March 1, 2015
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Chapel Hll: The Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League have won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for piping in artificial noise through the PA system during games at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons were attempting to use noise as a weapon. The Falcons’ action embodies the idolatry of noise in American sports and culture.
The Falcons are accused of piping in noise while the opposing team was in a huddle, calling its next play. The idea for the artificial crowd noise came from the Falcons’ game operations department. Arthur Blank, the Falcons’ owner, has admitted that the team pumped up the noise in the Georgia Dome the last two seasons; he also admits that the noise has an impact on the competitive balance between teams. The team is expected to lose a draft choice because of the infraction.
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, notes that “it is highly ironic that the NFL should punish the Atlanta Falcons for piping in artificial crowd noise, given the fact that the NFL actively promotes extreme noise at their stadiums. Apparently, for the NFL, extreme noise is only a problem if it affects the ‘competitive balance’ between the two teams. The idea that extreme noise is very damaging for human health does not seem to have occurred to them.”
Rueter notes that on September 26, 2013, fans at Century Link Field in Seattle established a new world record for football stadium noise, blasting in at 136.6 decibels. One month later, crazed fans at Arrowhead stadium in Kansas City beat the record, creating a deafening 137.5 decibels of sound. The official Twitter account of the Chiefs exclaimed, “RECORD BROKEN!” 137.5 decibels. “#LoudAndProud.” One Chiefs fan wrote on Facebook, “Be LOUD AND PROUD and blow my eardrums out!”
The NFL is fully on board with all the noise. Once the Kansas City Chiefs broke the world record for stadium noise, the NFL’s web site warmly congratulated Chiefs fansfor their sonic accomplishment. Defending the noise, Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, argued that “fans know they are going to a football game and not searching for a book at the library.”
Whether fans realize it or not, these noise levels are extremely harmful. According to Elliot Berger, an acoustical engineer with 3M, the average decibel level during an NFL game is around 95. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that individuals should not be exposed to such noise levels for more than 60 minutes; the average NFL game lasts three hours. Prolonged exposure to extreme noise levels can lead to tinnitus–constant ringing of the ears.
Unfortunately, many people who attend sports events, concerts, and night clubs equate extreme loudness with having a good time. Joyce Cohen, a reporter with The New York Times, states that “in some corners, ringing ears can even become a point of pride.” She quotes James Filsinger, a Seattle Seahawks season ticket-holder, who states that “People say yeah, man, my ears are ringing, but it’s always in a fun, upbeat kind of way.”
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly ten percent of the United States population has permanent tinnitus.
Ted Rueter has attended many sporting events over the years–but wouldn’t be attending any more, because of extreme noise. Several years ago, he attended a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. He reports that “the PA system was loud, the organ was loud, and the fans were loud. It was a very uncomfortable experience.”
Recently, Rueter attended basketball games at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. “The Duke/ UNC game in 2013 was unbelievably loud,” he says. “The extreme noise began two hours before the game. The band was blasting away and the PA system was piercingly loud. And then, during the game, there were 25,000 screaming fans and constant horns. It was unbearable. I left at half-time. I was afraid of experiencing permanent hearing loss and ringing of the ears. I don’t see how players, coaches, and fans can tolerate these extreme levels of noise. It’s very unhealthy.”
Rueter concluded, “The action of the Atlanta Falcons to pipe in artificial noise is consistent with many Americans’ love of noise. In sports and popular culture, loud means ‘fun.’ We need a new understanding: loud means ‘physically harmful.'”
Noise Free America is a national citizens’ organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include the National Football League, the Florida Marlins, and the Minnesota Speedway.