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COVID-19

Fake crowds are becoming ubiquitous and a bit more realistic

Andy Uhler Sep 25, 2020
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Cardboard cutouts of fans at a Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants game in July. Harry How/Getty Images
COVID-19

Fake crowds are becoming ubiquitous and a bit more realistic

Andy Uhler Sep 25, 2020
Heard on:
Cardboard cutouts of fans at a Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants game in July. Harry How/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It started with European soccer matches. Then, Korean baseball. Now it’s part of all the sports on TV in the U.S. We’re talking about fake crowd noise for games that have no crowds.

And it sounded weird at first, right?

“It’s silly. They’re not fooling anybody. Everyone watching knows there’s no fans there,” said Boston sports fan Josef Blumenfeld, who still hasn’t gotten used to it.

At the same time, it would have been weird if there had been only silence in the broadcast of a recent Dallas Cowboys game. Dallas was down 15 points with five minutes left, got a touchdown, then another, then recovered an onside kick and nailed a field goal to win by one. Instead, the fake crowd went wild.

“Once they started using it, I didn’t really notice it kind of goes on in the background,” said Daniel Packer, a Yankees fan who lives in Los Angeles. “I’ve kind of learned to enjoy it a lot.”

For Packer, the faux fans cue him to pay attention when he’s not completely focused on the game.

John Ourand, media editor at the Sports Business Journal, said broadcasters are trying to make fake crowds as real as possible in order to hold your attention. The NFL, for instance, went through its archives and gathered four years of sound from every stadium.

“So the crowd noise that you hear for a Giants game is authentically a Giants crowd,” Ourand said. “The crowd noise that you hear for the Seattle Seahawks game, that’s an authentically Seahawks crowd.”

So when Russell Wilson scrambles for a first down, there’s a Seattle crowd reaction for that.

“They can have a moderate reaction, they can press a button for that,” said Stephen McDaniel, professor of sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Maryland. “They can even press a button for boos.”

Some Philadelphia Eagles fans know that all too well. Broadcasters piped in some hearty boos during the game after quarterback Carson Wentz threw another interception last week.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

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Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

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Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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