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.
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.