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Crowd Noise: Nuisance or Benefit? - 2003-10-08


The roar of a crowd at a large sports event like the Women's World Cup soccer tournament can often be deafening. But what does all that noise sound like on the field?

Loud cheers, yelling, clapping, music playing, all can be heard at any given game in a large stadium. Add the passion for the home team and disdain for the visitors, and the noise level goes up more. Great plays, a score, or a bad call by a referee, all prompt the spectators to let themselves be heard.

It's no different each time the U.S. national women's soccer team takes the field. The current Women's World Cup is being played in front of large crowds as was the hugely successful 1999 tournament which was also in the United States. U.S. defender Brandi Chastain says she hears the loud fans, but only during certain times.

"I think you hear the fans before the game starts. And you hear them when the ball goes out of bounds or there is a wonderful attempt on goal or a good hard tackle,' she says. "But in the run of play it is rare that I find myself listening or hearing the cheering or the noise that they are making."

Ms. Chastain says most players are intensely concentrated on the game, and despite the high level of noise from the stands, find themselves hearing just the action on the field.

"Your focus has to be quite narrow. You have a lot of responsibilities when the game is going on. And when that happens, you just get into this zone where you have been enclosed like a booth," she says. "And everything is a little bit muffled except the voices of your teammates."

The partisan crown in Portland, Oregon was actively cheering the U.S. women even after the end of their semifinal loss to Germany. The fans who come to see the third place game Saturday in Carson, California will likely be as loud when the United States plays Canada. Germany faces Sweden in the final Sunday, also in Carson, just south of Los Angeles.

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