From The Editor — January 2011: Turn Down The Music — Aural abuse at a meet is aural abuse, whether you love or hate the music in question

I LOVE LOUD MUSIC. No, really. Even an old fart like me can be totally wired into head-banging metal played at a Spinal-Tappish 11.

And I like flashing lights and people jumping up and down. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and I was reminded of such by a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bruce Jenkins.

Talking out loud to the local NBA team’s new owners he wrote, “The team is your drawing card, not some third-rate circus during timeouts. Example: Your team just went on a 15-2 run, [the arena] is going crazy, and here comes a sorry procession of gymnasts, mascots, guys in chef hats—basically a bunch of clowns who can’t wait for a timeout so they can rush the floor. The fans couldn’t talk basketball if they tried—and there went the mood. You killed it. Nice ‘entertainment.’ ”

Jenkins acerbic commentary reminded me of a column I wrote back in May of ’02, parts of which I excerpt here, because not only has nothing changed, in far too many cases it has also gotten worse:


Unfortunately we keep getting stuck with sound junkies who think the right time of the meet for music is the meet. Announcer is trying to say something? So what? Race going on? Big deal. But even those producers/DJs who think they understand the sport don’t realize that while music can indeed enhance the overall viewing experience, there’s rarely enough air time for the announcer(s) to get across all the relevant information in a timely manner.

As an announcer, I’m obviously biased on this count. But my concern goes far beyond professional concerns, because I sit in the stands as a fan as often as I’m in the booth. And as a fan, I’m not alone in my distress. And the distress level is rising.

Noted athlete agent Ray Flynn, the former sub-3:50 miler, was outspoken in his criticism of musical abuse at the end of the U.S. indoor season. He put his finger on a very important factor, lamenting to me, “It’s bad enough that you can’t hear the announcer, but even worse is that they’ve taken the crowd out of the meets.” He’s dead-right…

When you crank the tunes during a race, you remove the most viscerally satisfying part of the sporting experience: feeling your emotions roller coaster as an event unfolds, riding from the depths of depression to the peaks of elation. Down you go as your neighbors groan; up you go as they cheer; in between the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as that intangible known as buzz ebbs and flows.

Whether it’s the 133rd playing of the day of We Will Rock You or the first of Also Sprach Zarathustra, all that emotion is stifled. Aural abuse is aural abuse whether you love or hate the particular piece of music.>>

As it was then, is now, and ever more shall …?