The Best Sound in Sports

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.

8 thoughts on “The Best Sound in Sports

  1. I always liked the boink followed by the bounce culminating in the plop of the ball as it comes to rest in the frothy liquid. And talk about cathartic releases as the crowd responds as one: “Drink!”

    Give me Beer Pong over the US Open any time.

  2. Ah, yes the chains clanging as you nail that 100yd approach! Kachaaaangychickkachink!

    That is indeed a glorious sound, but I have yet to hear it on TV!

  3. I think that my favorite sport sounds are the gurgle of the ocean under the boat’s keel, the ocasional metalic whir of the winches on a clean tack, the mewing of the seaguls as you cross the line. And these are sometimes on TV.

  4. A well-put demonstration of the difference between the sounds that are giant crescendos to cap a flurry of frantic activity and the sounds of an ongoing success. A moment versus a process. The ocean, I think, provides a slower arena, but all the more dramatic for being so.

    Soccer doesn’t have any such excuse, nor any such sound.

  5. I know this doesn’t qualify for your definition of sport, but I think the sweetest sound in all of recreation activity is that sweet small ping sound when club connects with golf ball in the perfect spont on the head of the club. You feel it in your entire being how perfect the arc of the club, the slight resistance as club meets and accelerates ball, follow through that wraps around the core of your being as you watch the ball float ever so serenely past the bend in the dog leg and silently drops and gracefully bounces onto the green of another hole.

    Not that I have ever experienced something of the kind. If it did, maybe attributed to beer and adrenaline.

  6. As the boat tacks, a hiss of water as the helmsman turns the tiller; a brief whomph-whomph sound as the sails luff and then straighten to the new angle of the wind, a ratcheting sound as the winch is used to pull the genoa sheet taut for the new angle of sail, a small clanging sound as the mainsail slaps across the boat to its new postion.

    And through it all, you never stop hearing the sounds of the ocean, or the seagulls, or anything else.

    Any sport that involves a motor is not truly a sport.

  7. Perhaps I ought to add that Alouette, the boat that Jerry joined us upon as we sailed to Catalina, has won its class in the Newport-to-Ensenada race twice. It was rather a pity that we didn’t have good wind conditions to show Jerry how sailing works, but maybe next time we can.

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