Item: if there are football games played on the Syracuse campus between September and November, the university has acknowledged they will be contested with significantly reduced capacity. In a building that’s always contained noise and pulsates when the home crowd gets a dose of Orange Fever, a forced sound of silence will be more than deafening.
The irony is unmistakable.
After 40 years, the Dome is undergoing a major transformation with a permanent roof strong enough to support the obligatory mammoth video/scoreboard that is part of every major entertainment venue of its stature.
Now in the Covid-19 world with the necessitated distancing standards set forth by the CDC to state and local governments, it means the inaugural renovated season if played fully in a new and improved Dome will be bittersweet, with a noticeably smaller number of eyeballs on hand to be transfixed and entertained watching the magic of a huge screen high above displaying game replays and promotional spots.
Even without all the 21st century in-stadium technological wizardry, college football is about tailgating, cheerleaders, the bands performing on the field pre-game, halftime and post-game, and the emotion that comes from a game played by members of the student body in front of alumni, students and general fans. In other words, loud noise, and plenty of it.
If the games are played and there are few if any spectators in the first few weeks, the unmasked sounds of football, not cheering, will be prevalent; players and their equipment colliding, loud barking of instructions and encouragement from the sidelines, and the stinging echoing of official’s whistles.
Even several thousand fans won’t make a dent with the Dome’s size. Think something along the lines of the murmur produced by a visiting lacrosse team’s crowd sitting behind their team’s bench in the Dome after witnessing a goal.
For game broadcasts the questions will surround balancing the “nakedness” of the lack of natural crowd noise and the jarring visual of rows of empty seats, with “crowd-tracking” audio and the proper placement of the now more popular-than-ever life-size cutouts that are finding their way into empty stadium seating sections.
We’re confident the ACC and Syracuse will get figure out how to stage the games, while simultaneously planning for potential audibles and contingencies for an upcoming season that’s only produced too many question marks three months from its schedule start.
As longtime ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel used to say when going into a timeout while announcing a major network game in the 1960s with boothmate (and 1938-1941 SU assistant coach) Bud Wilkinson, “Watching college football, not a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”
Let’s hope a 2020 ‘Cuse season allows us not to stray too far away from the game’s traditional enjoyment.