Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fake Crowd Noise

The World Series starts tonight. Congrats to the Dodgers and Rays (one of the great classic rivalries in sports). 

People ask me what I think about the fake crowd noise in sporting events now that spectators are not allowed in stadiums or arenas.  

As a viewer I find the crowd noise WEIRD.  Especially in baseball and football where you see the empty grandstands in almost every shot.   Where are all these people?  It’s the same argument I always made (in vain) to CBS about the laugh track on MASH.  Are there bleachers on the chopper pad?  

Basketball and hockey are easier to accept because the action focuses on the court or ice and you can forget that they’re playing to the camera only.  

But as an announcer, I would so welcome the fake crowd noise if I were calling a game, especially just calling it over the TV.  Without a crowd it just sounds dead.

I was broadcasting a Mariners game from Cleveland a few years ago on the radio.  It was a make-up game the end of the season.  So it wasn’t on the schedule, it started at 4:00 pm, both teams had already been eliminated, and huge thunderstorms were expected to drench the area.  Needless to say, nobody came to the game.  If there were 2,000 people I’d be surprised.   In one of my innings the Mariners scored ten runs.  There were triples and stolen bases and capped off with a grand slam home run.  

After the game we were flying to Texas.  I asked the engineer if he would email me an mp3 of that inning.  I thought it would be a fun keepsake.  You don’t usually get to call ten run innings.  

When I got to my room in Texas it was waiting for me in my inbox.  I listened to it and was horrified.  It sounded like I recorded it in my living room watching the TV with the sound down.  There was NO crowd noise at all.  None.  I’d say crickets but not even that.   What should have been an exciting inning was C-Span.  And the fact that I sounded so excited (after all, fun things were happening) make me appear like an idiot.

So the crowd noise psychologically helps the announcer get into it.  It’s like a singer who would much prefer a band behind him.   On TV it’s still weird to watch, but on radio you can really suspend belief.  

What they need though is the sound of people doing the wave. 


BillS said...

When the soccer season resumed here in England, the games were shown with a choice of real ( none ) or fake crowd noise. Somebody on the radio compared it to watching MASH with or without the laugh track. The fake noise misses the anticipatory noise that builds up to a roar or just fades away.

Glenn said...

As a Patriots fan who followed Brady's excellence for 20 years, I'd kind of like to see the Rays win. Imagine Tom now playing for a city where both the hockey team and baseball team have won titles. No pressure.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised the fake crowd noises didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. The Cardinals used a more muted sound with it rising when a good play happened. I don't remember which team it was, but one team had it too loud and too 'cheery' on every play...even the opposition. Just weird.

Pam, St. Louis.

Mike Barer said...

About the only sports that I've really watched lately have been the Seahawks. The games have been such cliffhangers that I barely notice the lack of crowd noise.

Bob Paris said...

I like the crowd noise when it is balanced properly. There have been a few games where the crowd noise has been so loud that you could not hear the announcers. This happened two nights in a row and I was surprised that there weren't enough complaints so that it would be corrected for the second night. I first experienced "the wave" at a soccer game during the 1984 Olympics. Fun once or twice, but a pain-in-the-ass ever since.

. said...

I saw one of the first crowd waves at a Purdue-Michigan football game. That particular wave noise would not have helped you announce the game.

After a few very noisy waves during the rather drab drubfest, U of M coach Bo Schembechler was handed a live microphone and told us to shut up. Now. NOW! His team was being threatened with a delay-of-game penalty by the refs. Bo being Bo, the crowd did exactly what it was told.

The next several waves were surreal - not a sound but for the rustling of around 100,000 winter coats rising up and down in perfect unison.

I’ll never forget it. Around and around that giant bowl, 100,000 people stood-then-sat while making nothing but a whooooosh.sound. Bo didn’t say anything about that.

Bob Ufer was the Michigan radio announcer then. His style was not like yours (heard your San Diego Padres game calls), nor like any other human. I always wondered how he called that whooooosh. I doubt he said it was like watching MASH from the inside of a white noise machine.

DwWashburn said...

There will be fans in the stands for the World Series as there were for the NLCS. Texas has much looser rules on crowd gathering and social distancing than California did for the ALCS. However there will only be about 10,000 people in the stands (the same as a minor league game). Surprisingly, though, the fake crowd noise inserted by Fox for the NLCS was much more annoying than the noise inserted by TBS for the ALCS. Texas and Fox -- what a combination!

Michael said...

A couple of things ....

One is that the announcers used to recreate road games and therefore had to work without crowd noise. The approach of Red Barber, mentor to "Young Scully" and therefore grandfather of them all, was to let the listeners hear the ticker so they knew he wasn't at the game and wasn't faking anything. Most used crowd noises, etc. Lindsey Nelson got his national start on the Liberty Broadcasting System, which did recreations and first sent people to the parks to record the noise so you would hear, say, the Ebbets Field PA man (the incomparable Tex Ricketts, who once said, "A little boy has been found lost"), or the kinds of noise made at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. And as Lindsey said, there might be 300 people at a Cubs game on a Tuesday, but they could make it sound like 30,000. And that was and is radio.

The other is that I wanted to say what a great job Joe Davis, who I refer to as Our Young Man, did on Fox for Game 7. I'm not a member of the Hate Joe Buck Club, and I think he's a fine broadcaster. But Buck does very little baseball during the regular season, and it shows. I wish we could go back to ye olden days when the team announcers did the games.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I notice as a joke, Jimmy Kimmel's actually been using canned laughter from the 60s and 70s on his show lately. I've been using such canned laughter on my original work for years now, with perhaps a decent example I can include is this:


But, I must confess, with some exceptions, I prefered canned audience reaction to live audience reaction, if only because often times, live audience reactions can get out of hand, which is something we've all discussed ont his blog before. Like the audience going wild whenever Fonzie or Kramer enter the scene, for example . . . and one thing I've noticed about some North American programs shot in front of live audiences is that some are prone to a lot of prolonged, "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" cheering; WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? was notorious for this, as was 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN. That can get annoying after a while.

Todd Everett said...

I think the clearly fake crowd noise on Jeopardy sort of helps. On the other hand, I don’t much miss a crowd reaction on Millionaire.

Generally, I’m against laugh tracks. It’s the deep state, taking away our freedom to laugh when we choose. I have a note from a nonexistent government bureau that exempts me.

Mike Doran said...

Semi-Irrelevant Anecdote:

I remember hearing an old-time radio actor - Hal Peary, if memory serves - telling of how a show he was doing had a small group present to provide background crowd noise, known in the trade as 'walla-walla'.
That's the murmuring sound when a major plot development has popped up, and the crowd "reacts" - we've heard it all our lives.
So anyway, they're doing the show, and the director tells the crowd people (who likely weren't actors) to come in on his signal and "make walla-walla".
So they're on the air, the Event Happens, the director gives the cue -
- and the crowd chants in perfect unison, "Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla ..."

Those Were The Days, My Friend ...

Anonymous said...

What gets me is how anyone can be appalled when the entertainment business does something "fake" when actors are pretending to be someone else (often brilliantly), second units show us stand-ins instead of actors, CG shows cartoons instead of those actors and musicals have long used ghosts singers instead of actors. There is nothing wrong with that, folks. The soundstage is dark before it is lit, it needs fake sun. There is an orchestra playing that isn't there. Who cares about laugh tracks if the show is good?

Entertainment is as synthetic as it was 70 years ago. "Breaking character" is often contrived (watch SNL). Audiences go oooh, aaah and most recently woooooooooooooooooo because someone tells them to. Radio did it. Maybe the stage and vaudeville was more "honest" but I've been at some recent "con" and similar event panels with people behind me connected with the people onstage, all together, all laughing while others around them are silent. I've been to conferences with seeded questions. It's all show biz.

What matters is if it is good. Bewitched was a great show, especially in its prime. Who cares when the audience was really laughing? The real question is whether Kimmel is earning his laughs and his paycheck.

Mr. Teach said...

Time to have another engineer add appropriate crowd noise to your old Mariners recording, Ken!

Jim said...

Wheel Of Fortune also uses fake crowd noises now. I have to laugh when Pat Sajak cautions the non-existent audience to “Please be quiet” and not shout out the answer during the Bonus Round at the end of the show.

Steve S said...

Kenneth Tynan, on hearing The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson did not use a laugh track: "In an age when canned hilarity has all but usurped the viewer's right to an autonomous sense of humor, it is reassuring to read a statement like that."

Buttermilk Sky said...

Mike Doran, the way I heard it was, extras would be told to simulate crowd murmuring by saying "rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb." The Goon Show on the BBC had a lot of fun with that.

I'm not bothered by the fake fan noise at baseball games, but those cardboard cutouts behind home plate are downright creepy. Who thought that was a good idea?

Troy McClure said...

A heads-up for two sitcom reunion fundraisers for Democrats.

The good cast members of Happy Days (i.e. not Scott Baio) are getting together for a live streamed fundraiser on Sunday for Wisconsin.

Seinfeld stars are reuniting on Friday for Texas Democrats.

gottacook said...

Since Jeopardy! resumed, I don't believe anyone is pretending there's an audience, and furthermore I'd presume that Johnny Gilbert is no longer appearing in person for the afternoon tapings (i.e., the Thursday and Friday episodes). But the show would be weird with no applause - or with applause coming from a tiny audience of socially distanced family members and friends. In any case, they clearly hired a pro to provide the fake audience.

Unknown said...

How about some audio clips of that inning?

TimWarp said...

I read about the Kirstie Allie tweet and wondered about your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

Jim S said...

Saw the Sunday game where the Dodgers beat the Braves. Strange to see the stadium filled with a few thousand people. I guess there were enough to make actual noise, but I could think was "they should all be wearing masks."

Friday question - Mookie Betts, wow, what do you think?

Sean said...

"Alas, I've broken off long term relationships over this."...Dude.

Ken please consider chilling out. Politics is not worth losing relationships.


Mike Bloodworth said...

This is just my twisted sense of humor, but why not have some fun with the background sound? e.g. How about jungle sounds? Or frogs or battle noises, canned laughter, rutting pigs, etc?

Didn't Tampa Bay used to be called the "Devil Rays?" What happened? Did they change the name because it offended Satanists?

What does "the wave" sound like? wAVewAVewAVEwaVe.

This is a big test for Clayton Kershaw. Assuming The Rays don't cheat this will show once and for all if Kershaw can win in the playoffs. He didn't do so well in the NLCS.

Ken, any thoughts on Cody Ballinger injuring himself giving a high-five?

I wonder if Ken's standard applies to sports teams as well. "I won't work with anyone that roots for..." "Don't read my blog if you're a (fill in the blank) fan!" "Everyone that wears a (...) jersey is evil." Etc., etc.


Troy McClure said...

Sean, would you want to stay friends with someone who loves Hitler? Same thing.

Anonymous said...

@ Jim:
Was that the Purdue Michigan game where Purdue had Danielson, Otis Armstrong and Stingley?
They would have won had Armstrong not slipped on the Tartan Turf at the Michigan 5 year line. Right in front of me
They would have gone to the Rose Bowl.

Lemuel said...

"The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd".

Jeff Boice said...

I remember watching a USFL playoff game that went 3 overtimes, which is and remains the longest football game ever played. I just couldn't get into the game, because it featured the L.A. Express, was played at the Coliseum, and there were only about 10,000 fans in attendance, meaning the old Coliseum was deserted. So I understand why the networks use fake crowd cheering.

But Bill S. is right- in the fake crowd noise you don't hear that anticipatory buzz a real crowd makes. Although it was fun when the fake Philadelphia crowd booed the Eagles earlier this year.

Anonymous said...

Buster Keaton Woodland Hills home demolished?


Unknown said...

But Fox needs to turn down the fake crowd so that their announcers can actually be heard

Anonymous said...

1. Lemuel (wished he) said...
"The Roar of the Pre-tape, a Shell of a Crowd".

2. Slightly less on topic, Tony Lewis, of The Outfield, has died


From Wikipedia
Several years afterward, the three [mrmbers] gathered back together in London's East End under the name The Baseball Boys. They performed in and around England until a demo got them signed to Columbia/CBS Records in 1984.

[Songwriter-singer] Spinks adopted the name 'Baseball Boys' from a teen gang called "The Baseball Furies" in the cult film The Warriors, a movie that he had just seen. Although he used the name as a joke and "just to be outrageous", record company people responded favourably. The band got a reputation as a very "American-sounding" group and signed in the US after playing for just a few months in England. Their manager, an American living in England, recommended a new band name with a similar attitude since 'Baseball Boys' seemed too "tacky" and "tongue-in-cheek". Spinks has said, "The Outfield was the most left-wing kind of thing we liked."

Spinks expressed an interest for the American sport of baseball, while also being a devoted fan of football. He claimed that the group "didn't know what an outfield was" until they visited the US, and that "We're just learning about baseball. It's an acquired taste and we're trying to acquire a taste for it." He expounded upon this in a Chicago Tribune piece:

The thing about American sports – baseball and football – is that they're far more show business, far more a spectacle, than British sports. In England, it's just sort of everyday soccer matches. You get 30,000 people in the freezing cold in the middle of winter watching guys chase around in mud. In America, you have the sunny days, and the baseball diamond is really nicely laid out. In England, you'd see these guys covered in mud within 10 minutes. It's not such a nice spectacle to watch.”


Their greatest hit- a music industry home run:

JED said...

Perhaps with the need for crowd noise that is "better" than the ones they are using now, voice over artists can find new work by creating more professional sounding tracks.

In his day, Mel Blanc could have done the who crowd himself.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Congratulations Ken, Dodgers in the 'Series again (3 of 4 years). After the Braves knocked him out of the box, Kershaw was pretty much unhittable last night.

Sorta off-topic but are you pleased that they have 10,000 fans in the stands?

I sure am. Was I "hearing things" last night? Faint boos in reaction to pickoff moves?

The WAVE - when was a last time you (anyone reading) saw the wave?

mike schlesinger said...

Put me down as another "yes" vote for canned audience reaction: "Weakest Link" even uses groans and chuckles for some of Jane Lynch's zingers. And the season premiere of "The Conners" had crew laughter sweetened to sound like a regular audience. Maybe it's because I'm old and grew up in the era of canned laughter on sitcoms, but I'll take a fake audience over silence any day of the week.

Skill Sets said...

Somewhere up there Charley Douglass is smiling while hitting keys on his laff box!