Thursday, February 6, 2014

How Annoying Are Some Sports Noises?

Last week I was talking to my uncle, and he mentioned how he couldn't tolerate youth basketball because of the noise. He said that he loves going to his kids' soccer and baseball games, but his ears rebel against the sounds of a gymansium. He hates the squeak of sneakers on the floor, the screech of a referee's whistle, and the interminable thud of bouncing balls. I don't have a huge problem with those sounds, mostly because I associate them with fun games of hoops when I was younger.

What I can't stand, though, is another staple of basketball games -- the buzzer. The buzzer always seems to be set to a volume of 1,408 decibels,* regardless of the age of the players, the lack of people in the gym, or the relative unimportance of the game. It's always loud.

*Is 1,408 decibels a lot? It sounds like it is.

The buzzer got me thinking about several other annoying sports sounds.

Like the basketball horn, there are a few other man-made contraptions that can make sporting events less pleasant. One that immediately comes to mind is the vuvuzela. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, people were more concerned with these obnoxious native instruments than the action on the pitch. If you haven't heard the sound of 10,000 vuvuzelas, just imagine how loud the bees must have sounded to the children in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Then multiply that noise by 10,000.

Ahh, the sounds of the game.
Another God-forsaken invention is the aluminum bat and its resultant "PING!" sound. I understand the usefulness of metal bats at the youth level and that college baseball fans must love the sound, but God intended for baseball to be played with wooden bats.

And speaking of God, legendary Yankees P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard purpordedly possessed His voice. While Sheppard's melodic words were far from annoying, some of today's announcers produce many of the worst sounds in sports. The Miami Heat's "Dos minutos" guy is Exhibit A(-hole).

Meanwhile, on-air announcers are probably worse. For every throwback like Vin Scully, there are 10 windbags like John Sterling. Even some analysts like Avery Johnson and Bill Simmons -- who are incredibly knowledgeable -- possess nasally voices that weren't made for the airwaves.

During Christmas week, I met the actor who played the villain in Dumb and Dumber. I was kicking myself afterwards because I didn't ask him if he wanted to hear the most annoying sound in the world. If I had done that, I would have followed up by clapping two Thundersticks together or blasting the hockey goal siren in his ear.

Of course, most of the sounds we associate with sports are delightful. The Star-Spangled Banner. The crack of the bat. The swish of the net. The crescendoing roar of the crowd. All beautiful. Just please don't make me listen to John Sterling tell me about them.

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  1. The fact that this is a blog about the most annoying sounds in sports, and there is not a single mention about john sterlings partner susan waldman makes me annoyed. she has the worst voice in the history of voices. FACT....hello JAAAAAWN

    1. Absolutely true. Suzyn definitely falls into the "windbags" category, but I should have mentioned her by name.

      Try listening to this clip without jamming forks in your ears: