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Yes, we need fake crowd noise at games

Photo by Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

Photo by Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

By now, you think we’d be used to watching sports in a pandemic, but last night’s Champions Classic still found a way to be surreal.

No fans were allowed in to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Kentucky vs. Kansas, and ESPN decided not to pipe in crowd noise, leaving shoe squeaks, bench screams, and the occasional wail from John Calipari as the only sounds alongside the commentators. In fact, the broadcasters themselves weren’t even in the building, with ESPN’s Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale calling it from their homes and Tom Leach and Mike Pratt doing the radio call from a bunker somewhere in the Bluegrass:

If not for Dick Vitale yelling at his wife to get pizza ready for his halftime snack, I wouldn’t have noticed that the broadcasters weren’t there, but not having a crowd, or specifically, any crowd noise, was jarring. Every big play was met with screams from teammates, but quickly after, silence. Normally, this dunk by BJ Boston would have brought the arena to its feet and launched a hearty “GO BIG BLUE” chant. Instead…

Compare that to this clip of Olivier Sarr’s dunk at the start of the Richmond game on Sunday:

It’s clearly not the roar of a packed Rupp Arena, but even having 3,000 people in the stands helps the experience, both for players and fans. Crowd noise was also piped in to Kentucky’s first two games, and without it last night, I found it much more difficult to stay engaged and I’m just a blogger sitting on my couch; I can’t imagine being a player. No wonder some of Kentucky’s freshmen look like they’re playing in AAU games — strip the logos off the floor and that’s essentially the setting.

Calipari has brought up limited crowds several times in the past week, always with the caveat that the other team’s dealing with the same thing; yet, I would argue that for a team this young, it has an even bigger impact. With little to no energy from fans, the bench — or rather, sideline of socially distanced chairs — becomes even more important. On Monday, Terrence Clarke noted that Richmond’s team, a group of veterans, did a great job of keeping the momentum rolling on Sunday.

“No fans, it’s different but it is basketball at the end of the day. We have the hoop. The momentum was definitely there for them as soon as they got it going and it starts on the bench. I think that’s one of the main things we’re going to hit on too especially since we don’t have any fans at all tomorrow. Just supporting each other and being as loud as we can for each other is definitely going to help us with our momentum when we get into a run too. That’s probably the main thing.”

To Kentucky’s credit, the bench was louder last night (or maybe we just heard them because there was no crowd noise); however, when Kansas started chipping away at the Cats’ lead at the end of the first half and went on its big run to take the lead in the second, you could feel the energy drain from Kentucky’s side of the court. Afterwards, Isaiah Jackson admitted that’s been one of the toughest things to adjust to this season.

“Playing with energy the whole game. Because once you stop playing with energy and they start to get that run, if you don’t make baskets or get stops, it can keep going.”

For now, Kentucky can keep having limited crowds at Rupp, but these neutral-site games may be a different story. No fans will be allowed in to the Georgia Tech game in Atlanta on Sunday. Fan attendance for the UCLA game in the CBS Sports Classic in Cleveland is to be determined. Who knows what they’ll do for the NCAA Tournament next spring. Yet, if last night taught us anything, pipe in that crowd noise. We all need it.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

16 Comments for Yes, we need fake crowd noise at games

  1. itsfootballtimeinthebluegrass
    12:33 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    No, we don’t.

  2. bosch8184
    12:34 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Not a bad idea. Would certainly mask the sound of our bricks.

  3. panicpat
    12:48 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Hahaha. That was funny Bosch and you are 100% correct. Worst shooting team I can recall

  4. Bluehender
    1:03 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Not as bad as we need shots to fall..

  5. City shuffle
    1:17 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Fake crowd noise is the worst. It is 100% better hearing the coaches and bench. The opportunity to hear trash talk and lip back to the officiating is awesome. No one watches a game for the commentary and its only nice when its nuanced in game observations or technical aspects the casual fan would not pick up on. Jay Bilas is the definition of pretentious, Vitale talks about nothing, and Walton is drugged out on hallucinogens. The fake crowd noise covers up a perspective of observation you probably wont ever get to see again. If people really miss it, a suggestion would be get a pair of headphones and look up crowd noise on youtube to keep yourself entertained.

    • UKiyaoyas
      1:45 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

      But how do you really feel?

  6. EdC
    3:25 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Rupp has needed fake crowd noise for almost as long as Rupp has been open. This virus is the great crowd noise equalizer.

  7. dcforuk
    3:58 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Agree with your post!

  8. TBW3011
    5:48 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    Agreed. Whatever the nba did worked. College has been awful to watch. And I can hardly stand to watch Calipari run around screaming like a fool non stop. Being able to hear him takes it to another level.

    • IndianaSucks
      7:58 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

      Agreed with your NBA comment. Whatever they were doing for the noise, you could hardly tell there wasn’t anyone there. Also, a lot of people bashed the screen of fans zooming or whatever but it was better than just seeing empty stands. Not sure that it could work in college without major sponsors, though.

  9. Matt10
    9:17 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

    We don’t need crowd noise.
    We need crowds.
    The pandemic is over.

    • Bluehender
      9:25 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

      I know lots of people who are sick with it, including 3 of my siblings, 3 coworkers, one of which is in the hospital on a ventilator and 1 far. You’re an idiot

    • Section233
      10:02 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

      Damn man where do you live and work? Maybe you guys should try the ole social distance anc hand washing thing.
      Just saying

    • Bluehender
      10:46 pm December 2, 2020 Permalink

      Owensboro, Henderson and one brother in Franklin Tennessee. Personally, I do all that and have not had it.

    • Bluehender
      6:54 am December 3, 2020 Permalink

      Wear a mask…

  10. City shuffle
    11:22 am December 4, 2020 Permalink

    UKiyaoyas, id rather be playing than watching. Its more fun