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Rick Zamperin: With the prospect of NFL games in empty stadiums, should broadcasters add crowd noise?

The Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to open defense of their Super Bowl championship by hosting Houston on Sept. 10 in the NFL's annual kickoff game.
The Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to open defense of their Super Bowl championship by hosting Houston on Sept. 10 in the NFL's annual kickoff game. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

About two months after physical distancing measures were put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19, North American sports leagues have yet to figure out how they will proceed when they are officially given the green light by public health officials.

Major League Baseball has proposed what amounts to half a season without any fans in attendance.

The NHL and NBA have been mulling over how to play out the remainder of their postponed seasons, potentially using various cities as hubs for multiple games a day.

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The CFL seems to be certain that its 2020 campaign is going to be scrapped altogether unless it gets a hefty bailout from the federal government, which has been doling out billions of dollars to employees, businesses, students and seniors who have been greatly impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The National Football League is in the best position among our continent’s four major professional sports leagues because it has a lot more time to play with before its season kicks off.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cancellation of CFL season is ‘most likely scenario’, commissioner says

However, if the easing of restrictions that we are now seeing in parts of the United States translates into a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases — as was the case in places like Germany and South Korea — the National Football League will likely find itself in the same boat as hockey, basketball and baseball.

But let’s say that come September, the NFL is able to play games, but without any fans in attendance. Touchdown, right?

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While it may seem weird to watch a game on your TV, phone or tablet with an empty stadium as the backdrop, it will be just as strange to watch the action unfold while being able to hear a pin drop.

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Or will it?

Fox Sports is reportedly toying with the idea of pumping in crowd noise during their broadcasts as well as projecting virtual, or CGI (computer-generated imagery), fans in the empty stadiums.

Whether it is the thousands of fans reacting to a touchdown, a goalline stand, a turnover, a crucial play, or a controversial penalty, the crowd noise is a big part of the viewing experience.

Generating crowd noise is a novel idea, but unless the network gets the ebb and flow of the crowd reaction just right, I’m not sure that it is going to be worth the trouble.

Rick Zamperin assistant program director, news and senior sports director with Global News Radio 900 CHML in Hamilton.

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