The Bulls’ Eye View: Sounds of the Game

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BY STEVE HOFFMAN
Staff Writer

I’m just going to come out and say it from the top. Sorry. No April Fool’s joke here today. If I could get you to believe, even for just a few seconds, that I would change my allegiance to another team, or that the New York Red Bulls have signed Rolandinho, or that Coach Mike Petke is going to start one of this year’s draft picks at Right Back this week, that would just be sad (Um, about that last one though…).

My other obvious option for today’s column would be a response to the response to the response to an anonymous article about some guy getting a tattoo.

Not going there either. You’re welcome.

No, what I want to talk about this week is sound. More specifically, the aural landscape that makes up a match at Red Bull Arena. I had to miss the official home opener, so last week’s match was my first time back since last year, giving me a fresh perspective on the game day experience. The thing that struck me about the game experience last week was what I heard.

Let’s just come out and say that it wasn’t exactly a packed house. Guess what? THAT’S OK. In my opinion, a perfectly acceptable crowd for a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon in March. Let’s leave the attendance/”why can’t we sell out” obsession for another time. And, guess what? Total season ticket holder jacket pick up time? 3 minutes.

That sparse crowd, however, really reduced what would normally be background noise, allowing me to focus on all the sounds that contribute to making a game at RBA something special. We’ll take it from the top…

Pregame/Warmup Music — B+: Although I’ve been known to tune into SiriusXM’s BPM and Electric Area stations now and then, I am not in any way a connoisseur of today’s latest dance/house/whatever music, but I have to say that I’m often pleasantly surprised by the choices being made. Upbeat without being too annoying, whoever is choosing the music (let’s call him DJ Not Sölli) is doing a great job. Even my son, who knows his Diplo from his Skrillex, will admit that “it’s pretty good”.

National Anthem — C-: I will give credit to whoever produces the game day events for constantly trying to mix it up in this department. Sometimes we get Broadway casts, sometimes we get Sinatra impersonators. And sometimes we just get incredibly competent solo singers who do the anthem exactly the way I like it — simply and briskly.

This Sunday, I felt kind of bad for the singer, who clearly had a nice voice, but was having trouble hearing herself and staying in a single key. Again, the whole sparse crowd/quiet thing comes into play, because there was one guy in the South Ward singing so loud (but in a different key) that I believe it legitimately threw her off. To that guy, by the way, I tip my hat. Maybe we should get him out there.

The Crowd Reactions — A-: The minus only comes in because of the size of the crowd, but it was crystal clear that the crowd that was there was plugged into this match. Unfortunately, the first half did not give them very much to cheer about as RBNY put in a performance that can only be described as desultory. There was great and lusty jeering each and every time a Chivas player dove to the ground and rolled about like a dog trying to dry themselves on a carpet. A disquieting and, almost church-like, silence enveloped the stands when Tim Cahill finally took a seat on the ground and held his hamstring, unable to go on any longer. And, when the team finally awoke in the second half, a steady build up — like the roar of a wave — each time the ball went out on the wing for Lloyd Sam in anticipation of a strong run and tantalizing cross. The fact that two of these buildups were punctuated by rumbles of thunder from the sky, made it that much more dramatic. These are the moments that stick with you, long after you leave the Arena.

The South Ward — A+: It’s hard for me to say whether this perfect grade is due to an entire off-season away from hearing our supporters. Or maybe the lack of fans in the rest of the stadium allowed me to hear the songs and cheers a bit more clearly than normal, but the South Ward, the entire South Ward, was in fine voice on Sunday. When Peguy Luyindula put in Alexander’s lofting corner kick over Dan Kennedy (rendered helpless by the distraction of Luis Robles’ presence), the explosion of sound that came from the South end of the Arena just about knocked me over.

What was the big deal, you ask? All the Red Bulls did was to somehow snatch a single point out of the jaws of defeat. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds good to me.