professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who is currently writing a book on sports and international relations. "People feel like they are part of the game. They might not be able to play, but they can influence the outcome with boos, cheers or their ridiculous behavior."

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That said, Anderson notes that most sports sounds come and go depending on whether the home team needs support. The World Cup horn-blowing, however, continues regardless of who has the ball or what's happening on the field.

"There's been nothing, nothing like this in the sense that it never stops," he said. "It's just non-stop."

"The Blackhawks have their truck-horn when they score. But it's kind of amusing when it happens because it only happens a few times a night," Anderson added.

(There are now reports of anti-vuvuzela earplugs being sold to drown out the horns' noise.)

ABC News asked several sports experts what they would pick as the most annoying game-day sounds. And while this is in no way a complete list (feel free to add your own picks in the comments below) please remember that one fan's annoyance is another's joy.

First on our list, the Thunderstix, those inflatable plastic tubes that first became popular during the Anaheim Angels' climb to the 2002 World Series championship. They have since surfaced elsewhere. Let's put it this way: you bang them together and they make a lot of noise.

Jimmy Traina, a senior producer for who oversees the Extra Mustard page, expressed annoyance with the Thunderstix but said it is "nothing, however, like what is going on in the World Cup right now. It didn't really permeate over television."

Another one that gets under Traina's skin: cow bells, especially the ones used at Tampa Bay Rays games. The cow bell is a longstanding tradition at ski competitions and in college sports. But now Rays fans have adopted the bell and -- at least in some people's minds -- have abused it.

"That one can get rough," Traina said. "It goes on throughout the game and it's not exactly a pleasant sound."

So why do fans feel the need to enhance (or detract) from the game with these noises?

"These days, with the cost of tickets being so expensive, just sitting there and watching the game isn't enough," Traina said. "It has to be an event, a circus-like atmosphere just to make it a memorable experience for all the money you spent. So anything like organized chants just enhances the experience."

But sometimes a fun chant or song can become old and pestering. Traina said that the Yankees still has their ground crew dance to YMCA.

"That's just so incredibly played out at this point," he said, putting the act in line with teams that play "We Will Rock You" and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2."

"You hear it at every sporting event, so it gets old," he said.

But this comes from a guy who gets annoyed at the sound of aluminum bats at college baseball games.

"It's not really the crack of the bat," said Traina, who favors the wooden bats used in the majors.

At least you can't blame the fans for that.

But what about the athletes themselves?

One of the most controversial -- and often repeated -- debates in tennis is grunting.

The fight goes back at least a decade to when Monica Seles was criticized for disturbing opponents with her shriek. In more modern times, Larcher de Brito has come under fire for her screams, often called "piercing."

But back to the fans.

The Atlanta Braves' tomahawk chop is also considered a major nuisance. The chant was adopted from Florida State University and became known nationally during the 1991 World Series.

"It's annoying when your team is losing," said Robert Edelman, a history professor at the University of California, San Diego.

The chant also had the unfortunate added pain of being considered racist by many. But for Edelman, the real annoyance comes from Ivy League schools who are losing against lesser institutions. They often say a chat -- "That's alright, that's okay, you're going to work for us for one day" -- that he finds downright insulting.

Edelman, who studies sports in addition to Russian history and just authored "Spartak Moscow: A History of the People's Team in the Workers' State," said that Russians love to scream at the umpires. But instead of threatening to kill them or saying they need glasses, they like to yell: "Turn the referee into soap."

But the real pain to his ears comes outside the stadium or arena.

"The most annoying sound to me, in sports, is the Celtics' home crowd during the time when they are on the street," Edelman said. "There is a kind of self-congratulatory sense of entitlement about it that really bothers me."

Linda J. Borish, a professor at Western Michigan University, says that the annoyances may be different for the athletes than for the spectators.

"I think the National Football League Cleveland Browns' 'Dawg Pound,' with the barking, yelling, masks, and other expletives hurled at times to be very annoying," Borish said.

But ultimately remember, that one person's annoyance is another's culture. The horns that are surprising so many in the World Cup, she said, make a sound that fits with the cultural heritage of South Africa.

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