Let us make some noise

April 11, 2018

Surely an athlete as talented as Tiger Woods can tolerate a little crowd noise and still produce quality golf shots.

Imagine the scene.

It’s the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and the host finds itself in the final against arch-rival Argentina.

Scoreless heading into injury time, Argentina pushes forward and wins a penalty, to be taken with the last kick of the game.

Up steps Lionel Messi to take the spot kick, shooting for his crowning moment as the greatest footballer to ever live, and to break the thousands of Brazilian hearts in the stadium.

But instead of screaming insults and creating that ugly, screeching noise designed to distract the penalty taker, a hush falls over the crowd as stewards lift signs reading ‘‘quiet please’’.

What are we dealing with here?

After a weekend of enjoying the Masters golf coverage, one thing that stuck out was the silence surrounding each stroke.

Not merely at the point where the player would swing, but in the 30, 45 seconds leading to that point as well.

Crowd involvement is what takes sport from a run around the park to a significant cultural phenomena.

The emotion of a minor pitch invasion after a late winner, or the choreographed nature of a football fan display is half the fun and takes it to the next level.

There’s no need to have a screaming crowd at all times, but the fact some sports believe their players need silence to concentrate while others don’t is a touch puzzling.

The idea a golf shot, bowling, or being in a tennis rally requires more concentration (and therefore silence) than shooting for goal in soccer, kicking in a clutch moment in footy or facing a hat-trick ball is flat-out wrong.

I’m not sure which sporting authority decided some sports require silence and some don’t.

Cricket, while particularly pedantic about sight screens and no one moving, allows noise in the high-pressure moment of facing a bowler, as does baseball.

Often in tennis a majestic shot mid-rally will be met with a cheer thinking the point is over, only for a brilliant recovery to keep the point alive.

Despite this apparent distraction, more often that not the point rolls on as if nothing happened, and this shows a little noise is hardly enough to break your concentration.

In American football, the constant communication of play-calling between a quarterback and his offensive line means home crowds know to be quiet when the ball is ready to be snapped.

It’s one of sport’s biggest home crowd advantages. When playing on the road, crowds are often so loud a team switches to a silent snap count, meaning instead of vocally indicating when a play will start the offence has to rely on its counting ability to stay in control.

Going into a hostile environment and winning creates magical moments — think LeBron James dropping 45 points at Boston to keep his Miami Heat side’s 2012 playoff campaign alive, and more recently West Coast Eagle Luke Shuey slotting a goal after the siren in Adelaide to end Port’s season.

Requiring silence speaks to the somewhat starchy and bland nature of particularly golf and tennis, with participants who carry themselves with a little bit too much self-importance for my liking.

Often you’ll see a golfer address their ball only to walk away from it after hearing a small cough from the gallery, or a tennis player refuse to serve because a fan in the upper-deck has whispered something to the person sitting next to them.

Imagine the scenes and how invested a crowd could be at the tennis if you could sing through points and cheer, and create a hostile environment for the player trying to knock off a home-town hero.

Yes, it would take a bit of getting used to, but if nothing else it could take the spectator experience through the roof.

Muzzling an audience holds a sport back from becoming something so much more than a game.

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