IN THE WAKE of the Southeastern Conference's brouhaha over rooster crows and AC/DC clamoring, I have a solution for all sports at all levels: NO MORE ARTIFICIAL NOISE! EVER!
The old joke about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out, well, it has changed. Now you go to a rock concert, and a football, basketball, baseball or hockey game plays out in the background. The constant attacks on eardrums at sporting events have gotten out of hand.
Speech therapists across the country should be manning stadium exits and handing out business cards. The more sporting events one attends these days, the more likely one is to have hearing problems down the road. Trust me, you're going to need that business card.
If it is not the never-ending attempt to interject LOUD music into every possible moment of silence, it is the senseless and ceaseless imploring of fans to clap, Cheer, MAKE SOME NOISE! that drives me nuts.
Even public address announcers have gotten into the act. What once was a service to keep fans informed has been reduced to another form of cheerleading. "That's another Carolina . . . FIRST DOWN!" "Here comes a big THIRD DOWN!" Please. Tell me something I do not know, and whisper it.
The average Frank and Francis Fan cannot simply sit, watch, and appreciate the game any more. During every break, the public address announcer is screaming about another contest on the field, another big donor honored at the 30-yard line, another field goal attempt sponsored by the 3-point special at Dave's Deli and Barbecue.
Are fans really so ill-informed that they have to be told when to cheer? When I attend games as a spectator, I never, ever cheer when some scoreboard or video board tells me it is time to STAND UP AND CHEER. I will show my appreciation for any and all outstanding plays, but I am not following the lead of someone sitting behind a computer in the press box.
Fans have become to sporting events what laugh tracks are to TV sitcoms. Football fans are not motivated enough to cheer at important points in the game, so "producers" at games attempt to force them to scream.
Whatever happened to spontaneous applause? At the old Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, basketball coach Everett Case hung an applause meter. For decades, the louder the old barn got, the higher the lights on the meter climbed. The noise was fan-generated, and the meter reacted to the cheering. Brilliant.
Ah, the good old days, back when players were introduced at basketball games with a single spotlight in a darkened arena. These days you get a high-tech production that I can't begin to describe, other than to say it makes me want to leave, go home and watch the game on TV with the mute button close at hand.
In case you missed any South Carolina basketball games a season ago -- and obviously many of you did -- the athletics department hired a disc jockey to enhance the atmosphere, I guess, during timeouts. USC is not alone. Clemson has one, too.
Maybe it is just me. I much preferred dancing girls and the pep band. But pep bands and marching bands have been pushed aside. It used to be special at many basketball arenas to watch teams warm up to the pep band playing "Sweet Georgia Brown." Now we have to cover our ears as "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas blares over the AWFULLY, AWFULLY LOUD SPEAKERS during layup lines. It makes me want to give the video-board operator a black eye ... and a hearing aid that he will need some day.
At baseball games, the traditional organ has been replaced by synthesized sounds so ear-splitting it can hardly be called music. With the advent of video boards the size of small hotels and sound systems that make the noise produced at NASCAR races seem insignificant, football games have become decibel-busters.
As bad as the noise is at USC and Clemson football games, it is nowhere near the deafening levels produced at Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech is off the charts. The music was so loud at Grant Field earlier this season, a normal conversation with folks sitting shoulder to shoulder in the press box -- probably 100 yards from the sound system -- was impossible. Many reporters retreated to the enclosed lounge behind the press box until kickoff because they could not hear themselves think.
The piped-in noise was far greater than the actual sound of cheering and screaming from fans. The atmosphere could not have been enjoyable to Georgia Tech boosters. Heck, most fans probably could not enjoy the band playing the fight song because their ears were still ringing from the never-ending assault of loud music from the sound system.
At least the SEC has taken a small step to curb the use of "artificial noise" at league stadiums. The league says music and rooster crows, tiger growls and foghorns are restricted to use before and after games, at halftime, following scores and during timeouts.
This is the chance for all sports to take another giant leap for eardrums everywhere. Eliminate artificial noise altogether! Unfortunately, my mild-mannered plea for sanity at sporting events will never be heard over all the heavy metal and rap and cries to GET LOUD!