John Madden advises against artificial crowd noise for games without fans

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The best football broadcaster that the NFL has seen has provided some advice to the best football broadcast producer that the NFL has ever seen: Don’t use fake crowd noise.

Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli shared with Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com the suggestion provided by Hall of Fame head coach John Madden, who worked with Gaudelli at NBC and ABC.

“He said, ‘When I first left the coaching profession and went to broadcasting, there was something about it that I just felt was missing and I couldn’t really put my finger on it,'” Gaudelli told Kaplan. “He said, ‘Then I realized that I wasn’t hearing the sound that I had grown accustomed to hearing — as a player and as a coach. I never coached from the box, I coached from the field.’ He said to me, ‘Fred, you’re going to hear things that even you have never heard, so I’d be really trying to figure out how to best capture those sounds, and present them to the audience and not worry as much about artificial sound.'”

Gaudelli explained that conversations with the league regarding the possibility of artificial noise are ongoing.

“If the NFL says, ‘Hey, look, we want our games presented with crowd noise,’ I think they would produce that, what’s called a loop right now or a mix,” Gaudelli told Kaplan. “And then they would distribute that to the broadcaster doing the game, I think, control that so [it doesn’t] get out of hand and get crazy and get wild.”

Bundesliga soccer matches recently have been televised with fake crowd noise. It sounds natural, but it becomes jarring when the audio is matched against video of empty seats.

That may not be an issue for Sunday night games on NBC. Gaudelli said that he is considering asking the league to darken the seats during night games, making it harder to notice that the seats are empty. With or without artificial noise, NFL games could be more visually appealing if the background doesn’t consist of wide swaths of unoccupied chairs.

52 responses to “John Madden advises against artificial crowd noise for games without fans

  1. I agree with John. I think any fake crowd noise counts as being “crazy and wild”.

  2. “…..NFL games could be more visually appealing if the background doesn’t consist of wide swaths of unoccupied chairs.”

    Ummm – why? I grant it will look and feel a bit different, but is the goal to reproduce exactly what an NFL game looks or sounds like, or to just be able to watch the game? Can we not accept that for awhile, this might be the “new normal” for sports events? Or are we too scared of anything that might alter our cherished cultural touchstones? Are we scared of anything that might interrupt our usual TV habits and expectations? Seriously…we need to pipe in crowd noise or cover up empty seats to feel “better” or feel “normal” about watching football in a time of Covid-19?

  3. I agree with Madden. I hope they don’t pipe in fake noise. But if they’re going to, why not use CGI to have fake fans in the stands too?

  4. Just mic up the field and let us actually hear what’s going on for a change, that would be awesome.

  5. How about a luagh track instead for every fumble, interception, runs for no gain, incompletions…and every referee call? LOL! Just kidding…sorta … would be funny…

  6. If it’s only the “sounds of the game” Sunday ticket should offer an unedited feed so we can hear all the trash talk.

  7. I’ve played Madden on the PS4 without “crowd noise” and it’s really eerie and just plain weird. I had to turn it back on even though I knew it was fake.

    I don’t think you guys truly understand how strange the game feels on television without the white noise in the background.

  8. This is a shallow comment. But I think the networks should gauge the mood of the country by opening day. If we’re a nation on the upswing and in a generally good add the noise. If a large portion of Americans are still struggling it may not make sense to act like you’re having a celebration 3 nights a week.

  9. With no crowd noise there should be more mics on the field. It would add an interesting perspective to the game.

  10. Keep it real! Would be great to have a legit listen to players – even if it is R rated.

  11. PLEASE – no fake crowd noise.

    We don’t need it as fans. Play the game. We’ll watch it without the gimmicky fake crowd noise.

  12. I didn’t realize John Madden was still alive! I’m glad. The guy must be enjoying retirement, he’s never seen.

  13. They will be piping in crowd noise to prevent us from hearing all the swearing and “politically incorrect” language that will be emanating from the field. The NFL is probably encouraging piping in the noise, after all they have an image to maintain.

  14. Why not use real virtual noise? Create an app where fans can cheer or boo into their phones and have THAT piped in to the stadium in real time so the teams and the tv audience can hear it. Shouldn’t be too hard to create that. They could even sell virtual tickets for a buck or two a game. Let people send in a picture and digitally render them in their seat. They could have some fun and make some money for the Covid19 relief efforts.

  15. The idea that we could actually hear the real sounds of an NFL play is pretty appealing to me. We’d hear the impact of two 300 pounders crashing into each other. We’d hear the coaches yelling and the players bs-ing. It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the game this way.

  16. Fake crowd noise is letting us, the fan, know that the league and its sponsors know we’re stupid.
    But are they wrong?

  17. I think the fake crowd noise would be annoying, as I would already know it was fake. Every time someone makes a great play and the “crowd” roars it would remind me. Crank up the volume!

  18. Watching football games played with only players and coaches will be
    great. Crowds are distracting for TV viewers and players

  19. Yeah I don’t care for the fake crowd noise, I don’t need that to enjoy the game, as long as it has good commentary.

    What about just blasting some cool action cinematic music during games, lol.

  20. John Madden should come back and work a couple more games. I miss his calls!

  21. What is the point of fake crowd noise? One of the stupidiest idea’s since the booger mobile.

  22. They just need to make an app. People log in and they can broadcast their audio. It’s on a delay, so they can bleep swearing. And broadcast it in the stadium and the players wont be able to hear the other teams calls. It’s so simple it’s stupid!

  23. Why not just go all out? With CGI these days you don’t even need players, or a field.
    Think of the money they could save… “The NFL presents, Season 101, episode 52.”

  24. If they have artificial crowd noise, will it tend to favor the home team? If the away team scores a TD, will it be more silent? Will there be boos?

  25. Imagine Madden up in the booth with no fans in the stands. The players would hear every word he said and they’d spend a lot of time laughing.
    Miss you John!

  26. Agreed with John here.

    Although, I’d gladly welcome an experiment with background NFL Primetime-style music, haha. 😉

  27. T.V. broadcasts have used panoramic shots making it look like stadiums were full when they’re not for years. I don’t see a difference. If it brings a more natural feel to the viewing audience go for it. Teams used to (maybe still do) pump in their own noise years ago even when they had (quiet) fans. This is entertainment John, nothing else.

  28. Just out of curiosity, how will “piped in” crowd noise work?

    Will it be louder when the home team is on defense and softer when the home team is on offense? Will it be even louder in a close game? Will the QB be able to signal to the crowd and reduce the crowd noise?

    Too many variables involved for this to be fair or realistic, as they are looking to do?

  29. It’s not fake crowd noise. It’s real crowd noise, just not from the current game. CGI the crowd with real fans. Again, from a different game. Most of you at home will never know the difference.

  30. I defer to Madden. I don’t like the idea of fake noise anyway. However, how amazing would it be to have the game stand for itself, rather than listening to Buck and Aikman yammer on for hours? Work out the language issue, maybe use a delay, and give us a real treat this year. Bet it will help with the new TV deals…

  31. Who members Madden 92. Thurman Thomas toss left then sweep right. Unstoppable

  32. A comment above made an excellent point about making an unedited feed available for those that are willing to pay. Nascar does it – and you-would-not-believe the things that the drivers and crew chiefs say and its freaking awesome. NFL might be a different animal because i would imagine a particular epithet that is thrown around a 100 times a quarter that makes that idea a little more tricky..

  33. Right on John!
    I don’t need fan noise to know when a great play happens.
    Just like I don’t need a laugh track to know when something is funny.

  34. As a very long time fan of the NFL, give us the games. Let us hear the game noise….i don’t need to hear AC/DC music or people doing the wave, or other stupid piped in things like that.

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