There were nine minutes to go in the third quarter last Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles were somehow still in the game. Not just in it but in with a shout too. The LA Rams had outplayed them pretty much the whole way but now the Eagles had the ball on the Rams 21-yard line and they were only 21-16 down. A touchdown here and they would take a lead that had looked out of the question early in the second quarter when they had trailed by 21-3.
Eagles quarter-back Carson Wentz made a hash of it though and the Rams defence picked it off. It was exactly the wrong throw and precisely the wrong time, killing any momentum the Eagles had built up. It was the pivotal play in the game too - the Rams got the next score and went on to ease their way to a 37-19 win. It came as no surprise to hear a loud chorus of boos ring out as Wentz trudged off the field shaking his head at his mistake.
Except, no, it did come as a surprise because there were no fans in the ground. While some NFL teams have been allowing restricted crowds into their stadiums - the Cowboys had 21,708 in attendance last week - Lincoln Field in Philly was empty for Wentz’s snafu. Which means that whoever was in charge of the crowd noise control panel had decided to press the button marked Home Fans Boo Their Own Player.
The braying of an NFL goon squad is surely as nothing compared to the rich tapestry of sound offered up by a GAA champo crowd in full cry
Now, you can look at this in one of two ways. You can of course take it as this week’s sign that humanity is on its last swirl around the toilet bowl before being mercy-flushed out into the clear blue yonder for its own good. But that seems altogether too nihilistic for a Monday morning. And besides, the first Trump-Biden debate is on Tuesday night. We can be sure there are depths yet to be plumbed that we haven’t considered.
Anyway, we like to look up, not down. We’re all despaired out. The GAA championships are just 33 days away now so you can keep your tut-tutting to yourself, thanks all the same. Where you see decline and fall, we see only possibilities. Thirty-three days is plenty. RTÉ and Sky need to be getting on it like a Shakespeare sonnet.
Think about it. The braying of an NFL goon squad is surely as nothing compared to the rich tapestry of sound offered up by a GAA champo crowd in full cry. It’s not just roaring, you know. Well, a lot of it is but there’s roaring and there’s roaring.
There’s Parade Roaring, for which you need a panoramic 360-degree sound effect, lifting and listing in waves as the players march around the pitch. It will need to be long and sustained and if you wish to throw in archive footage of Jack McCaffrey smiling at the crowd, knock yourself out. No, he won’t be there this year but the crowds won’t either so they cancel each other out. Underlay it with some brass parping from the Artane Band and you’re away.
There’s First Score Roaring, which has its own sub-categories, depending on the context. You’ll need a button for First Score By An Underdog and one for First Score By A Favourite. There’ll have to be separate buttons for First Score - Goal, First Score - Point, First Goal - Free. And of course, First Score - After Four Wides And The Concession Of An Own Goal. Space will be tight so for brevity, just call that the Mayo button.
In general play, you’ll need a button for Throw-In Roaring, preceded always by F**king Throw It In Ref Roaring. You won’t get by without a button for the roar that rises behind a goalkeeper’s nets if he’s taking too long over a kick-out. Nor will you retain a lot of credibility unless you have one for the roar when a freetaker is stealing yards or when a time-wasting defender kicks the ball away. This will be important in Tyrone games.
It's not all noise, either. There's plenty of nuance in the silence of a GAA crowd too
On the disciplinary side of things, that specific off-camera roar that greets an off-the-ball jab in the ribs is a must. In fact, you’ll need two roars here - one that says the lad on the ground is the worst actor since De Niro tried comedy and another conveying the need for the birch to be brought back to deal with the brute standing over him. Actually, come to think of it, you’ll need three more on top - one for a yellow card, one for a red and one for the cop-out yellow apiece.
And let's not by coy about it. We're all grown-ups here, realists in all things. There'll have to be some boo buttons too. The championship won't be complete without the righteous anger of the Hill 16 purists who will accept the ball being passed backwards only if Ciarán Kilkenny does it. Or the howls of the Kilkenny cognoscenti who have blind-eyed 20 years of Brian Cody coursing referees but by God they won't be putting up with Davy Fitz's oul' shite on the line.
It’s not all noise, either. There’s plenty of nuance in the silence of a GAA crowd too. There’s the quiet of the 20th minute in an Ulster football game, with two teams looking at each other across the Clones grass with nothing to say, like a bad first date.
And if you have a button for that, you’re going to need one for the last 60 minutes of a Dublin game in Leinster. Indeed, this year’s Leinster football final is likely to be the only fixture in world sport where the crowd will actually be louder than it was in the 2019 equivalent, due to the stamping of feet we’ll need to do to keep warm as another massacre is played out before us.
Five weeks, lads and lassies. If there aren’t whole departments in RTÉ and Sky beavering away on this already, Croke Park need to have a word.