Five reasons why the Seahawks' "world record for crowd noise" is an inaccurate hoax
Funny, it seems there is never an unsuccessful attempt to break the world record for crowd noise. It's as if some magical factor takes effect whenever any NFL team attempts attempt to break that particular record. Indeed there is such a magical factor -- it's called baloney. These attempts are all dog-and-pony shows whose outcome is determined before the attempt even takes place.
Let's take a look at why the world record for crowd noise is almost always a bogus calculation.
The incident was staged, not organic - There have surely been hundreds of incidents in human history wherein a group of human beings was louder than the Seahawks fans last night. An outdoor Simon & Garfunkel concert in 1982 had nearly eight times the attendance of last night's Seahawks game. Heck, there is an annual Hindu gathering called Kumbh Mela that's attended by more than 100 million people. Think 68,000 Seattle fans are louder than 100 million people?
What the Seahawks game had that these events did not have was a team of Guinness Book adjucators who had been flown to CenturyLink Field on the Seahawks PR reps' dime. There are many logistics to a world record attempt, and these logistics are planned weeks in advance. This is not so much the world record for crowd noise, but instead a world record for crowd noise with Guinness adjucators onhand to verify, which requires an investment of nearly $10,000. When pro teams pay the adjucators to travel, they always seems to get their desired world record. Just saying.
The sound level reading is completely inaccurate - Guiness adjucators measure the decibel level from a distance of 6.5 feet from the front row of the stadium, the Guinness standard measure of distance. (They also join in on the cheering, BTW) "It is not proper to measure the noise generated by crowds of more than 50,000 people from a distance of 78 inches," Seattle scientist Paul Richardson says. "That only amounts to measuring how loud a handful of people in one section can scream into a microphone. The greatest majority of the people in the crowd, more than 97 percent, have no more influence on this reading than the guy blasting his stereo on somewhere on Capitol Hill, or in the U-district."
Architectural factors at CenturyLink Field - Seattle's CenturyLink Field is specifically designed to enhance existing levels of crowd noise. Benches are aluminum, to better reflect sound. It's an open air stadium, but the two canopies atop either side of the field serve to trap the noise and keep it onfield. "They are large parabolas," acoustic engineer Bill Stewart told Time magazine. "The curvature and angles of the canopies act to focus the sound energy onto the playing field, producing higher noise levels."
Fake crowd noise pumped in - The "fake crowd noise" accusation has long been long alleged against several NFL teams, but never proven. The New England Patriots accused the Indianapolis Colts of pumping fake crowd noise in a 2007 game, and several Redskins fans swear they heard fake crowd noise being pumped into a game at RFK earlier this year. Currently, any such accusations are just hearsay.
But it's true that the NFL has relaxed rules on the amount of noise that stadium PA systems are allowed to create. Video screens can now be accompanied with loud sound, and PA announcers do not have the same volume limits as they've had in years past. Guinness adjucators admit their devices cannot tell the difference between real and fake noise.
This is all a marketing scam - Last night's effort was coordinated by Volume 12, a Seattle-based non-profit acting as a "partner company" to Seattle-based for-profit company JumpIt Media. JumpIt Media is founded by two former Seahawks, and describes itself as "a multi-media marketing and consulting agency specializing in digital media, branding, and engagement." Their portfolio lists the Volume 12 effort as one of the company's main accomplishments -- nay, it is their primary significant accomplishment. This stunt appears designed to enhance the portfolio of JumpIt Media. And honestly people, how much can you really trust a "marketing and consulting agency"?
The Guinness Book was once a reliable reference document for Olympic feats and natural phenomenon. It's now more of a flashy freakshow paperback that needs to pull in marketing partners in to maintain ts withering relevance. Certainly the Seahawks fans were loud last night, and CenturyLink is a difficult place for opposing teams to play. But when considering a scientific measurement of this nature, you really have to factor out the public relations noise.