You’ve heard me rant about what makes a real sport. This is a corollary to that discussion. Great sports make great sounds. A sound in a stadium must be simple and sharp. Maybe there are times when boot hits ball that soccer can create that visceral *thump* that sends a shockwave through the audience. Probably not, though.
American Football has a sound. It is the crash of two men clad in hardened plastic smashing into each other. In fact, the “protection” those men wear is designed more to make loud noises than to preserve the health of the players. Hundreds of injuries a year could be avoided if the league adopted quieter pads. So for me that sharp smash is a tainted sound. I can’t help but think that every collision could be the end of a career, or even a life, just to give me that sound.
And there are better sounds. There’s the sweet purity of the crack as a baseball meets the sweet spot on a bat. Fielders listen to that sound and play the hit accordingly. The sound is not just something for the fans to enjoy, it’s a critical part of the game. Should the Majors stop using wood bats, I’d stop watching. I love that sound. Subtler, but equally important, is the sound of a strike-three fastball burying itself in the catcher’s glove. POP! “Thureeeeee!” Beauty.
That’s not my favorite sound, however. In the same category as the well-struck baseball is the slap shot. Crack! Hockey is full of great sounds. There’s the schuuuus of skates at full brake, there’s the crunch of bodies at midice, there’s the blammo of bodies into into the boards, and the whistles of irate european fans. Then there’s the sharp crack when stick meets puck with a force so huge the stick sometime breaks. Bam!
But as great as that snap is, there is one sound more powerful in sport. When that enormous crack! is followed by a resonating piiiiiing! you know deep in your heart that nothing could have been closer. In a live and die world where fate is decided by the dimensions of a hard rubber disk and the arbitrary diameter of the metal that supports the net, that sound is a call to prayer. That sound will drive the fanatics of both teams mad. It is the sound of victory and the sound of loss. It is the decision of the Gods of the Bounce, against whom we will never argue but at whom we will always curse.
There is no other sound in all of sports that comes close.