“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.
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?