Culture

NFL's Falcons admit to using tech to fake crowd noise

Technically Incorrect: Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, says the Falcons did wrong by making players feel that the fans loved them more than they actually do.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Just how much did the Atlanta Falcons attempt to control their destiny (and fail)? Atlanta Falcons/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Technology has created a virtual world.

It feels real, but somewhere the line between the true and the not so true is so fine, as to be itself virtual.

Visiting teams to the Atlanta Falcons stadium must have wondered over the last couple of years just how dedicated the home fans were.

The Seattle Seahawks might claim a 12th man, but in Atlanta the fans seemed intent on disrupting the opponents when they had the ball and needed to huddle over their next play. The noise they made -- honestly, you should have heard it.

It's beginning to emerge, however, that someone with at least rudimentary technological nous decided (or was ordered) to pump artificial noise through the no-doubt excellent stadium speakers. The hope was to put the opponents off their game.

As ESPN reports, Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted to his organization's wrongdoing. He said: I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn't represent our culture and what we're about."

The accusations are still being investigated. Blank said that he'd already dealt with the matter internally, but wanted to wait until the investigation is made public to reveal more.

However, just as with the recent and pulsating Deflategate -- in which the New England Patriots were accused of illegally softening their footballs -- the question here is whether competitive advantage was gained.

Many teams now frequently use silent counts in an attempt to avoid any kind of noise disruption. Moreover, in 2013, the Falcons finished 4-12. In 2014, they managed 6-10, winning just three home games.

And shouldn't noise manipulation have been expected?

Many NBA teams play all sorts of music actually during play, in order to effect one mood or another.

When music stars sing live, it's often with the help of backing tracks and all sorts of other tuning by clever engineers. When it comes to their recorded music, you really don't know how much of them is there either.

Laugh tracks have been used on comedy shows for decades. Artificial sound in constantly used in order to stir the emotions of the faithful, awaken the languid and intimidate the poise of the enemy.

Attempting such trickery, and then repeating it when it clearly didn't work, is surely done more out of sad frustration than brains.

Of course, soon teams will work out a way to transmit electronic rays at vital moments, so that opposing quarterbacks get a shock, just as they prepare to throw the ball.

And then every team's MVP will be its scientific subterfuge department.