Friday, October 28, 2011

Excessive Crowd Noise is Not Good for Football

There is something special about the deafening roar of the crowd when something big happens at a football game. The feel of the crowd and the sense that you are part of something so huge, so immense is electrifying. The game played in places like Michigan Stadium shown above have enriched the lives of countless fans.

When Crowd Noise Gets Out of Hand

Nevertheless, something needs to be done to mitigate the advantage to home teams because of crowd noise in domed stadiums. It's one thing for a crowd to roar outdoors, but it is something quite different in a dome where noise levels can register just below that of a jet engine. The NFL has wrested with ways to deal with crowd noise--at one time legislating against certain club behaviors that increase noise levels only to come back and relax those later.

After the Bears had 9 false starts against the Detroit Lions, the following week the Lion's opponent, San Francisco, racked up five in the same place--Ford Field--and that was after practicing all week with huge loudspeakers blaring at the players.

Even outdoor crowd noise can play a huge role. Penn State acoustical tests performed in Beaver Stadium (the largest college stadium in the U.S.) demonstrated important considerations. As one might expect, the tests measured that sound levels dropped considerably when the home team conducted offensive plays and then rose when the visitors had the ball. More importantly, the study demonstrated that the home team’s quarterback could communicate with other players up to 20 feet away while the visiting team’s quarterback is limited to communications ranges of less than 2 feet. In other words, the guard might hear the signal, but no way the tackles or ends would.

An English study showed that not only does crowd noise give the home team a playing advantage in sports, it is also likely to influence officiating in favor of the home team. Officials are swayed by loud crowd reactions to their calls.

Allowing the natural ebb and flow of enthusiasm in a game is one thing, but it's something else to build indoor stadiums that are acoustically engineered to increase sound levels. The game is meant to be enjoyed and it should be played on a something that at least resembles a "level playing field."

When teams routinely practice with jet engine noises are amplified over loud speakers, doesn't it suggest that things are just a "little" out of hand?


Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith; Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books.

Photo of Michigan Stadium

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