By David H. Kirkwood
July 13 update
German’s victory over Argentina this afternoon in the final of the 2014 World Cup adds further evidence that, contrary to Hear the World’s theory (see below), the team whose fans are quieter than its opponent’s has the advantage because its members have less noise-induced hearing loss. Or, just possibly, the Germans were better soccer players.
SAO PAULO—As an organization dedicated to raising awareness of hearing loss, surely Hear the World Foundation should have known better than to go with the loudest noise in predicting the winner of the World Cup. Yet, as reported this week in a light-hearted press release, Hear the World did just that in picking Brazil to win the world championship of soccer or, as everyone outside North America calls the sport, football.
In its highly scientific study, the foundation, which is funded by Sonova, the world’s largest maker of hearing aids, took a digital sound level meter to a public area in the heart of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where fans from around the world were gathered. There Hear the World measured the noise made by supporters of each of the eight national teams that had reached the quarterfinals.
Based on the premise that the team with the loudest fan base would emerge as World Cup champions, Hear the World picked Brazil. Not surprisingly, given that it is the host country and its soccer fans are known as the world’s most fanatical, when all the cheers had been measured, the Brazilians’ 115-dB was far louder than the noise from any other nation’s rooting section. French fans came in a distant second, at 99 dB.
So, what could possibly go wrong with Hear the World’s prognostication? Everything! As pretty much any sentient being on the planet now knows, the Brazilian team lost yesterday (July 8). Not only did it lose, but it was defeated 7-1, a margin of epic, unprecedented proportions for a World Cup semifinal. And, irony of ironies, the team that scored seven goals was none other than Germany, whose wimpy fans could muster only 90 dB worth of support for their team, placing them dead last in Hear the World’s noise contest.
Why did this happen? Well, one theory is that the German players have lost less of their hearing, thanks to their quieter fans, and therefore can communicate better on the field. They certainly displayed a lot more teamwork than Brazil did. In that case, look for Germany to win Sunday’s final against either Argentina or the Netherlands. The fans of both these teams generated 95 dB of support, so today’s semifinal match between them looks like a toss-up.
WHERE’S PAUL THE OCTOPUS WHEN WE NEED HIM?
Of course, it’s just possible that the loudness of their fans has nothing to do with which teams win or lose in the World Cup. To be fair, Sarah Kreienbuehl, of Hear the World, cautioned, “We wouldn’t encourage you to place any bets based on these predictions alone.”
Fans who were looking for advice they could bet on had plenty of other places to turn to. These included Shaheen the camel, Madame Shiva the guinea pig, and Big Head the turtle, whose keepers came up with unusual ways to divine the future from these animals’ behavior.
However, none came close to matching the predictive prowess of Paul the octopus. During the last World Cup, held in 2010 in South Africa, Paul, who lived in Germany, became internationally famous for successfully forecasting the winners of many of the matches (mostly ones involving Germany).
His method was unusual. Before a game, the sea creature would be offered two boxes of food. They were identical except for the flags attached to them. Allegedly, Paul would consistently eat first from the box that sported the flag of the team that went on defeat the team whose flag appeared on the box that he ate from second.
The peak of his career came when Paul chose the mussels from a box with the Spanish flag, foretelling that country’s victory in the World Cup final over the Netherlands. Sadly, the insightful invertebrate died just a few months afterwards, in October 2010 at 2-1/2 years of age.