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Grunt controller
June 30, 2011 6:25 AM   Subscribe

With shrieking tennis players Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka taking part in the women's semi-finals at Wimbledon today the BBC has taken action by launching a device called Net Mix, which allows users to turn down the grunts of the players while listening to the radio coverage.. Previously, Belarusian tennis player, Victoria Azarenka ‘wail’ registers at 95 dB, but that's not the loudest (Listen Victoria Azarenka ‘wail’ here)
posted by nam3d (62 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
...how is this Net Mix going to work, exactly, given that it seems to be for radio specifically? From a purely technical standpoint, I mean. Two broadcasts on similar frequencies, one with courtside mics, one without, so you can 'blend' between the two stations, effectively? I'm really struggling to think how this can be done, and the article doesn't elucidate at all.
posted by Dysk at 6:32 AM on June 30, 2011


That wail is... yikes. But hey, I guess you make the sounds you make. I'm sure it's involuntary. I'm glad no one comes to my office and gets bothered at the way I cuss when I'm trying to get some boot loader to cooperate.
posted by kbanas at 6:33 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lessons learned from the vuvuzela.
posted by proj at 6:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been watching this on TV. When that siren went off earlier it was a pleasant distraction. Whoohoohoohoooo.
posted by Elmore at 6:34 AM on June 30, 2011


Ah. It's not for radio at all. It's for internet audio broadcast. And is done in software.

Damn.
posted by Dysk at 6:34 AM on June 30, 2011


If the wailing is so undesirable to the viewer experience couldn't the umpire dock the biggest offenders points if they continue doing it. I'm sure McEnroe got docked points somewhere in his career in order to force him to tone down his antics I imagine a similar penalty could be put in place in regards to excessive grunting.

Some noise is bound to happen as a result of physical exertion but the level of grunting among some of these players is intentional and designed to give a competitive advantage (apparently because it can hide auditory clues about the ball). Rule changes come into place to block unfair advantages all the time in all sorts of sports.
posted by vuron at 6:40 AM on June 30, 2011


Gruntfilter
posted by 3FLryan at 6:40 AM on June 30, 2011


Was just tweetin'. I agree with everyone that it's annoying but if they were going to do something about it they should have acted 25 years ago. It doesn't seem like a good solution to me to just go tell the top tennis players in the world, who have been playing that way their entire lives, "Good luck in the final. OBTW, that thing you do when you hit the ball? You can't do that anymore. Play well!" I don't really see any good solutions at this point.

Personally I find the Williams sisters' the most bothersome. Most of the other women sound like they're just making noises playing sport, hitting the ball hard. The Williams sound to me like they're murdering someone. As I type this, it looks Azarenka is about to lose, so the feared worst-case Azarenka-Sharapova final "concert" appears to be avoided for now.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:46 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some noise is bound to happen as a result of physical exertion but the level of grunting among some of these players is intentional and designed to give a competitive advantage (apparently because it can hide auditory clues about the ball). Rule changes come into place to block unfair advantages all the time in all sorts of sports.

1 - How do you tell the difference between an involuntary noise and an intentional one? How can you prove it?

2 - Wait, what auditory clues about the ball would grunting/wailing help to hide? I would think that grunting/wailing serves as a great distraction, but not being a tennis pro, I genuinely wonder how it could help by hiding the sound of the racket hitting the ball?
posted by antifuse at 6:50 AM on June 30, 2011


I'm sure it's involuntary.

No, it's tactical.

In my humble tennis-loving opinion, the grunting is one of two reasons why women's tennis is in such a sorry state. The first being there are no good players anymore. Or at the least, no players who can consistently stay interested or healthy enough to string together a run of championships. The other is the grunting. Last night I spoke with my mother, one of those occasional tennis fans who gets excited for the majors and who can summon surprising pools of enthusiasm to root for a familiar face. She told me that she has tired of watching the women play, that the grunting bothers her while doing chores around the house, and so she has decided to not watch any more women's matches. I didn't care enough to mount a counter argument. The play is pretty uninspiring and the personalities lacking (save Bartoli). But maybe she was just upset that Federer lost in the quarterfinals again. That was enough to ruin anyone's day.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:51 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


opponents used to complain that Seles' grunt/shriek was so loud they couldn't hear the racket hit the ball (and so couldn't get a good jump). if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I guess.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:52 AM on June 30, 2011


*invokes rule 34*
posted by Theta States at 7:00 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Forget the grunt controller, at least you can turn the volume down yourself if you want to. I just wish they'd take down the scoreboard graphic which is always on the top of the screen like a vulture just dumped on it when the ball is in play. It's really off putting. Just because you can cover the screen with annoying graphics doesn't mean you have to. Petra Kvitova has just ended the Azarenka's run anyway, fingers crossed Sabine Lisicki can put out Sharapova too and we'll have a final without all the shrieking.
posted by joannemullen at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2011


I like repetitive sound art performance more than a regular old tennis match 9 times out of 10 anyways. So listening to grunting and sneaker-squeaking intervals gives me something else to focus on when a match gets dull.
posted by p3t3 at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the anti-grunting controversy is ultimately anti-feminist because male-dominated society would rather watch them and ogle their lithe bodies than hear them.

Face it, sometimes when we exert ourselves, we loudly expel air. It is impossible to play to win and be completely quiet.

In fact, I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced, fined or forced to stop playing tennis. It just goes to show that it is ok when a man does it, perhaps?
posted by Renoroc at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I was a pro tennis player, I would just go out there and start shouting Moby Dick.

Call me Ishmael (whack)

Some years ago (whack)

never mind how long (whack)

precisely (whack)

having little or no (whack)

money in my purse (whack)

And so on. Perhaps this is why I never made it as a pro tennis player.

(that and my notable lack of athletic talent)
posted by Naberius at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced, fined or forced to stop playing tennis.

If you think that, then you aren't really old enough to remember John McEnroe. He was eliminated from a Grand Slam event for arguing with an official. He inspired more than one rule change all by himself, and it wasn't to do with his style of play.
posted by Etrigan at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the McEnroe antics and, yes, they were controversial, some people wanted him out, etc.
posted by raysmj at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2011


Reneroc, the men manage to exert themselves without making nearly as much noise. Add in the anticompetitive aspect of it, in that it does actively prevent your opponent from playing as well, and I think it's pretty obvious that it has to do with tennis and not anti-feminism. Also, you'll find that a lot of the people who to look at the attractive female tennis players like the grunting.

Also, I'm too young to remember but didn't people hate McEnroe's antics? I mean, my sense is that his fits make him still fairly controversial.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2011


I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced

Was John McEnroe a grunter? I'm not old enough to remember him playing (or at least, I wasn't interested in tennis when he played), but I thought he was more known for his between-point antics than his while-playing antics. And I *do* remember him being pretty widely panned for his arguing with officials, swearing, etc.
posted by antifuse at 7:16 AM on June 30, 2011


In fact, I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced, fined or forced to stop playing tennis.

Yeah, this is pretty airtight.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I grunt is one thing, but these are long shrieks. I think they are attempts to obscure any information the opponent might be getting from the sound of the ball leaving the racket.

I hope someday a player calls a let on every shriek, right from the start, and refuses to play against this unsporting behavior, basically saying "hey kid, get off my lawn."
posted by cccorlew at 7:22 AM on June 30, 2011


It is annoying to listen to that through the course of a match but I just turn down the volume. That also solves the problem of loquacious commentators. One of my favorite players to watch is David Ferrer and he grunts through most of his matches. I think it is the pitch of the shriek that puts me off.
posted by Don92705 at 7:22 AM on June 30, 2011


FFS ESPN2 SHOW THE LIVE MATCH
posted by BeerFilter at 7:29 AM on June 30, 2011


I think the anti-grunting controversy is ultimately anti-feminist because male-dominated society would rather watch them and ogle their lithe bodies than hear them.

If this was true, porn would be silent.
posted by Skeptic at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


So, crowd noise is a crucial part of any sports match, but sports commentary is almost universally terrible. I would love it, and I would definitely pay extra, if I could get a sports channel that only showed me the sports. The field the athletes, the refs and the crowd noise, only. No crowd shots, never cut to any commentators at all.

Man, that'd be so great.
posted by mhoye at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the anti-grunting controversy is ultimately anti-feminist because male-dominated society would rather watch them and ogle their lithe bodies than hear them.

Face it, sometimes when we exert ourselves, we loudly expel air. It is impossible to play to win and be completely quiet.

In fact, I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced, fined or forced to stop playing tennis. It just goes to show that it is ok when a man does it, perhaps?


Nice way to get not one single thing right. This is the exact kind of thing that makes people roll their eyes at "feminists" and tune out to real problems of this ilk: the petulant concern over something you yourself made up, the self-righteous absolute wrongness of your idea about what men would like to watch and hear. The obvious desire to be outraged is sadly not backed up by anything in the real world in this case. Maybe you can dig around and find something else to be pointlessly offended by. Shame you're old enough to remember McInroe but not old enough to remember any of the trouble or controversy that he engendered with his loud antics.
posted by umberto at 7:46 AM on June 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


So, crowd noise is a crucial part of any sports match, but sports commentary is almost universally terrible. I would love it, and I would definitely pay extra, if I could get a sports channel that only showed me the sports. The field the athletes, the refs and the crowd noise, only. No crowd shots, never cut to any commentators at all.

We need the C-span sports network.
posted by umberto at 7:47 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I knew the moment I saw this post someone would claim it was anti-feminist or whatever. It will be a derail.

Anyway while you do get some added power by expelling air, the grunting in female tennis is like a caricature of itself at this point. Listen to boxers and MMA fighters. If these elongated expulsions of breath actually worked you'd hear boxers do it. Instead it's short, compressed bursts.

I think this just is a generation of players arriving on the scene who grew up trying to emulate Monica Seles. And it's engrained in their game at this point. It's not making them better tennis players, per se, but forcing them to change might get in their heads and make them worse.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:51 AM on June 30, 2011


NBC did an experiment with a commentator-less game back in the '80s or maybe early '90s, I think. They used more audio tech to pick up more sounds off the field, etc., things that are commonly heard on broadcasts now. This made for boring TV.
posted by raysmj at 7:55 AM on June 30, 2011


It's a matter of control, is all, same as in the gym. These idiot screamers in the gym, anyone with their head on straight looks at them same as they look at dogshit on their shoe. Good gyms will stop it, pronto. It's lame. And it's not needed.

Only thing is that it might have to be grandfathered in; as noted above, many of these players have been doing it since they were six years old, and to them it is totally ingrained, it is totally a part of how they play the game. Give it one year: "Okay, boys and girls -- you get one more year to moan and howl, then we start taking points." It might not change for 364 days but on day 365 it'd change; these people are some of the most motivated people on the planet, and unbelievably disciplined; if it needed done, they could do it.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:56 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would love it, and I would definitely pay extra, if I could get a sports channel that only showed me the sports. The field the athletes, the refs and the crowd noise, only. No crowd shots, never cut to any commentators at all.

The Dodgers without Vin Scully? That's like an enchilada with no cheese.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2011


The grunting is clearly gamesmanship. The grunts are so long that they're staring to last until through the other player's hit.

I like how the dead-ball hit here is (almost) as hard as a normal shot and yet is mysteriously unaccompanied by any vocalization whatsoever.
posted by Turd Ferguson at 8:04 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those in search of a commentary-less game, try looking at some of the streaming sites that have a variety of streams from different countries. They still have commentators but it seems like they're just not as damn chatty as what you get on American TV coverage. The one I'm watching now, because NBC/ESPN2 have given all us tennis fans the finger this morning, has sparse commentary in English but they rarely say more than a few short sentences between points. Atdhe.ws has 15 different streams of the match listed right now. Looks like it's about to rain though. :(
posted by BeerFilter at 8:06 AM on June 30, 2011


I like repetitive sound art performance more than a regular old tennis match 9 times out of 10 anyways.

Shortly after you posted that, this came on my playlist.
posted by Theta States at 8:16 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, crowd noise is a crucial part of any sports match, but sports commentary is almost universally terrible. I would love it, and I would definitely pay extra, if I could get a sports channel that only showed me the sports. The field the athletes, the refs and the crowd noise, only. No crowd shots, never cut to any commentators at all.

I did some audible groaning of my own when NBC won the Olympic broadcast rights for the next 8 years.
Just shutting up and showing the competition is not their strong suit.
posted by madajb at 8:28 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember hanging out with my ladyfriend in my backyard one night, which is set in a pleasantly woodsy area. Suddenly there was a horrific noise, and the ladyfriend startled. "Don't worry," I said, "that's just the sound of foxes fighting and/or mating. They always sound horrific like that." The ladyfriend settled back and relaxed.. "Oh good, it sounded like a feral Victoria Azarenka was on the prowl for a second!"

note: this conversation did not actually occur
posted by FatherDagon at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did some audible groaning of my own when NBC won the Olympic broadcast rights for the next 8 years. Just shutting up and showing the competition is not their strong suit.

Except that with the resignation of Ebersoll, didn't that mean that NBC was going to move in a different direction? I remember reading articles about that somewhere.
posted by Melismata at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2011


The Red Sock's Bill Lee, the "punk rock pitcher," had to remove the safety pins from his cap on the grounds that it could be a distraction.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:07 AM on June 30, 2011


Nobody ever grunted in the old days, so it can't be strictly necessary. I wonder who was the first offender?
posted by Segundus at 9:18 AM on June 30, 2011


All the grunting isn't keeping Sharapova from melting down to Lisicki.
posted by basicchannel at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2011


Except that with the resignation of Ebersoll, didn't that mean that NBC was going to move in a different direction? I remember reading articles about that somewhere.

I would not hold out hope.
Given the current state of programming, I envision even more "human interest" stories in primetime, with the sports shunted off to an online ghetto (Presented by Microsoft Silverlight (screw you if you aren't using windows)).
posted by madajb at 9:30 AM on June 30, 2011


The Stanley Cup finals certainly weren't improved by his departure.
posted by proj at 9:31 AM on June 30, 2011


I just wish they'd take down the scoreboard graphic which is always on the top of the screen like a vulture just dumped on it when the ball is in play. It's really off putting. Just because you can cover the screen with annoying graphics doesn't mean you have to.

Huh ? What's wrong with showing the score ?
posted by Pendragon at 10:01 AM on June 30, 2011


In fact, I'm old enough to remember John McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced, fined or forced to stop playing tennis.

You cannot be serious.

John McEnroe on grunting:
"I think it's definitely a distraction but, obviously, people feel they need it in some cases but it's gotten way out of hand, in my opinion," McEnroe said. "It's one thing if an old guy like myself is grunting a bit but it's different when you see a 16- or 18-year-old. It seems sort of crazy. You can barely hear yourself think at times."

So how do you rein it in?

"I don't know how to do that," he said, "but I'd like to think it should be."
posted by Room 641-A at 10:02 AM on June 30, 2011


NBC's Olympic coverage is pretty disgraceful, starting with Commentators talking incessantly through the opening ceremonies, overloading with Athlete profiles, and pretty much only showing sports where the US is either favored or it's a major draw it can be hard to see many of the non-marquee sports.

Winter Olympics has a less frantic schedule and so you do get to see more of the low draw sports but between Swimming, Gymnastics and Track and Field it can be hard to see anything else during those 2 weeks.

I kinda wish they would actually expand the period of competition for the summer (and frankly winter) Olympics. It's a pretty big ratings event and I think you could easily get a 3rd week of competition without decreasing quality too much.
posted by vuron at 10:09 AM on June 30, 2011


I thought McEnroe got docked for arguing and being petulant and making a hostile ass of himself. He didn't get penalized (as I remember it) for exerting himself too much. Am I misremembering?

The women players seem to be getting criticized for being excessively loud when they're hitting the ball. But contracting the core muscles and diagrammatically expelling air through a restricted exit tightens the entire, tensegrity-linked body, tenses the musculature, and increases the power of the stroke. Kiai is one of names among martial arts for an application of this principle.

But it's an unladylike sound. And women athletes have to be ladies before they're allowed to be viewed as athletes.

When Brandi Chastain whipped off her jersey, people didn't see a soccer player celebrating victory in the manner traditional to the sport, they saw a girl stripping off her shirt in an unladylike manner. When the Canadian women's hockey team swilled champagne and smoked stogies in uniform with their gold medals on... unladylike.

Because women have to be ladies before they're allowed to be athletes.

I come down on the side of an athlete playing professionally for BOO-COO $$$ gets to exert themselves as hard as they can.

And if that comes across as "unladylike", tough shit. Go watch afternoon tea competitions.

Game on.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011


And if that comes across as "unladylike", tough shit. Go watch afternoon tea competitions.

I wonder if this is a "cut off your nose" situation, in that some portion of the attention paid to women's sports generally, and women's tennis specifically, is because of the sexual interest that the male audience has in the female athletes.
posted by andoatnp at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2011


andoatnp, that's likely to be a fairly contentious point, at best. The idea that women's tennis only has value in as far as it appeases a male audience (whose interest is tangential, at best, to the sport in question) rubs the wrong way something vicious.
posted by Dysk at 10:28 AM on June 30, 2011


**turns down the volume**

I'll be smoking a joint with Jennifer Capriati.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:29 AM on June 30, 2011


Giant load of "unladylike" crap, meet the blue.

Since mostly 'ladies' --thanks for sticking those words in our mouths, btw...yes, we must hate useless annoying shrieking because we hate women-- utilize this oh-so-respected theory of optimal muscularization, I guess it's not 'un-ladylike' to make the noise. I guess men aren't competitive and don't wish to use this amazing technique.

Also, thinking like a horndog fratboy dood for a minute, if you want to make slavering sexists beasts out of us then shapely women making orgasm noises should make us want to watch more and complain that they don't shriek enough. Pick a direction. Us sexist males can't run both ways at once.

On the other hand, since you don't see much drawn-out keening and wailing in volleyball, golf, or numerous other point-of-contact sports, maybe it's just a stupid thing that got trendy in one sport and didn't cross over because....it's stupid, trendy noise and not athleticism.
posted by umberto at 10:36 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I think this new audio technology is a terrible idea," Tom said, disgruntled.
posted by zippy at 10:50 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


> ... McEnroe and his antics and no ever suggested that he should be silenced

You cannot be serious ....
 (you have to be this old to see what I did there)
The Connors/McEnroe grunts were a BFD at the time. Considered shocking gamesmanship. Even featured in ‪Art of Noise - Beat Box Version 2‬‏.
posted by scruss at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Your own link says Chastain's undressing led to a wave of goodwill that brought her good things, the formation of the Women's United Soccer Association, etc. She wasn't punished for it, although there as a bit of hoo-ha oh-my stuff from the media about it.
posted by raysmj at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2011


Because women have to be ladies before they're allowed to be athletes.

This has little to do with being a lady and more to do with unnecessary gamesmanship. When I was in karate, we were taught to "AH" when we punched because of the power aspect you mention. It's the drawn-out "AHHAHHAHAHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....WAAAAAAAAAAWWW!!!!" that makes people wtf? If someone did that in our class, the female instructor would have kicked their add out of the dojang.

What annoys me though are tennis players who take forever to server [I'm looking at you, Djokovic, and you 18 bonces]
posted by jmd82 at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2011


On second thought, I think the whole Chastain "controversy," such as it was, was just another opportunity for TV commentators and print pundits to go on and on and on and on and on about boobs, sexiness, whether the team members were wild women, etc. A whole 'nother form of sexism and stupidity, and media sensationalism. Granted, I wasn't paying the closest attention to the ridiculousness. But it certainly didn't seem to hurt her career.
posted by raysmj at 11:36 AM on June 30, 2011


You cannot be serious.

Say it like you mean it!
posted by kenko at 11:42 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, one aspect of this is that this discussion comes up every year at Wimbledon, because Wimbledon is still the old folks' home of Grand Slam tournaments. Everyone still has to wear all white outfits (you guys remember the big will-Agassi-go-color thing from way back?), HawkEye is still seen in some corners as an unwelcome intrusion, they hated the introduction of tiebreaks, etc. Wimbledon is where the tennis world goes every year to grouse about these kids today. So let's factor that in, because while it still comes up in other tournaments, no one sniffs about it quite as much as the All England Tennis Club.
posted by Errant at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2011


I would not hold out hope.
Given the current state of programming, I envision even more "human interest" stories in primetime, with the sports shunted off to an online ghetto (Presented by Microsoft Silverlight (screw you if you aren't using windows)).


Yeah, I'm not looking forward to their coverage of the Tour de France again this year. I want to watch it in HD, but after a stage or two, I usually want to start screaming "Shut up! Shut up and just show the frickin' race! Stop cutting to pre-recorded segments! Show fewer commercials!"

Then I start watching European feeds online. Then I start to miss Bob Roll.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2011


I don't watch tv often, so maybe my expectations are off. Based on the match I saw on Tuesday night, this is inane, even with no sound. Watching the antics of Azarenka was like watching the animated cover of a Harlequin romance novel, and was equally unbelievable.
posted by sneebler at 8:09 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was about ready to dismiss this whole controversy as silly. Athletes make all kinds of noises when they exert themselves. Admittedly, I haven't seen any pro tennis for many years. But how bad could it be, right? Had to find out for myself.

HOOOAAA...WOOOOO!
posted by krinklyfig at 11:45 AM on July 2, 2011


krinklyfig: "HOOOAAA...WOOOOO !"

I can see the remix of this coming from a mile away.
posted by bwg at 6:27 PM on July 11, 2011


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