Why So LOUD at Hockey and Baseball Games?

“Make some noise!” screams the flashing banner around the Barclay Center. Recorded electronic drums pound into our chests and the din is deafening. I can’t hear or speak with the people right next to me.

But as soon as the amplified drums and flashing lights stop, the arena is quiet. Once again, I hear the sounds I enjoy at a hockey game:
– Skates on ice
– The click of the sticks hitting the puck
– Bodies crashing into the boards
– The little stepwise organ figures (my husband used to play organ occasionally for the  New Haven Nighthawks, a farm team connected with the North Stars, Rangers, Islanders, and LA Kings).

When did it all start getting so LOUD?

I don’t actually know the answer historically. (Maybe some of you readers can help me out on this.)

But the same thing is happening at baseball games.

It’s fun to welcome batters to home plate with their favorite songs, but not when it feels like an assault.  Why are sports promoters and teams resorting to such artificial forms of “excitement”? They don’t trust that what happens naturally will be enough.  They pump up the volume the same way inexperienced rock bands do when they don’t yet play well, but can at least play loud.

We are all being conditioned to expect an over-the-top volume level as a substitute for real excitement.  Instead of a real feeling of a unified fan experience, we get this sonic artificial flavoring which doesn’t really satisfy.

This past season, we attended baseball games at both Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park.  Gotta hand it to the Phillies on this one, even though I’m a Mets fan.  The Philly fan engagement worked better and the volume levels were much more comfortable than at Citi Field. Result: more fun.

In many areas of sensory perception, there is a bell-shaped curve that describes how enjoyable a sensation is.  As the sensation becomes stronger, it is more pleasurable up to a point, after which it becomes less and less enjoyable. The black line shows how overall enjoyment changes as the volume grows louder.

 

Bell Curve 1

The overall volume at many games is probably also an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation for people who work in those settings because of the potential for lasting damage to hearing.

From the  OSHA website:
Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear. More exposure will result in more dead nerve endings. The result is permanent hearing loss that cannot be corrected by surgery or medicine.

This is not a trivial matter. Hearing loss is socially isolating and is a risk factor for dementia in later life. (Hearing loss linked to dementia)

A lifetime spent in overly noisy social environments can set us up for very quiet senior moments (or tinnitus, which is the worst of both worlds, a ringing in the ears combined with poor hearing of sounds we’d want to hear).

I’d love to see owners, venues, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball,  take protection of hearing seriously. (If this is already happening to some extent, please write in and let me know. Let’s happily give credit where it’s due!)

More reasonable volume levels mean that you can talk with the person next to you and joke with fans in front or behind you. When we can’t do that, I’ll be far less interested in attending the games.

Part of what is fun about sports is the experience of being a fan with other fans.  Overly loud volume levels work against the sense of connection with players, teams, and other fans, that builds loyalty.

What’s your experience with this? Do loud volume levels at public events bother you or do they add to your sense of excitement?

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Feeling Tremendous Nerditude?

In our virtual worlds, we know more data about each other, but less about how to be with each other than ever before.

 

Younger people are often miles ahead of their elders in their ability to text, email, and use social media.  But relating to people through a screen is not the same as being together in person.  It can be a challenge to learn how to meet and connect with new people face-to-face!

Figuring out who we are within ourselves, and who we are with others, are major tasks of adolescence and young adulthood to begin with. (And even after all these years, I often have to psych myself up before going into a room full of strangers and beginning to get to know some of them!)  So it’s no surprise that any of us can run into high anxiety when it’s time to get together.  Picture a large group of uncomfortable people in a room = we are totally lovely human beings, feeling tremendous nerditude.

So awkward cartoon

Meanwhile, what is our image of a roaring good time?  Movies, videos, and models of social behavior from the rock generation often imply that in order to have a really great time, you need to “lose it” in some way.  What is the “it” that you’re trying to lose?  The awkward separate-ness?  That feeling of nerditude?  Does the desire to let loose combust into “extreme” behavior?  However we identify it, lovely human beings often come into social situations expecting that they need to be loaded in order to have a really good time.  This can affect anyone of any age, but is especially worrisome in younger people.

 

When parents, teachers, administrators, and health personnel see binge-drinking, drug use, and casual “hooking up,” their natural response is to say “Stop it!”

Stop_Sign_clip_art_hight

“Stop drinking!”  “Stop using drugs!”  “Stop having sex!”  This is totally understandable, and sometimes it works, but problems remain.  “Just saying NO”  doesn’t help someone learn what to say “YES” to.

The more intriguing fundamental question is “What makes it FUN?”

 

 

The need for fun and for social connection among people is part of our basic nature as human beings.  It is not going away. We may like our electronic toys and enjoy using technology, but relatively few of us actually prefer to live as nerds (defined primarily by a set of technical abilities combined with a lack of social skills).  We would greatly prefer to be loving, well-loved, socially successful individuals with awesome computer skills!

 

Learning what makes it fun on the most basic human level is the most pro-survival thing we can do.  In order to get through this next phase of human history without destroying our environment, we’re going to need to be able to connect with people who are very different from ourselves.  One of our best moves is to learn how to have healthy fun with as many different kinds of people as possible.  We’re not denying our inner nerditude, we’re claiming our ability to connect with and enjoy a wider and wider circle of people.  All our computer skills will help, all our personal abilities will help,  we can have fun in both new and old ways, and we’ll stand a better chance of solving big problems.

There are a million reasons to be interested in these questions, from the most local to the most global, from the most mundane to the loftiest, from the drunk college kids next door to the international groups we don’t yet know or understand.

 

So let’s keep asking ourselves:  What makes it FUN?

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What was your favorite sentence from this post?

Did you find yourself strongly agreeing or disagreeing with anything here?  (I’m serious – I’m looking for feedback on this – it’s an excerpt from a much longer piece.  Thanks!)

 

Copyright 2017 Ginny Bales