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Artificial noise? Much ado about Hawks’ 12th Man

Published: September 21st, 2006 01:00 AM

KIRKLAND – If you think the NFL is going to suspend the 12th Man for using performance enhancers, relax.

According to news reports, the league has notified the Seattle Seahawks of a complaint that Qwest Field crowd noise has been artificially enhanced. A league official supposedly will be dispatched to monitor the situation Sunday when the New York Giants visit.

Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell said Wednesday that no one representing the team is allowed to comment on communications from the league, but added, “We’ve never enhanced our crowd noise and never will. We don’t need to. I think that would be an affront to our fans.”

As for the arrival of some special NFL Noise Posse, the league office already has more than a handful of observers at every game evaluating any number of factors.

The issue arose this week because the Giants committed 11 crowd-induced false starts in Seattle in late November. Let’s see: If a team were to complain to the league about the noise in Seattle, might it be the one that suffered the most from such noise last season?

The same team that would have had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if its line could have heard the snap count instead of the sound of 67,000 fans revving their engines?

If there was such a memo from the NFL, “it wouldn’t be something we’d bring up,” Ruskell said.

But the news indisputably serves the Seahawks’ interests, and easily could be interpreted as a motivator for the crowd to summon more static than ever.

“I know our fans are the best in the world,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “We have a great home-field advantage.”

Of the mystery memo? “If I’m a fan now, I take that kind of personally,” Holmgren said. “You think last year was loud, wait until Sunday.”

Last week he challenged his offensive line. This week it’s the fans.

Holmgren was prepared for the crowd-noise question at his weekly news conference, and he provided a little history lesson on the problem, recalling a mid-1990s visit with his Green Bay Packers to Minnesota. Giant speakers in the Metrodome spewed high-decibel music directly at the opponents’ bench, he said.

As a member of the NFL Competition Committee, Holmgren voiced his beef and was given the excuse that the speaker placement was necessary so the Vikings’ dancing girls could stay in beat during their routines.

“Then, as it has progressed the last few years, there have been a couple occasions where clubs actually did pipe in noise, to help the crowd,” Holmgren said. “(The committee decided) that was not right. If you get a fan base that is going to yell, that’s real, that’s the fans, that’s OK. If it’s loud, it’s loud.”

Fans are most incited by physical play, particularly by an aggressive defense. And Seattle’s defense, ranked fourth in the league, has kept them energized.

“The fan can appreciate a nice throw and a touchdown, all that stuff,” Holmgren said. “But a fan loves the physical part of the game; that’s what separates the game from other games in many respects. You almost automatically jump up in the air on a big physical hit or a goal-line stand.”

“It’s like the days of the gladiators,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “We love giving the crowd something to get excited about. I don’t think they realize how big an effect they have on the game.”

But it doesn’t put a strain merely on the opponent’s snap count and the fans’ vocal chords.

Twice Sunday against Arizona, the crowd was so loud that Tatupu couldn’t get out his signals. “I couldn’t get the line to slide over and I couldn’t get the stunt I wanted,” he said. “But it didn’t matter because the offense was already so rattled. So, we feed off it; the louder, the better.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin disavowed knowledge of any complaints to the league about the noise level at Qwest Field. (If it’s not the cellular company with the “Can you hear me now?” campaign, it should be.)

“I know it was very loud and it certainly served their purposes very well, but I’m not aware of anything other than the normal crowd noise,” he said Wednesday.

Regardless of the complaint’s source, if there was a complaint, the Seahawks couldn’t be more delighted that it leaked out. Although no one could officially comment on such a thing.

“All I can say is that our fans should take that as a compliment,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “Hopefully they will be louder than they have been. I think it is great that all of the attention is going to be on the 12th Man this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.”

So, if there was an important memo sent out this week, it was the one from the Seahawks to their fans:

“Re: Crowd Noise.

“Bring it.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440

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