Joe Buck mentioned it a little while ago, and now it sounds like it really is going to happen.
As we’ve talked about what baseball could look like in this fan-free environment, our focus has primarily been on ways that the TV broadcast can more intimately and excitingly connect fans to the players and the game. Since there won’t be crowd noise or the ability to be there intimately, maybe that means you allow for more natural sounds from the game and more intimate camera views. And from there, the mind can wander about the fun stuff that producers could put together.
But the rub, apparently, from TV execs who’ve been observing baseball as it returned in South Korea, is that it is simply too jarring to the viewer to watch a game without ambient crowd noise. And many think that means the fake noise is coming:
Get used to the idea of artificial crowd noise getting pumped into games this year, several TV execs told me. SBJ's story:https://t.co/AIYTFIXouX
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) May 25, 2020
The sounds – which could vary from sport to sport and broadcast to broadcast and stadium to stadium – would be piped in with an attempt to make it sound as authentic as possible, including depending on the moment in the game.
For me, after years of TV evolving to ditch the laugh track, I cannot tell you how annoying and unpleasantly quaint it is for me when I see a show featuring a laugh track. I’m not sure the crowd noise thing would be exactly the same, since we ARE used to there being crowd sounds, but I definitely call myself dubious. Especially if it means we would lose some of what might have made the environment kinda cool (particularly more mic’d up players, and more sounds directly from the field).
On the flip side, I suppose I do recognize this possibility, from the SBJ piece:
Orlins, a 32-year ESPN production veteran, was appalled when he first heard the idea that some network executives were thinking about using fake crowd noise during telecasts to make up for a lack of fans.
Then ESPN picked up rights to carry the Korean Baseball Championship.
“My opinion on that evolved,” Orlins said.
For Orlins, it took two innings of watching his first Korean game to convince him that light crowd noise was necessary, even if it is not an authentic way to show a game from an empty stadium. He described it as “disorienting,” “stark” and “jarring” to watch baseball with no crowd noise.
“If I take away my philosophies about being authentic and just go with my human emotion, it was pretty clear to me that a little bit of sound can be added in there,” Orlins said.
I also recognize, as the SBJ piece discusses, that players, themselves, might want the fake noise piped into the parks, since they’re so used to it. I guess I’d definitely want the players’ position taken into account, though for the most part, I guess I’m just hoping that TV execs and producers have been hard at work prepping some really incredible content opportunities for if games return. We’ve known for months now that it would be fan-free, so I would like to think they have some great ideas. Maybe it can be a part-time thing? I don’t know. I’m not a TV exec. Knock me over with some great ideas to simultaneously address the “stark” and “jarring” nature of no fans, but without it sacrificing what else could be done.