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2.27.2010

Fan noise during sporting events 

Apparently in curling, as in tennis, golf and some other sports, it is considered proper etiquette for fans to be silent while the players are in action. Various breaches of etiquette during the Vancouver Olympics have created somewhat of a kerfluffle.

Why exactly are the peanut galleries in these sports supposed to be quiet? It seems to me that noise per se shouldn't really be much of a problem for players in any of these sports. Sudden differentials in noise volume, however, would be a significant problem, and demanding that fans be silent exacerbates the problem -- it's a lot easier for a few obnoxious/ignorant fans to create a distraction when the rest of the crowd is silent than it is for a few thousand fans to suddenly start/stop cheering in unison.

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An opponent of Monica Seles once complained that Seles' loud grunting made it difficult to hear the ball coming off her racquet. Also, with noise it would be hard for the players to hear the the linespeople call a ball out.

In curling, noise would make it hard for the thrower guy to communicate with the sweeper guys.
 


Re: tennis players grunting: penalize players for grunting if it really is that big a problem. Legislating player behavior is trivial compared to legislating fan behavior.

Re: linespeople/officials in general: you could always give the officials whistles, buzzers, or whatever in a noisy environment, although it would kind of hurt the genteel image of the game.

Re: curling: let the pusher run down/alongside the ice. Or give the team headsets.

I always thought the main reason athletes in these sports want quiet is because of the extreme precision required when serving/swinging/pushing, but the exploitability of a quiet environment by a small number of obnoxious fans during those actions seems to me to be a much bigger problem than the various issues with general noise discussed above. It's fortunate that most fans in general observe the requested etiquette, but I think it's naive to think that rabid fans won't eventually try to exploit it.
 


Almost all sports already legislate fan behavior to some extent. Fans will be ejected/banned from an arena for being disruptive, or a penalty will be assessed to the home team.

In curling, I assume one benefit of the thrower staying back is the perspective he sees from that position, which he would lose by running down the ice. Also, his movement would detract from his ability to gauge the motion of the stone.
 


Given that most pro sports exist primarily for marketing reasons, it's reasonable to have the crowd behavior reflect their emotional involvement, thus having it loud for most sports.

I think that you're correct with respect to the greater disruption potential when most of the fans are quiet.
 


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