“Noises Off” was the name of a popular play in Britain in the 1980s. “Noises On” would be more appropriate for what is going in modern America, most notably in football stadiums. Today is Sunday, which means more professional football, which means more ear-splitting noise, and hearing loss, for those in attendance.
Any enthusiastic crowd at a sports event is going to generate some serious decibels. But that used to be for short periods, and mostly related to when someone on the home team does something good, such as catch a touchdown pass, hit a home run, score a goal.
No more. Today it’s noise for noise’s sake, as fans are encouraged — by the league, the franchise and each other — to be loud. Not just loud, but as loud as they can be. So loud that the ground shakes and the eardrums hurt. The screaming becomes a game in itself — with noise levels measured and decibel records aimed for.
And the fans try to become part of the game, creating such a din that the visiting team can’t hear the signals and is forced into penalties. Never mind that it’s unsportsmanlike, and that your team will get the same treatment in the next city. You have become important — no longer a mere spectator but a player, in a sense.
Except that it comes at the expense of one of your senses: hearing. Experts say hearing damage starts at 85-90 decibels. The level at the Seattle
Seahawks stadium, where a group of fans calls itself The 12th Man (so helpful are they to the 11 Seahawks on the field), is in the mid-130s. That’s somewhere between a jet takeoff and an aircraft carrier flight deck.
The Seahawks are one of the best teams in football, with the best record, 11-1. Now that’s an accomplishment. Making the most noise is not. It doesn’t take any talent, just a strong set of lungs and a disregard for the damage it’s doing to your, and everyone else’s, hearing.
Football stadiums, of course, are not the only noisy places in America. The sound levels at rock concerts, movie theaters, bars and restaurants are often needlessly, and dangerously, high. But football games is where the problem is most visible, and audible. It’s irresponsible of the league and teams to encourage such noise fests, and stupid of fans to participate in them.