If/when sports return without fans in the stands, one of the most fascinating dynamics will come from having the ability to hear the chatter among players. Unless we won’t.
As explained by David Barron of the Houston Chronicle, via Sports Business Daily, former FOX Sports chairman David Hill believes that networks may consider using fake crowd noise for games without fans — and possibly piping noise into stadiums and arenas. (The Falcons possibly have a patent pending.)
“I don’t see why not,” Hill said of the possibility. “As for the purists who would say, ‘How dare they?’, every sitcom you’ve seen over the last 25 years has had a laugh track. The public is used to it. Did people not watch Seinfeld because there was a laugh track?”
Well, The Office didn’t use a laugh track. Curb Your Enthusiasm doesn’t use one. Parks and Recreation didn’t use one. Ditto for Veep, Modern Family, My Name is Earl, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the list goes on and on. Literally.
Regardless, Hill envisions networks that televise sports putting “in applause and cheers and pipe that through the sound system, and you would add the guy playing the organ and mix it in, and if you shot it the right way and shot it tight, you wouldn’t notice.”
It would have to be shot so tight that people wouldn’t see the empty stands. Which would not be easy to do for most sports, and the shots would be so tight at times that it would be hard to follow the action.
If games are going to be played without fans, why not just go with the sounds that come from the field, the court, the rink, etc? Anyone watching will know why there’s no crowd noise, and everyone who hears the fake crowd noise will know it’s fake.
Laugh tracks are there for the dumb-dumbs who don’t know when the punchline to a joke otherwise has arrived, or in some cases to make something that isn’t really funny seem that way. Sports fans will know when to react and what to react to. Thus, networks that respect the intelligence of their audiences may decide to trust them to know how to feel about a given play or development without hearing what a fake crowd has to think about the situation.