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Should Games in Empty Stadiums Have Fake Crowd Noise?

Ten days ago I did a Q&A post about what the uni-verse might be like when North American team sports return to action. It included this passage:

Since fans won’t be allowed to attend the games, there have been some reports that leagues might use fake crowd noise in the empty stadiums and arenas. What do you think of that?

I think there’s a good chance they’ll do it, but I wish they wouldn’t. I may do a separate post about this in the near future.

This is that post.

Before we get started, I should say that this post makes two assumptions. The first is that North American sports leagues will actually return to the field this year, which is still not a sure thing. But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume it is.

And second, I’m working under the assumption that broadcasters will be adding fake crowd noise to their broadcast feeds but that no fake noise will be added in the stadiums or arenas themselves. In other words, viewers at home will hear the fake noise, but the players won’t. That seems to be the default for European soccer broadcasts that have used fake noise in recent weeks.

Okay, with those provisos in mind, I’m opposed to the use of fake crowd noise for three primary reasons, as follows:

1. The biggest problem with fake crowd noise is that it’s, you know, fake. It presents not just a false version of reality but an intentionally false version. Broadcasts of live sporting events may be a form of entertainment, but they’re also a form of documentary reporting, and as such they should do their best to present reality as it actually exists. No reporting can ever be perfectly representative of reality, of course, but at the very least there should be an ethical obligation not to present something that’s pure artifice.

The stakes may seem low if we’re talking about, say, a Twins/A’s game. But at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us, as a society, to agree on a common set of knowable facts and a common reality, the last thing we should want is for media conglomerates to be spoon-feeding us an altered version of the real world. How would you feel if a TV news operation added fake applause — or suppressed real applause, for that matter — at a politician’s campaign rally? Or if the Weather Channel made the wind sound louder as one of its reporters was reporting on an incoming storm, just for dramatic effect? Or if the network broadcasting the Oscars knew that a particular nominee had a habit of making controversial statements, so they decided to have a conveniently timed “technical difficulty” during that nominee’s acceptance speech?

I hope we can agree that all of those would be completely unacceptable. Fake crowd noise at a sporting event should be as well — not only because it’s unethical, but because it helps take us down the road to those other scenarios I just spelled out. Once you make it okay to alter reality in some reporting situations, you lower the bar for it happening in other situations.

One way to help avoid that is to reaffirm that it’s unacceptable in any situation, including broadcasts of sporting events.

2. Adding crowd noise sends the illusory message that things are normal. But things are not normal — there’s a very good reason no fans will be on hand to make noise, and that reason has killed nearly 120,000 of our fellow American citizens so far. The pandemic may not be fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with watching a game in order to take some enjoyment amidst all the tragedy and chaos, but we shouldn’t create the false impression that everything’s okay. If an eerily silent stadium makes it feel like something isn’t quite right, then good — it should. The pandemic is still an ongoing public health crisis, and presenting the situation as it really exists instead of papering it over is a good reminder of that.

Also, game broadcasts become documentary history. Years from now, when we will presumably have a vaccine and life will have returned to normal (or something close to it), people watching highlights from the 2020 sports season should be able to hear the games the way they really were, because the silent stadiums will be part of the story of the pandemic — or at least they should be.

3. Even if you don’t care about either of the points I just made, it’s hard to imagine how fake crowd noise can even come close to replicating a real crowd. I suppose it won’t be as hard for NBA and NHL games, since those leagues plan to play at neutral sites. But for the NFL, NCAA, and MLB, all of which currently plan to have teams play at their usual home venues, will the fake home crowd fake-boo the visiting team? Will they fake-boo the home team when the shortstop makes an error or the quarterback throws a pick-six? Will the fake noise be louder at Yankee Stadium, which is usually packed, than at the Trop, where they can’t draw flies?

Meanwhile, the players won’t hear any of the fake noise, so they won’t be doing all the things players usually do to acknowledge or interact with the crowd. The quarterback won’t be holding up his hands to call for quiet, the ball girl won’t be handing the foul ball to some kid in the front row, the wide receiver won’t be jumping into the stands for a Lambeau Leap, and so on.


Those are my three primary objections. I realize you may have some counter-arguments. Allow me to anticipate some of them:

I get what you’re saying. But at the end of the day, this is just entertainment, and it’s more entertaining with crowd noise, even if it’s fake.

And I get what you’re saying too! But I don’t find the “It’s just entertainment” position particularly persuasive. Here’s why:

• A football game in the snow is a lot more entertaining than a game without snow (at least to me). So if there’s nice weather on gameday, should they just dump a few truckloads of snow on the field? Should they seed the clouds to create precipitation?

• A blowout baseball game isn’t very entertaining. So if a team is down by, say, eight runs after the second inning, should they get to use corked bats and a livelier ball when they’re batting? Should the team that’s winning have to play with eight fielders instead of nine? That would certainly increase the entertainment value!

• That Sosa/McGwire season was pretty damn entertaining. So we’re all in favor of steroids, right?

And so on. Just because we could conceivably do certain things in order to make the broadcast more “entertaining” (an inherently nebulous term, since what’s entertaining to one person could just as easily be annoying to someone else) doesn’t necessarily mean we should alter reality along the way.

They’re already using fake audience members (paper cutouts, painted tarps, etc.), so why not fake crowd noise?

Personally, I wish they wouldn’t use fake audience members either. But it’s not the same thing. You can see that the fake fans are fake — nobody’s moving, nobody’s eating a hot dog, nobody’s waving a “John 3:16” sign, the camera isn’t showing any morons parading their naked, body-painted torsos on a cold day, and so on.

Fake noise is more deceptive. It’s not something you can see, and you can’t pinpoint its source. It’s just there, like the air. I’d prefer that the air be clean.

Sitcoms have used laugh tracks for decades. What’s the big deal?

A sitcom is not a real depiction of real events, nor does it purport to be. Personally, I think laugh tracks are stupid, but they don’t distort reality; they’re
just part of a scripted piece of fiction.

The first down stripe that they project onto the field isn’t real. So are you opposed to that too?

The first down stripe is an informational graphic, much like the scorebug, the players’ stats that they periodically post on the screen, and so on. Fake noise is not informational; in fact, it’s anti-informational, because it suggests the existence of something that isn’t actually there.

They already use fake sound. You’d never be able to hear the quarterback shouting, “Omaha!” if not for that guy on the sideline with the parabolic mic. So if they’re doing stuff like that, why not use fake crowd noise?

But a parabolic mic (among other audio gear used during sports broadcasts) doesn’t create something that isn’t there. It just enhances something that’s already there. Or to put it another way, the mic doesn’t put fake words in the quarterback’s mouth; it just lets you hear what he’s actually saying. In this way, it adds to the reality of the viewing experience, rather than presenting a false reality.

Speaking of which: There’s been some talk that the networks might mic up the players during these crowd-free games, so we could hear more of what’s being said on the field. That’s been done before, of course, but usually just for one or two players at a time. I’d love to see it happen on a larger scale — that would be a great way to take advantage of the quiet setting, and a much better option than fake crowd noise. (Yes, they’d probably have to run the broadcast on a slight delay, just so they can bleep out the cuss words.)

But if they insist on using fake crowd noise, I’d be okay with it under one condition: Add a slow, endless-loop crawl along the bottom of the screen that says, “Artificial Crowd Noise in Use; No Actual Fans in Attendance.” That would be lame, but at least it would be honest.

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Contest reminder: In case you missed it on Wednesday, my latest Uni Watch design contest for InsideHook is to create a logo for teams or leagues to wear in acknowledgment of the current racial justice protests. Full details over at InsideHook.

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KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles has a good overlap with Uni Watch, as it’s about a piece of a championship basketball net that was cut down and then saved on a key ring. Check it out here.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider, pinch-hitting for Paul

Baseball News: The owners submitted a labor proposal to the Player’s Association yesterday that reportedly includes a line item allowing owners to sell ad space on uniforms, along with a universal DH, during both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, although there’s still no certainty that a deal will be struck. … The Chicago Tribune published a column calling for the Texas Rangers to change their name, given their namesake law enforcement agency’s historic issues with race, violence, and lawlessness, as detailed in a new book (from Tom Juettner). … Hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer will release a medical-grade plastic shield that attaches to the brim of a baseball cap (from Andreas Papadopoulos). … Tom Pringle painted a slick watercolor of Blue Jays 3B Vlad Guerrero Jr. … The Single-A Winston-Salem Dash’s stadium is getting a new corporate name (from James Gilbert). … Back in the White Sox’s 1970s leisure suit days, their minor league affiliates also went leisure-suited. … Over in the KBO, KT Wiz P Odrisamer Despaigne wore some magnificent socks yesterday (from Andrew Forbes).

NFL News: Check out this awesome Colts helmet matchbook from 1979 — it even includes the team schedule! (From Michael Johns). … Tom Brady posted a photo of himself in a Bucs helmet with a strange outlined decal on his Instagram Story yesterday (from @aj_c21 and Ted Taylor). … Former Bengals QB Kenny Anderson’s 1976 Pro Bowl helmet was recently returned to him by the son of the team’s equipment manager (from @TheeIronBlue).

College Football News: Reader Kevin Searfoss has made several pieces of 3D wall art in the past few weeks. His latest piece is an Arizona State pitchfork. … Clemson has a new display in its facility, highlighting all the uniforms the team has worn during their College Football Playoff appearances (from Mark Johnson).

Hockey News: The CEO of Seattle’s forthcoming NHL franchise says the team has delayed plans to announce its name until perhaps the fall (from Griffin T. Smith). … Sportsnet has published a piece about the history of Pride Tape, the rainbow stick tape that many players use when NHL teams host LGBTQ Pride nights (from Mike Chamernik). … If the NHL resumes its season, players will not be required to wear full-face shields despite the pandemic (from Wade Heidt). … It’s not often you see a below-the-numbers NOB on a hockey sweater, but that’s exactly what the Regina Pats of the WHL did in the ’80s — and as a bonus, they wore Cooperalls! (From Wade Heidt.)

Soccer News: The Premier League resumed play yesterday, with teams wearing patches honoring England’s healthcare workers and Black Lives Matter. Players also wore “Black Lives Matter” NOBs, and prior to the first game between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, all uniformed personnel took a knee in solidarity (thanks to all who shared). … Speaking of that game, Villa CB Tyrone Mings lost his NHS patch (from Josh Hinton). … Jamie Rathjen notes that Manchester City covered some seats in large banner ads. … New uniforms for Utah Royals FC of the NWSL (thanks to all who shared). … Yesterday’s post discussed Polish soccer club Skra Częstochowa’s question mark jersey — but they’re not the only team to prominently feature punctuation on their jersey. Mike Trozzo points out that German club Borussia Dortmund wore an exclamation point on their jerseys during the 2006-07 season when sponsor RAG was restructuring into several entities, but the new name wasn’t known yet. … NBC Sports reimagined San Francisco-area sports teams as soccer clubs (from Danny Pedroza and David Hanson). … New match balls for the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga (from Ed Zelaski). … Also from Ed: New home and away shirts for Welsh side Wrexham, and new home shirt for Belgian side Standard Liège. … AS Roma will wear a Black Lives Matter patch for their 12 remaining matches in Serie A and will auction off the match-worn shirts to raise funds for anti-racism organizations (from @CrystalPalaceDC).

Grab Bag: Latest ripple effect from the racial justice protests: Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup will get a new name and spokescharacter. Changes are also in the works for Uncle Ben’s rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and Cream of Wheat, all of which have used Black spokescharacters that drew on outdated stereotypes (thanks to all who shared). … I wasn’t aware that Juneteenth — the annual celebration of the end of slavery, which will be observed tomorrow — had its own flag — though, as Scott Rogers points out, some versions have different striping. … Readers in the Windy City may have mixed feelings about this: Chicago athletes in strange uniforms (also from Mike Chamernik). … NASA’s “worm” logo is certainly having a moment. The agency brought the logo back into use after a long hiatus earlier this year. Now a new book, The Worm — featuring more than 300 photos of the logo — is slated for release in October (from Hugh C. McBride). … South African rugby team Cheetahs is letting fans pick the club’s new away jersey (from Josh Gardner and Andrew M.). … Ever wanted an explainer on a Navy ship’s coat of arms? The Institute of Heraldry has an entire database offering explanations (from Shawn Hairston). … It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Arkansas State bring out these throwback track jerseys this year (from Larz Roberts). … A police officer in New Paltz, N.Y., has been fired after posting a video of himself disparaging transgender people while wearing his uniform (from Timmy Donahue). … Oops! An Adidas maker’s mark is briefly visible in Pirates of the Caribbean (from Pro Football Journal). … The pandemic has affected all sports — even dominoes (from the Tugboat Captain).

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What Paul did last night: We’ve both been working really hard lately, so yesterday we decided to knock off at 2pm and treat ourselves to a few hours at the beach. Walked at the edge of the surf for the better part of a mile and then pitched a blanket, watched some oystercatchers zipping back in forth in front of us, shared a beer, contemplated the world. A nice time.

We’re still not comfortable using public restrooms, so our visit was bladder-limited. On the way home we detoured to Sunset Park — that’s Brooklyn’s Chinatown — and picked up some takeout from a Sichuan place some friends had recommended. That led to a Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ first: porch dumplings!

They were sooooo good. After finishing them, we went inside and ate the rest of the takeout while watching Jeopardy! All in all, a very good afternoon and early evening. (Big thanks to Alex Hider for covering for me on Ticker duty and thereby allowing me to take the afternoon off without having to worry about Ticker items piling up.)

The branch is still there.

As always, you can see the full set of Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photos here.

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Our latest raffle winner is Karim Mourad, who’s won himself a membership card and who’s employed as a pharmacist (as you may recall, this raffle was only open to people who work in a public service capacity). Please join me in thanking him for his important work, and in thanking reader Timmy Donahue for sponsoring this raffle. — Paul

Comments (59)

    I listen to a lot of baseball games on radio, and I think I’d prefer for there to be fake crowd noise in the background, to fill in the silence when the announcers aren’t talking. A simple “mumble” of the crowd would suffice. I don’t see any need to adjust to game situations. I’d liken the “mumble” to 1010 WINS’ use of the “ticker” sound, which has been piped in artificially for years.

    On the other hand, I’d prefer no artificial noise when watching the game on tv, because it’d be far more obvious that it’s fake. I’d also love to hear the ongoing “chatter” from the players during the game. What little leaguer doesn’t remember having a coach yell “talk it up out there!” to the team that’s in the field?

    You also have visual images to focus on when the announcers aren’t talking, unlike with radio.

    Without crowd noise (fake or real) there are going to be a lot of kids hearing their heroes throw out a bunch of profanities all game long.

    “Nobody’s eating hot dogs”

    I got a cardboard cutout of myself placed in Borussia Monchengladbach’s stadium, and now I really wish I had taken a picture of myself eating a hot dog. Dang it.

    The NBC/English Premier League had the best of both worlds yesterday. You could watch with or without crowd sounds added. Personally I preferred having some “drone” of the crowd in the background but I see your side of the argument as well. For posterity you the leagues could choose to only save and distribute the unedited versions.

    My guess about the Brady helmet isn’t that it’s a decal but a Photoshop job to remove the branding bc Under Armour doesn’t have the NFL license.

    I completely agree with today’s post, no artificial crowd noise. For me, pumped in crowd noise would be more depressing than no crowd noise. The fake crowd noise would be strictly for television audiences, and I tune into games to see what is going on at the ballpark. I would want to see the actual experience of no fans. It is a unique experience in my lifetime and I would like to experience that.

    Some background crowd noise in baseball would be OK with me. Without it, announcers may feel that they have to cover the silence by talking…and talking…and talking.

    What I would not like to hear on NBA games is the incessant DEE-fense-BOOM BOOM….DEE-fense….BOOM BOOM.

    For hockey, put mics all around the ice to puck up the sounds of skates on the ice and the puck hitting sticks; things you can hear at a live game but miss on TV.

    There are three versions of the Juneteenth Flag out there, each reflecting modifications made by the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. In addition to the straight-striped version and the curve-striped version, the supposedly current official Juneteenth Flag has the lettering “June 19, 1865” in white along the fly. Here’s the Flags of the World database entry:


    However, the Foundation’s store lists only the (superior) no-lettering version for sale:


    I hope that’s the version that’s raised over the Wisconsin state capitol per the governor’s order tomorrow.

    Fake crowd noise is already tying broadcast crews in knots.

    I’ve already seen Bundesliga matches where the PxP announcer for the international English-language feed was talking about how quiet the stadium was and how clear the voices of players and coaches were, all while FS1 was adding their own crowd noise on top of the league feed.

    Meanwhile, I watched NBC Sports’ streaming-only feed of yesterday’s Manchester City-Arsenal match without crowd noise while Arlo White often mentioned the added crowd noise on the primary NBCSN feed.

    I think this is as good a reason as any for there to be a “Crowd Noise Added” bug on screen. This way, the broadcast crew can just call the game without having to address it at all or worry about whether a partner is adding it.

    Well said and good points all. I would agree, although as others have said, I do not want the broadcasters to try and fill the void by talking more. Silence can be golden. Moreover, and I say this as a proud Philadelphian supportive of all of our teams… you can’t fake our enthusiasm, including the booing. It’s not always warranted, or fair, but it’s always there. Even when it shouldn’t be.

    Years ago it seemed like a lot of West Coast baseball broadcasts already pipe in fake noise. The crowd gets so loud when there’s a play that I used to have to ride the volume on the TV late at night. But it’s actually just a product of the sound mixing choices made by some of the Fox Sports Net affiliates back then.

    For reasons I don’t fully understand, Teespring said their warehouse wasn’t ready to receive them, so I had to hold off on sending them. They should be arriving there today, which means they should be available for sale soon. Monday seems realistic.

    Isn’t “anticipating counter-arguments” and then posing imagined questions on behalf of readership to create a “Q&A” article kinda fake?

    No, actually, it’s not. It’s a fully transparent exercise in addressing issues pertaining to the topic at hand.

    But nice try. Troll harder next time.

    Maybe if they were presented as actual questions by the readership, but that’s not what was done here. The transparency is key.

    I would much rather that they mic up the players, like they do in Spring Training, and we hear what’s going on for real. It would be an added draw, would give real insight to the game, and would seem like a bridge builder — especially to the generations who have a disdain for artificiality.

    Instead of adding noise, why not increase the sounds that are already there. I want to hear the crack of the bat or the snap of a catcher’s mit catching a fastball. Those are the sounds I love hearing at the ballpark but rarely hear as clearly on TV. It’s those little details that I miss.

    As far as I know, there will be no piped in crowd noise during the telecast of this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Here’s an article on how it will be broadcast:


    While I am happy about that, I’m pissed that it will be the first leg of the Triple Crown and will be run at a mile and an eighth.

    I 100% agree with no crowd noise. Sports are really the only “reality” TV, where what you see is what happened, no scripting, no producer’s interference, no nothing.

    So let’s say it’s a post-pamdemic, afternoon game in Miami where the announced attendance is 13,000, but the actual attendance is like 2,000. Do we add crowd noise as well for that? When does it stop?

    Chuan World is excellent! Every time we go I order something different off the “colorful food” menu. Never imagined the maoxuewang could be so good. Still working my way up to the spicy frogs, though.

    Fake Crowd noise : Bonjour Paul, I ave read a couple of years ago in Montréal newspaper La Presse an article where someone who had worked for the Montreal Canadiens was saying very matter-of-factly that they were adding fake crowd noise into the arena during games.
    I have done a quick Internet search on this topic before writing to you, I didn’t find that article but I saw that this use of fake crowd noise during NHL games in Mtl and in other arenas was talked about just three days ago on a Montréal sport radio station.
    I have found other quotes from people saying that the fake crowd noise was obvious during games In Mtl since often what they heard didn’t match at all how people in the crowd were behaving…

    Though they will never admit it, there has been suspicion for a number of years that the CFL’s BC Lions were adding crowd noise during playoff games, even when BC Place was full. An enhancement of crowd noise at appropriate times in a football game.

    I recall Cal Murphy complaining about this when he was the Blue Bombers head coach in the 1980s. I have a suspicion of this myself sitting in the stadium during Western Finals against Saskatchewan in the mid-aughts.

    I cannot believe jersey ads appear to be coming to MLB as well. I guess it really required passionate-about-the-game longterm steward type to protect the sport against it and Rob Manfred sure doesn’t seem like that. And now the owners are going to use the pandemic as an excuse to let the genie out of the bottle much quicker than expected. I will never forgive Adam Silver for getting the ball rolling on this. He may or may not do other positive things but one part of his legacy will always be as the person who ruined American sports uniforms.

    It’s not a done deal yet, so let’s not treat it as one. If you view it as being inevitable, that just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    And as I’ve written before, even if teams are *allowed* to sell ads, I’m not so convinced they’ll get many takers.

    But you are right, of course, about Silver.

    That’s kind of besides the point, no? Even if ONE team gets a taker, that’s one too many. Besides, the pandemic isn’t going to last forever. Eventually, it will subside for good, things will get back to normal, and companies will have money again to spend on ads. The fact it’s even gotten this far is ominous.

    They’re also using the pandemic to ruin the National League, and once the DH is everywhere the next thing will be to destroy league identity entirely.

    Do people still make the “John 3:16” signs? Feel like it’s a distant memory of a guy with a rainbow wig holding that up! Lol!

    Full agreement on everything. Not just “no thank you on fake crowd noise” because the broadcast should generally reflect the ambiance or lack thereof, but also because there is a difference among the score bug and first-down line (that’s literally informational) and any fake crowd noise (that’s literally anti-informational).
    Sidebar–if you didn’t make fake crowd noise for the Freddie Gray game in Baltimore, you shouldn’t make fake crowd noise during COVID-19 either.

    I’m reminded of the Knicks game a few years ago when their sound system malfunctioned and all you could hear on TV (other than the crowd, which is pretty subdued at a Knicks game to begin with) was the actual game – sneakers squeaking, grunting, yelling and calling plays, etc. It was…refreshing. I don’t know if the NBA plans on allowing other teams/staff to watch games from the stands, but if not, I hope they embrace the quieter atmosphere as well and do away with the ubiquitous EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS.

    They can do what they want, I generally turn off the sound on the TV and listen to music in the background, I call it the “bar effect”, my wife isn’t a fan of this but she is usually watching lifetime movies anyway….

    “the wide receiver won’t be jumping into the stands for a Lambeau Leap”

    I respectfully disagree with this particular assertion. Players will see irony of continuing with a celebration that makes no sense without fans and revel in it.

    The idea fake crowd noise is pathetic. Watching the “real” world take more and more cues from the way Vince McMahon runs WWE is honestly depressing. For the uninitiated, Vince McMahon lives in his own bubble, and bends his company’s programming to fit his warped version of reality. This includes lists of prohibited terms that announcers and talent cannot use on the air (including for many years, the term “wrestling”), taping shows and sweetening the crowd noise (including altering fan reactions to certain talents to meet Vince’s own personal agendas and steer the audience to believe certain talents are more popular than they really are), and a total disregard for the “real” world. For example, they have not once acknowledged the pandemic directly on television, instead using blanket terms like “these uncertain times, etc.” Nevermind the fact that their biggest show of the year (Wrestlemania) was moved from a football stadium to their indoor training facility with no fans with no mention of the reason why. Is the reason obvious? Yes, of course. But to ignore it outright is hilariously ignorant. Let’s not even get started about their grossly negligent testing and mask policies that were made public this week.

    In short, it pains me to see real sports contemplating such a distortion of reality. Things clearly are not normal. Pretending they are is ridiculous.

    In looking for something to watch last night, I found the NFL Top 10 Uniforms show from NFL Network, done a few years ago with some guy named Paul Lukas from the UniWatch blog featured prominently.

    In the time since you’ve participated in that program, Paul, would you have any changes to that top 10 List (well, other than removing Pee Wee unis, Cheerleader Unis and Throwbacks as a bucket).

    If you think I can remember what I said in that thing from god knows how many years ago, you have way more faith in my memory than it deserves, Tim!

    Today’s UW lead is a perfect example of Betteridge’s Law: The answer to any headline that ends in a question mark is No.

    “Or if the Weather Channel made the wind sound louder as one of its reporters was reporting on an incoming storm, just for dramatic effect?” In fact they have done it at least twice. One of their reporters was fully bent over “into the wind” during a hurricane broadcast only to have a couple of pedestrians with umbrellas casually walk by in the background. And a second time a reporter was standing in a deep puddle acting as if the flooding was really intense.

    I’m pretty sure NBC, or whoever it is that broadcasts “extreme sports” events like the Dew Tour and X-Games uses fake crowd noise. Every time I watch those (I love skateboarding) the sound of the crowd never matches what I’m seeing on the broadcast. Nor does the crowd reactions match up to the level of difficulty on the screen. Landing a basic set up trick tends to illicit the same response as a run ending big trick.

    Part of what makes me think it’s fake is knowing how it all works. The reason laugh tracks were used in addition to live audiences was because you wouldn’t get the same laugh reaction after the 10th take. So they bolstered the crowds reaction.

    When it comes to sports like skateboarding, there’s a long warm up period, guys practicing between runs to stay loose/warm, and generally, the crowd isn’t as focused on the action, especially during early runs. When crowd reactions at the beginning for some up and comer are the same as the most popular guys run at the end… it doesn’t feel right.

    Of course, I’ve never attended one of these events in person, so I don’t know 100% for sure, being able to compare, but the evidence is there.

    The fake crowds where it’s a camo-type blur I find aesthetically appealing, in the same way that when a 4:3 or vertical video is shown on screen, it’s often bordered by blurred footage of the same video. It fills the empty space and centers your vision to the focus.

    My argument against crowd noise:

    Like, c’mon. We can’t care about the silence that much. Yeah it’d be weird, but we can’t handle that level of weirdness? Just because something is unpleasant, it doesn’t automatically justify fixing it.

    Just stay in the awkward silence. It’s fine. Heck, so much of our collective crappiness in social interactions is because people are afraid of silence. I always thought it a virtue to try and just dwell in silence for a bit.

    I wrote in disappointment yesterday, so I’ll add concurrence today. You are completely correct regarding the artificiality of background crowd noise. A specific non-sports related example of that is late night talk show monologues. They usually have their crowd reactions. But without the reaction of the crowd, as they are broadcast now, they are no less or no more funny than usual. Once the host became accustomed to the need To allow for their own timing, they have adjusted very well.


    Assuming a much shortened season, if someone bats .400 is that a legit .400?

    It appears that they will be playing this season with a DH in all NL games. Is that fair to an NL team that picked up free agents assuming no DH and set their roster accordingly?


    How real is a championship when there is a 4 month hiatus? Teamwork and conditioning has changed. Some injured players who would have been out for the season will be now able to return without the grind of an 80+ game season.

    Horse racing:

    How valid is a Triple Crown when the three races will be run over 3 ½ months instead of 5 weeks?

    And the Belmont is 1 1/8 miles instead of 1/12.

    If a horse sets the track record in the Kentucky Derby doesn’t he have an advantage because he is now 5 months older, i.e. more mature?

    I don’t find this a good faith argument against the crowd noise, especially given some of the counter arguments laid out (which don’t at all represent how I would frame the pro-noise crowd’s thinking). This somewhat begs the question why an argument for the ethical transparency of journalism would be presented in what feels like a really biased way, although I understand this is an op ed and not a critical dissection of both sides (though I would have preferred that).

    1. You would be able to “see” that the crowd noise is fake. Unless the only camera is a birds eye view, no one watching the games now or in the future would be able to miss the empty seats in the stands. Now if they pair it with cutouts maybe they’ll trick some people, but I don’t see how a game would truly trick anyone given the approaches we’ve heard about. It’s also a safe bet that play by play / ads / charity plugs would also make it obvious what was going on at the time of the games. As you mentioned, a simple note about the noise could just be included at the beginning of the game.

    2. Those examples of tweaks to the game for entertainment purposes are certainly not good faith counterpoints. Steroids, snow, let alone changing the actual gameplay all affect competitive elements of the game. That is not an apples to apples comparison with an entertainment argument that is based on only what the audience sees. In that regard, this would be no different than intro music, ESPNs goofy animated shorts, or any other piece of the broadcast that is exclusively to create a more enjoyable viewing experience on tv. To give a much more direct example, this is exactly the same as the PGA using fake bird calls to add ambiance to their broadcasts. Ethical? Again that depends on where you put pro sports on tv on the entertainment/documentary slider – but that’s a wholly different argument than a slippery slope to changing the rules of the game itself.

    3. Similarly, the examples like wind in forecasting or faux clapping at a political debate are far more nefarious than crowd noise if not hyperbolic in comparison. Changing the weather being presented on tv can directly impact the viewers life and what you are describing would be intentionally misleading since there is no acknowledgement of the farce (I also struggle seeing how exaggerating the wind creates a ‘better’ viewing experience for the audience so it also doesn’t feel apples to apples). The political example is the same – crowd noise in that setting does signify something important and something that could change how a viewer thinks/feels about a topic that is actually important, while a low murder in the back of a football game (which would already be visibly fake) likely has no impact on the viewer other than their enjoyment of listening to the broadcast (much like the birds).

    I’m actually anti-crowd noise, since it just raises more questions for me than it solves. This just felt like a half baked rebuttal that leaned into some real bias by using some fallacies and extreme examples. It’s the exact same as that PGA situation so just make that comparison – yes it could be nice if it’s well executed but ultimately it’s plastic and you don’t believe that’s the right approach for something you view as obligated to accurately reflect the environment of the game (since this still has nothing to do with presenting the actual game itself).

    Great rebuttal! I don’t agree with all of it, but I definitely respect and appreciate the rigor and spirit with which it’s presented.

    Also like the use of the term “plastic,” which I wish I had used myself!

    I never watch golf. Can you please tell me more about what happens during PGA broadcasts?

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