You might remember back in 2016, that the Atlanta Falcons were fined by the NFL and forced to forfeit their fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, for piping in fake crowd noise into their stadium ostensibly to gain a competitive advantage. Turns out, the team may have just been ahead of the curve. To wit, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that, due to the limited numbers of fans expected to attend live games this season, the NFL may allow virtual, live crowd noise in the stadiums.
Sources: NFL is now considering a league-wide policy that would enable fan sound to be heard in stadiums.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 19, 2020
If the NFL were to adopt this policy it would largely make sense from an on-field perspective. The repercussions of a lack of fan attendance in the stands could be immense. Both sides of the ball would be able to clearly hear adjustments or audibles. No longer would visiting offenses be forced to go to a silent snap count and risk taking delay-of-game penalties. Audibles would become much easier to execute. Virtual crowd noise would ensure that these unintended consequences don’t occur, and that home-field advantage as a whole is preserved. One thing to track if this rule were to be implemented is if visiting offenses would be subjected to louder crowd noise than the home team’s offense.
As a fan who already deals with fake crowd noise when watching Major League Baseball, I can tell you that although it is uncanny at first, you quickly adjust and get used to it. According to the MLB, parks have access to 75 different effects and reactions, so if you were thinking the NFL wouldn’t have the exact sound for when Tremaine Edmunds crushes a slot receiver going over the middle, think again.