Rick Reilly's Dumb Vuvuzela Joke, ExplainedS

Reader Freddie writes in:

This isn't really a tip. Just please watch this short video from Rick Reilly and tell me what the vuvuzela joke at the end means. I mean it's incomprehensible. There's not even a failed attempt at a real joke there. What the fuck does it have to do with anything? How could you buy an offensive formation a vuvuzela? Or a gun? What is the connection? I'm gonna have a stroke.

If you'd rather not sit through the video, it's a short Reilly "essay" about the apparent decline of the Pistol formation, "after all that racket the Pistol made last year." Reilly's kicker is: "Hey, Pistol, wanna buy a vuvuzela?"

It's not a joke so much as a joke-like sound, Freddie. My best guess is that there are actually two layers to the gag. On a basic level, Reilly is saying that the Pistol needs a noisemaker now that it's no longer making a "racket" of its own. (Why a vuvuzela? Reilly probably thinks it sounds funny. He's using "vuvuzela" the way Johnny Carson used "Keokuk, Iowa.")

On a deeper level, however, he is saying that the vuvuzela, like the Pistol, is a once-fashionable but now outmoded media sensation; by asking the suddenly anthropomorphized offensive formation if he/she would like to buy a vuvuzela, Reilly is also reminding the Pistol (and the viewer) that the favorite baubles of a certain cultural moment can fall unaccountably and irrevocably out of style, and that life churns on, remorseless and unheeding, and that we are all one day going to die.

A similar joke would be: "Hey, Pistol, wanna buy a pet rock?"

If you'd like to try at home, the template is: "Hey, [cultural fad], wanna buy [yesterday's useless artifact]?" Here, I'll start: "Hey, ESPN, wanna buy a Rick Reilly column?"