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September 11, 2013
Speak up: Seattle crowd attempting noise record vs. 49ers

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The question struck Joe Tafoya in the middle of the night in early July. The Seahawks stadium is famously loud. Could it be world-record loud?

So at 3 a.m., the former Seahawks defensive end hopped on the Internet, found the site for Guinness World Records and fired off an application.

On Sunday evening, he and a legion of Seahawks backers will get their answer when their team takes on the hated San Francisco 49ers. A monitor from Guinness will be on hand at CenturyLink Stadium to see if the din can reach 131.77 decibels, making it the loudest crowd ever recorded. The current record holders, the fans of Galatasary, a Turkish soccer team, reached 131.76 decibels during a match against rival Fenerbahce on March 18, 2011.

Tafoya noted that the Turkish fans set the record with the aid of vuvuzelas and other noise-making devices. Those aren't permitted in NFL venues, meaning the Seattle fans will have to do it by clapping their hands, stomping their feet and exhausting their vocal chords. "That's similar to a jet engine," he said of the noise level. "In order for us to break the record, it's going to have to be extremely loud."

3M is passing out earplugs before the game.

Upon retirement, Tafoya started a marketing company. That company linked up with Volume 12, a Seahawks fan group, for the record attempt. It spent $8,000 to secure the Guinness monitor and also must pay for his trip from New York to Seattle. It hired a sound engineer. And it rented a piece of equipment called a Class 1 precision measuring instrument that will record every decibel generated by the crowd on Sunday.

"It's not something you can pick up off the shelf," Tafoya said.

Opposing players have long suspected that the Seahawks pump in artificial noise through the stadium speakers to enhance the crowd noise. When asked whether the Guinness monitor could detect shenanigans like that, Tafoya said, no, but that he's been assured by the Seahawks they do not use the speakers when the game is in play. "That would be illegal," Tafoya said.

Tafoya said he realized how jarring the noise was inside Seattle's stadium when, as a player, he emerged from the tunnel during the NFC Championship game there in 2005. "There was an unbelievable energy and noise that just kind of gets in your soul," he said. "Right away, you understand that this environment is either going to be very supportive or very hostile. ... The fans thought they were part of that win, and they were."

Tafoya, as it turns out, grew up a 49ers fan. He is from Pittsburg and his brother lives in Sacramento. How does he feel about increasing the volume - and the difficulty level - against his hometown team? "They had their chance," he said with a laugh. "(Steve) Mariucci and his group didn't think I was worth it, so their loss."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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