The debate over the audio from fan-free games has focused on two choices: Ambient noise or artificial sound. The NBA is looking at a potential middle ground.
In an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explains that the NBA may try a system for letting fans at home channel noise into the empty Orlando arena where games are due to be played.
“[T]here will be a lot of technology we will be experimenting with to try to introduce noise and make the event more entertaining for players and TV viewers,” Cuban said. “We have been having a lot of fun with apps that allow fans to push noise they make at home into the arena. So not only will there be competition on the court, there will be competition from fans to contribute energy as well.”
That’s an easier thing to do with all NBA teams playing at neutral-site games. For NFL teams, a system would be necessary to accurately and fairly process the noise being supplied remotely and translate it to the right volume that would be piped through stadium speakers. Surely, there will be complaints that some stadiums are louder than others, that they are louder than they would be if fans were present, and/or that some fan bases are getting credit for noise they’re not actually generating.
Whatever the NFL does, the outcome will have a competitive impact. The absence of crowd noise in the stadium will make it easier for visiting offenses to operate. The use of artificial crowd noise will make it harder. And determining which team gets to use how much noise will be the hardest to define, and potentially to enforce.