Cuse Country

Home Away From Dome for Syracuse Orange Fans

An open letter to Daryl Gross

Posted by Tom on January 9, 2007

This is a letter I emailed to Daryl Gross a month or so ago, and have been disappointed not to have received a response. Therefore, with this publication, it becomes an open letter. I remain as convinced as ever that there is some sort of quantifiable psychological advantage to the use of music and noise in general in home arenas, and I hope that Syracuse explores it. If you agree, feel free to write him a follow-up at djgross@syr.edu

Dear Dr. Gross:

I’m a born and bred Syracusan, and a 2001 graduate or our fair institution. Now, as a proud alumnus and New York City resident, I remain a die hard fan who wants nothing more than to see Syracuse win.

I believe that you’re someone who’s not afraid to think big, and consider potentially innovative ideas that may be outside the traditional box. Given that, I’d like to bounce an idea off you that I’ve been kicking around for awhile regarding the presentation of games in the Carrier Dome. This might sound slightly crazy, but I believe that you have an opportunity to increase our advantage in attendance, recruiting, and even our competitive edge in the games themselves by developing a plan to fill the Carrier Dome with a wide array of powerful drums.

The power of the Carrier Dome, particularly for basketball, is that visiting teams are confronted with more opposing fans than at any other arena in college basketball. So justifiably, the dome has developed a reputation as an intimidating place to play. I have felt the chills down my spine when the 30,000 plus get excited, and I know that this must have an effect on opposing teams. But even given this, the Dome has its weaknesses. While I’ve noticed the Dome being marketed as “The Loud House” this year, several factors, namely the distance of fans from the court and the soft roof that absorbs sound rather than reflecting it, mean that the Dome only gets truly cranked up on a few big-game occasions. Mostly, the dome is more about the sight of its size than its actual sound. Compared to other, smaller (consistently loud) basketball arenas such as Rutgers’ tiny RAC center, the dome is relatively low-energy. Many of these small arenas have metal bleachers that can be stomped on to create a percussive effect, thus heightening the drama, tension, and intimidation factor. And I’ve noticed that teams, Syracuse in particular, often have trouble defeating sub-par Rutgers squads in that building. Just look at our record there over the past 10 or so years.

My suggestion for the Dome is to introduce a corps of large, deep drums to be used for football and big basketball games, particularly during introductions and crucial breaks in the action. These drums could provide the heartbeat of the arena, a unifying core to the spirit of the tens of thousands assembled to support the Orange. I think the effect of this could be comparable to the historic use of music in warfare to create an aura of power around an army, and intimidate enemies. Many groups, from Zulu warriors to Native Americans historically used large drums to this end. There is a visceral response to the sheer power of large drums, the effect of which enhances the sense of drama surrounding the event; thus emboldening the crowd and home team while striking fear into opponents. These drums could provide a spark of adrenaline at key moments, and help keep momentum going through timeouts called by opponents during Syracuse runs. While this effect is already replicated to some degree by the Sour Citrus Society and the marching band, there is enormous potential to increase it by focusing specifically on the psychological responses to sound and music.

Along these lines, I’ve occasionally seen some fans along the upper levels of the Dome pounding on the huge metal ventilator ducts that line the top of the arena, creating an improvised deep drumming sound. I’d imagine that a series of mechanized, programmable sticks could be placed on these ducts and automated, to create a relatively low maintenance but effective drumming sound to get the crowd’s adrenaline up.

Aside from the effect on opposing teams, I think this could be a way to impress recruits and excite the fans in attendance by raising the level of drama in the sometimes cavernous Carrier Dome.

Anyway, I hope this is useful to you in some way. Thanks for indulging me. Keep up the good work.

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2 Responses to “An open letter to Daryl Gross”

  1. Murphy said

    Might I also suggest The Haka, the traditional Maori war chant that the New Zealand All Blacks perform before every match. It’s intimidating as hell, as you can see from the video. I looked up the translation… it starts with the chant “Ka mate, ka mate” which means “It is death, it is death.” Bring that the the Dome.

  2. This is an interesting idea, but in dealing with Pat Campbell and the Dome staff in years past, especially in ’03-’06, I know for a fact that they would be like “No fucking way!” I think it is a pretty cool concept however, seeing as Syracsue is always desperate to create new “traditions” because we don’t have an awful lot.

    It’s the Sour Sitrus Society by the way.

    Keep up the good work.

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