Sport: Silence & Word Play

Athletes are champions on the field, and of larger issues on the world stage.


In March 2017, an experiment was conducted during an NBA game at New York City’s Madison Square Garden: For the first half of the basketball game, no extraneous noise—from music to cheerleading—was permitted, so that spectators and players could “experience the game in its purest form.” “Enjoy the sounds of the game,” the Jumbotron implored. Pleasure, however, was scarce in the cavernous area. Rather, the soundtrack of squeaky shoes and hushed murmurings from the crowd produced what many called an unnerving, eerie effect.

For those at home with television and radio, the cacophony that today overwhelms most sporting events is dominated by the sportscaster’s commentary—a seemingly all-knowing voice describing, with startling immediacy, the play-by-play of bodies ...

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