From the start of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 4 home game against the Miami Dolphins, Bills Mafia was ever-present and incredibly loud. At one point during the game, the video screen shared a reading of 103 decibels. That’s exceedingly loud, if you weren’t aware.
But does the thundering noise of an unfriendly crowd really bother a professional athlete? Often, it’s difficult to gauge the true depth of sound from a broadcast (especially if you tune in to Thursday Night Football and its pseudo in-ear monitor sound).
Given the attenuation of sound over distance as it travels through the atmosphere (that is: -6 decibels per doubling of distance) — and then amplifying it to capture for a home audience... that mutates the real effect. What the what am I even saying here? Well humor me, just because it’s interesting to consider: On Mars, you’d have to replicate at minimum, the sound coming from Highmark Stadium in Week 4 just to hear and be heard at a distance of five feet.
But I digress, as you didn’t click on this story for science. Despite the perception that I may have found reason to write this article as an excuse to nerd out about off-Earth facts, Buffalo’s fan base was on another level. Dare I say it was out of this world last Sunday. And people took notice.
It’s likely you paid attention to it when, despite his best efforts, referee Adrian Hill couldn’t be heard over the constant roar of the crowd. Or when color commentator extraordinaire Tony Romo and play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz were nearly inaudible during key downs — or all of them. Yet, none of this was manufactured by the TV production team, nor was this noise pumped in by the stadium sound engineers.
At his postgame presser, head coach Sean McDermott recognized the difference that the Bills’ 12th man makes, perhaps unlike anything he’s experienced anywhere else:
“You couldn’t — TB (linebacker Terrell Bernard) couldn’t hear me. It was, like I told ya, I’ve been in the league a long time and (that’s) as loud of a crowd as I’ve ever heard in my time in the NFL. You know, playoff games, whatever it’s been — it’s as loud as it gets, man. Because I don’t know how in our world it can get any louder. It sounded like jet engines out there, it really did. I mean it was... it was deafening.”
In his weekly column “Football Morning in America (FMIA),” Peter King of NBC Sports wrote at length about the Bills-Dolphins game, sharing this tidbit from Sean McDermott:
“The crowd, man,” Sean McDermott said from his office a half-hour after the game. “They were deafening. In all my years in this league, I’m not sure I’ve heard … No, this crowd was as loud as I’ve heard any crowd in an NFL stadium. And that mattered today. I tip my cap to Bills Mafia.”
While a single jet engine is in the 120 decibel range, McDermott’s point is a sound assessment of the noise reverberating off the turf. McDermott wasn’t the only one to notice the impact Bills Mafia had on the Dolphins’ offense — and elsewhere.
A piece written by Richard Deitsch of The Athletic described the crowd inside Highmark Stadium this past Sunday as playoff-like — one of the loudest to ever roar there. In speaking to Deitsch, CBS Sports producer Jim Rikhoff explained in detail the challenges faced by the broadcast team and the on-field mics for officials.
“Rikhoff described the crowd as a playoff atmosphere. He said the only time he has heard Highmark Stadium louder was when he was there for last January’s wild-card playoff game between the same two teams. The crowd was so loud on Sunday that the officials could not be heard often on calls, and Romo’s voice was occasionally drowned out. Rikhoff said there were microphone issues for the officials prior to the game, and they had to check repeatedly on their audio. The noise was so loud at times that Nantz occasionally had trouble hearing Rikhoff on the talk-back.”
The Buffalo Bills have long been known for having one of the greatest fan bases in all professional sports within the United States. Their infectious roar is such that it can either lift you up, a force ready to tackle anything — or one that can leave you running for the bus after the first snap.
As the Bills go, so go their fans. The Buffalo Bills are on a tear right now, one that Bills Mafia hopes can continue well into the season and beyond. That will be tough, but with help of the fans, things should remain tough for opponents visiting One Bills Drive.