Simulated crowd noise for NFL broadcasts has been done before

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There’s been plenty of talk recently about the possibility that networks will add artificial crowd noise to NFL games played without fans, a laugh track of sorts so that viewers apparently will know when to cheer, boo, hiss, whatever.

If it happens, it won’t be the first time.

While looking for a link to the broadcast of the 1972 Dolphins-Vikings game mentioned in the item regarding Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant’s belief that the NFL should name a trophy after the late Don Shula, I found a link to one of the halftime highlight packages that helped make Monday Night Football so special in the 1970s.

In those days, there was no way to see highlights of all games. At most, you’d get to watch clips from the closest team geographically on the local news (but that game was always televised locally, anyway). It was impossible to see video from any of the games that weren’t shown on TV in a given market.

Enter Howard Cosell. ABC would show, and Cosell would narrate, highlights from some of Sunday’s games.

Here’s Week 13 of the 1972 season. The eight-minute package (featuring only six of the 12 games from the prior day) had obvious white noise that would become louder and quieter based on the action. Strangely, the crowd noise ignored the realities of home-field advantage. For every big play, the sound technician cranked it up — even when the road team made a great play.

The same technique was still used in 1974. Week Two included with highlights from five of the Sunday games, capped with the first ever overtime tie game in NFL history: Steelers 35, Broncos 35 after 75 minutes of action.

The tactic remained in use in 1977. The highlights included obvious fake noise, not actual audio from the games, to enhance the halftime highlights. Ditto for 1978. And 1979.

It finally changed in 1980, with some sort of music replacing the artificial noise. Still, for most of a decade, ABC used blatantly fake crowd noise to enhance the Monday night highlight packages from Sunday’s games. And either no one noticed or no one cared.

Or, perhaps more accurately, no one had Twitter.

19 responses to “Simulated crowd noise for NFL broadcasts has been done before

  1. I wonder if they’ll pipe in “boos” when there are crappy ref no calls on PI?

  2. charger383 says:
    May 21, 2020 at 1:01 pm
    Games with dead silence would be fun to watch on TV

    I completely agree with you. I fear, however, that the announcers will use this opportunity to talk over the game even more than usual. Why can’t they just call the game as minimally as possible. I’m so sick of hearing overused phrases like, “We talked about this during warmups,” or “We talked about this at this week’s practice…” I don’t care when the announcers “talked” about it. I don’t need that part of the information. Can’t they just keep their yaps shut, let a play run, the when the team breaks the huddle for the next play, they can say something like, “Second and eight at their 47?” Really, nothing else is needed.

  3. Like a sitcom without a laugh track you’ll realize the NFL without the hype of a live crowd is just an open practice.

  4. Just leave it silent.


    Get rid of the announcers and sideline reporters too.

  5. Beggars can’t be choosers, so if we get football back for the fall I’m willing to deal with canned crowd noise or complete silence– it’ll take getting used to either way.

    Another oddity will be the “in stadium experience” without fans. Think about the soundtrack each team seems to have and play to get the crowed fired up, or the “make some noise!”graphics on jumbotrons and LED boards flashing team colors to get the crowd going. No crowd reaction after the ref announces the result of a replay, etc.– not experiencing that (even from a tv in your livingroom) is going to be strange.

  6. Using 1970’s highlights to try to make the case that the NFL has used canned crowd noise during games is weak.

    These were halftime highlights that included no sound from the game whose highlight was being shown but had added music and Howard Cosell narrating as well as some crowd for effect.

  7. In the late 80s and early 90s, one of the first highlight shows, The George Michael Sports Machine (Sunday nights, NBC) used to drop out the play by play commentators and overlay crowd noise cheering to their highlight packages.

  8. Crowd noise for packaging highlights is accepted – crowd noise for actual games is not. There’s no comparison.

    The article did remind me of the hilariously packaged segments on the Sports Challenge game show hosted by Dick Enberg. Crowd noise was added, Enberg would be the “live announcer” for every highlight from every sport, sideline camera angles used in post-production were pretending to be “live”…even back then when I was kid, I realized how wonderfully phony it was. And, of course, the fact that after Enberg would show a highlight to pose a question, that question invariably had almost nothing to do with the actual highlight shown. Check it out of youtube. As I say, hilarious.

  9. Two major differences:

    1) were not idiots like they were in the 70’s


    2) those stadiums had people in them, so the noise could be plausible. We know the stadiums will be empty so where is the noise coming from?

    Stupid idea.

  10. Simulated crowd noise for a TV broadcast is different from teams that pipe in crowd noise to their stadiums.

    The Vikings have done it for over 30 years. Dennis Green has since admitted to knowing about it and says it was also done before and after his time in Minnesota. I am not sure of the facts about the Colts, but I know the Pats complained about the possibility a few times in the past.

  11. Every notice how the ‘go pack go’ chant was incredibly louder since the packers updated their speaker system? I did.

  12. It is completely silly, stupid, to watch a game with empty seats and have to listen to crowd noise. Totally amateur. Saturday morning cartoon style.

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