On football crowd noise

“People with a real love for the symphony, when other people react and clap after a first movement, they should be saying “Wonderful – there are new people in the audience tonight!”

— Former Toronto Symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Oundjian, asked in The Whole Note about audience members clapping between movements of a piece, something long thought by sophisticated concertgoers to be a major etiquette violation.

Yesterday I was at the Argos game at BMO Field, a thrilling 24-23 victory over the BC Lions, and the outcome was in doubt until the final second. It was the largest crowd in a while – 18,000 people and the fans were loud, and engaged, and everybody had a great time.

And, unfortunately, the TV cameras were pointed at the east stands. At the moment, the team doesn’t sell seats in the upper deck, so it looked terrible –

BMO Field east stands

The crowd on the west side, where I sat, was much better. Not full, but a big improvement.

This is the west side’s reaction after the go-ahead touchdown. Isn’t this fun?

And it was great to see lots of new fans at the game! I hope they come back. It seems like it’s easy to get people to come to one argos game, but harder to get them to come to two.
An exciting victory on a beautiful day with a loud crowd should definitely help.

Here’s the thing though.
The tradition in football is that the home crowd should be quiet when our team has the ball – so that they can hear signals from the quarterback and execute plays to perfection.
(Make all the noise you want after the ball is snapped but be quiet while they’re getting ready.)

Conversely, you should be loud, stomp your feet, and scream when the visiting team has the ball.
Try to throw them off.
Sometimes it works, sometimes the crowd is so loud that the other team will line up in an illegal formation, or make a false start – and they’ll get an “illegal procedure” penalty.

(sidebar: here’s the difference between ‘offside’ (on the defense) and ‘illegal procedure’ (on the offense).)

I have to admit, I never really understood this shushing business.
Your natural reaction – as in most other team sports – is to cheer madly on offense to help your team score.
And, aren’t they professional athletes?
Aren’t you getting paid?
What’s the problem with a little noise?
What is this, Golf? You can only perform in silence?

Well, whatever.
That’s the tradition.
They need to hear the signals.
Quiet on offense, loud on defense.
The players want it that way.

What bugs me more, though, is when fans criticize other fans for making noise on offense.
Yesterday there were some “Let’s Go Argos!” cheers and foot stomping when the Argos had the ball.
I saw a few tweets from fans complaining about this.
You’re not supposed to do that, then!
The nerve, that people would cheer at the wrong time!

But …
We should be happy about that.
It shows that there are new fans at the game.
We want that!
We need them!
We want them to return!

Peter Oundjian has the right attitude.
“Inappropriate” crowd reactions really just mean you have new people at the event, and you should celebrate that and welcome them if you want your event to survive and thrive in the modern era.

It’s the same at football.
Let people cheer “wrong”.
Let’s hope they had fun, and will come back, and will figure out our traditions and become as suave and sophisticated as the rest of us.

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