John Madden advises against artificial crowd noise for games without fans

Sport

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.