There’s a scourge upon baseball stadiums that needs to be eradicated. No, not the wave. Okay, yes, the wave, but also, the jumbotron or scoreboard that tells fans when to cheer. Every stadium has it in some form or another. Whether fans are being instructed to “Get Louder” or “Make Noise” or just “Make Some Noise”—or even whether they’re being evaluated on some form of “Noise Meter” (which I don’t think is scientific at all)—it’s insidious and dumb, and here’s why:
1. Fans know when to cheer.
You can’t manufacture enthusiasm. It’s either a moment that warrants cheering or it isn’t. If the jumbotron flashes instructions to cheer, there may be noise, but if the only thing people are cheering for is the jumbotron, then the noise is doomed to disappear as soon as the instructions go away. Which leads to point number two:
2. Jumbotron-inspired cheering is followed by awkward silence.
When fans cheer because they’re instructed to rather than because the game situation warrants it, it nearly always peters out into awkward silence. When crowd noise is generated organically through actual excitement at a game, it is sustained and emotional and one of the best things about being a fan. When it’s manufactured by a scoreboard operator, it’s awkward and confusing. Which leads to point number three:
3. The scoreboard’s timing is always weird.
I don’t know if there are rules about when the “Make Noise” sign is allowed to be turned on, but the timing is always weird. The sign comes on between pitches, when players are adjusting their velcro or tapping dirt of their cleats or whatever, and then when the batter steps into the box and prepares for the big moment, the sign turns off and at the very moment when fans should be the loudest, the noise disappears. It leaves fans watching the game rather than the scoreboard wondering what the heck is going on.
4. Baseball is different from other sports.
I realize that the purpose of the “Make Noise” sign is to inject enthusiasm into a crowd. But baseball fans are okay with the pace of their game—it doesn’t have to be a constant barrage of noise as you might get with other sports. It’s why baseball doesn’t have pep bands and cheerleaders and dance squads. It’s a different kind of sports experience.
One of the great things about baseball is that it generates its own enthusiasm based on the ebb and flow of the game, but when you try to force it with manufactured cheering, it interrupts the rhythm of the game and just makes everything weird.