Green Bay Packers fans might hear something good come out of the pandemic we are in.
Or, more accurately, not hear.
When the Packers play at Minnesota on Sunday, the audio from the telecast will be a bit less irritating to Packers fans than games in Minnesota since 2007.
That was the year the Vikings introduced the Gjallarhorn. For those fortunate few of you that haven’t seen or heard the thing, a Gjallarhorn is a saxophone on steroids. Many steroids.
The team blares the Gjallarhorn (pronounced yahl-lahr-hawrn) at the start of games and then what seems like 9,000 more times during games to punctuate good plays by the Vikings.
Sounding the Gjallarhorn supposedly awoke the gods to grab their weapons in Norse mythology. When it blares during Vikings games, it awakens me and makes me reach for the “mute” button.
That A-WHOOOOOOOOO only adds to the din at the Vikings’ indoor hellholes—first the Metrodome and now U.S. Bank Stadium.
But not on Sunday. There will be no fans at U.S. Bank Stadium. There might be the the aggravating noise from a Gjallarhorn, but it won’t be so loud that you curse and switch to a different game.
Since most stadiums won’t have fans for at least the start of the season, the NFL and NFL Films have created noise soundtracks that will be played during games.
Each existing stadium will have soundtracks of crowd noise taken from home games from the past four years.
So, for example, chants of “Go, Pack, Go” will be played during Packers games at Lambeau Field.
Pumping in fake crowd noise might not be new for the Vikings. Several players said the franchise did that for years at the Metrodome with huge sideline speakers pumping out crowd noise.
Atlanta was docked a fifth-round draft choice and fined $350,000 in 2016 for pumping in fake crowd noise. The Saints have been accused of doing it.
Now every team will do it. Not only will it make games seem more normal, but it will help drone out the cursing and sounds of violence that occur on the field. Those sideline microphones could fill living rooms with sounds that would make Aunt Millie faint.
In addition, each network that telecasts NFL game will have their own soundtrack that only their TV audience will hear.
NBC, which did last night’s opening game at Arrowhead Stadium, did not use its own soundtrack because the Chiefs allowed 17,000 fans in the stadium.
That made the telecast about as “normal” as viewers will get this season.
The opener had NBC personnel wringing their hands like expectant fathers Thursday afternoon.
“We’ll be paying very close attention,” said Janesville native Greg Hughes, who is the vice president, Communications for NBC Sports Group. “No one has ever done an NFL game during a pandemic.”
Hundreds of hours of planning went into setting up for the season at all the networks. FOX had planned to put virtual fans in the stands of games it telecasts, but the lack of preseason games to test that technology resulted in the Bears at Lions game being the sole contest to have that feature Sunday.
John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported that NBC decided against virtual fans for Sunday Night Football because it would be too expensive and too difficult to have virtual fans for each of the 25 camera angles. As a result, some shots would have had virtual fans, and some shots wouldn’t have had virtual fans.
“This is not a shot at FOX because I think what they’ve done is tremendous, but it’s just not realistic,” Sunday Night Footballexecutive producer Fred Gaudelli told Ourand. “It just didn’t feel right to me.”
CBS and ESPN separately told Ourand that they would not use virtual fans for NFL games.
The lack of preseason games to iron out any wrinkles, along with the large audience NBC games attract, added to the uncertainty into Thursday night’s production.
“I’ll be waching every frame from when we come on with ‘Football Night in America’ to when we go off the air,” Hughes said Thursday afternoon from his Atlanta home. “We don’t know what to expect.”
Michelle Tafoya, NBC’s longtime sideline reporter, became the nation’s “Front Row Amy” last night. Tafoya, and other sideline reporters, are banned from the field. Instead of roaming the sidelines, reporters will sit in the first row of seats, and will will have to rely on teams to give them pertinent info that they can relay to the audience.
Sideline reporters have always had to fight to secure information of any value to TV viewers. Relying on teams to run over to deliver injury updates will make that job impossible.
Home teams will not be able to turn up the noise when visiting teams have the ball. The NFL made sure of that by limiting the sound to 70 decibels when the play clock or game clock is running.
With overlapping audio prompts—for example, that damn Gjallarhorn—the combined sound level cannot exceed 75 decibels. The din of city traffic is about 85 decibels; the hum of a dial tone, 80 decibels. Compare that to the recorded 120 decibels that was reached in U.S. Bank Stadium when the Vikings beat the Saints on a 61-yard touchdown pass the final play of the NFC playoff game in 2018.
Welcome to NFL 2020.
“I think I can speak for all football fans that we’re happy that the NFL is back,” Hughes said.
Yes—especially with a muted Gjallarhorn.