The sights and sounds of Red Bull Arena on any given match day are bound to get fans out of their seats and up on their feet to cheer on the hometown team. This weekend’s match between the Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union will be no exception, although the sounds of the match will have an added dynamic for a few special fans in attendance.
The New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Arena are proud to welcome students from the Concordia Learning Center at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind to Saturday’s match, in what will stand as a special day for not only the students, but also the organization as a whole.
Through customized listening devices that run off a special, closed-circuit broadcast within Red Bull Arena, visually impaired fans will have the chance to experience a soccer match on an all new level – live and in-person, with the beautiful game beautifully presented in a specialized play-by-play broadcast.
"We have the proper tools in place to deliver colorful commentary to the visually impaired,” said Red Bulls General Manager, Jerome de Bontin. “Thanks to special training sessions with cutting-edge European audio professionals, members of our staff are certified to deliver play by play of the match straight to the headsets of our guests. The style is focused on describing action in more vivid details than that of typical radio broadcasts, to better illustrate the action to our visually impaired fans. We want to offer a unique in-stadium experience to fans who may otherwise hesitate to consider coming to Red Bull Arena"
Select employees at Red Bull Arena underwent 12 hours’ worth of training with international play-by-play trainer Martin Zwischi, broken up over four days, and centered on providing the best form of audio delivery for the visually impaired. In an effort to bring those fans closer to the action, a team of two will partner up for Saturday’s broadcast against the Union. Never before has this service been offered to fans in MLS.
Some may ask, why not use an already-existing broadcast? Isn’t it the same?
Not even close.
Watch any highlight of a match, like this one for example. Hit play below, close your eyes, and just listen to the clip:
Pretend for just a moment you don’t know the color of the Red Bulls’ uniform for the day, or which direction the Red Bulls are attacking from. Did you know which goal Cahill scored on? Did you know Cahill scored off a header? Did you know it was a diving header?
Therein lies the average fan’s reliance on the visual; seeing the action instead of having it described to them. Only then does a fan realize just how much is placed on watching instead of listening.
So how would a fan who cannot see the action want it described to them?
Simple answer: in as much colorful detail as possible.
Right now you’re reading a story. Obviously the written word provides an opportunity for more detail, especially if a writer has the chance to watch a video clip over and over again in an effort to provide the best description possible. On the fly, live, through a headset and straight to the ears of the fans, the commentary has to be on the mark; vividly detailed, concisely delivered, but expansive enough to paint the picture. And a broadcaster only has that one, live moment to do it.
To illustrate this point, here’s an audio transcript of the video clip from above. Also note; this isn’t a knock against our award-winning broadcast team, but simply a way to draw the comparison between the visual broadcast and the audio-specific one:
Cangialosi: You never know with Henry. From this corner, he’s done some incredible things in this stadium. Pops it out, into the back of goal! Tim Cahill! His fifth of the year. And the best aerial player in these parts, maybe put this game out of reach.
Shep: That could be one of the biggest moments of the season because of the enormity of those two players connecting. How deserving is Tim Chaill of a goal with his head? And you just talked momentarily about what Thierry Henry has done from that corner kick spot.
For a fan that cannot see the play, do they know which corner of the field Henry is lining up at? The mention of “aerial” suggests it was a header, but did he out-jump a defender? Walk in untouched? Did the goalie have a chance? Was it cleanly sent into the netting? You may have also noticed the moments of silence from the broadcast team as the camera panned over shots of the fans and players celebrating. To a specially-trained broadcaster specifically centered on delivering the scene to the visually impaired, that is a blank canvas to work with.
A special broadcast of the match for the visually impaired might describe the play along these lines:
“Thierry Henry lines up for a corner kick in the South end of the arena, positioned to the right of the goal. He sends a right-footed corner into the box. Tim Cahill sprinting inside the penalty area, dives cleanly and untouched, GOAL! Cahill sends a header directly into the back from just a foot or two outside the center of the six-yard box to beat Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Perkins was positioned well to make the save but couldn’t raise his hands fast enough to stop the laser header from Cahill. Red Bulls take a 3-0 lead, as Cahill records his fifth of the season in diving fashion.”
To a reader, it’s probably what you’d expect for the written description of a goal. The average fan sitting at home watching the match doesn’t need that much detail. They saw it as it happened and could determine who sent the corner in and who scored the goal based on the MSG broadcast. But for fans who cannot see the action – those born with visual impairments or those who may have developed them over time – the elaborate descriptions and flowery play-by-play make a world of difference as they feel the excitement and take in the natural sounds of the match live at Red Bull Arena.
"We are delighted to have the students in attendance for this weekend's match against the Philadelphia Union,” de Bontin said. “It will certainly be a great match, and we can't wait to share it with each and every one of them in a new and special way."