Wilson's Word: 'NoiseGate' joke not funny

Ravens coach John Harbaugh mentioning piped-in crowd noise 'rumor' at Colts home games is unfair to Indy's Mike Fox and brings back bad memories of a ridiculous controversy.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was probably just joking.

Maybe his Monday mention of an old “rumor” about piped-in crowd noise at Lucas Oil Stadium was expressed in the spirit of gamesmanship, just some good-natured teasing of a friend, former coaching understudy and upcoming Sunday nemesis, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

But what about the guy Harbaugh evidently doesn’t know? What about the man in Indianapolis who initially thought this amplifying crowd noise allegation was so preposterous it was laughable, but later couldn’t help but resent it when other teams believed all the loud talk and kept bringing it up?

That would be Mike Fox. He ran the RCA Dome, where “NoiseGate” was born on Nov. 28, 2005. Yeah, it allegedly occurred in the old stadium, which has since been leveled. It helps to know some of the history behind a baseless “rumor” when bringing it up.

It might also be important to know that Fox’s integrity, impugned enough back in the day, is impeccable. If you knew his back story, as a college and high school basketball referee for more than three decades, perhaps you wouldn’t have brought it up. If you knew that the NFL investigated the matter and found nothing, and yet Fox had to hear about it again and again, maybe you would understand this isn’t really a laughing matter.

I’ve known Fox for 16 years and had the distinct pleasure of interviewing him for about two hours when putting together 2013’s 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. There’s nobody better for anecdotes about the two Indianapolis Colts stadiums that he has run. I brought up “NoiseGate,” and it wasn’t until then that I realized just how upsetting the controversy eventually became.

People who didn’t know him had continually questioned his character. They were saying a guy who has been called every name in the book while blowing a referee’s whistle was capable of doing something unfair to help the Colts. It didn’t matter that he worked for the City of Indianapolis and not the Colts.

It wasn’t until the Colts and Fox moved into Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008 that “NoiseGate” died a rather quiet death. Anybody who was ever in the two buildings can tell you the decibel levels aren’t even remotely close. The RCA Dome was one of the loudest stadiums ever. It was the NFL’s smallest venue, fans were seemingly on top of the field, and the place shook when the Colts won their biggest games in the Peyton Manning glory years.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio couldn’t bring up “NoiseGate” anymore. The New England Patriots couldn’t complain to the league, either. The perception that had somehow become reality finally disappeared.

Then, for some reason, it gets brought up again Monday. Why? And when asked if it would be illegal to pipe in crowd noise, Harbaugh actually finished his affirmative response with, “Sorry, Chuck.”

Sorry, Mr. Harbaugh, you owe Fox the apology. Since you brought it up, let’s make this point with some perspective a little closer to home. Keep in mind, this is coming from a writer who was born in Baltimore.

Considering all that has transpired involving the Ravens and former running back Ray Rice and the domestic-violence video, you would think this is one team that would prefer to keep quiet and just go about its business.

And the Ravens know how to do that. They did it with former middle linebacker Ray Lewis, a man canonized despite his involvement in an Atlanta double murder in 2000. How easily some forget, this NFL “legend” and self-professed Christian who admitted as part of a plea bargain that he lied to police about his role in what happened.

Nobody was ever found guilty for the stabbing deaths. Lewis was punished for obstructing justice. He settled civil suits with the victims’ relatives. But he’s never come clean about what happened. And he’s had numerous opportunities. I was there in Baltimore in January of 2013, when a national writer approached Lewis to ask that tough question, and the reporter was thrown out of the locker room.

Now those who knew the victims see Lewis on ESPN as an analyst, ironically opining on Rice and how this wasn’t the Ravens culture he left behind. And I wonder what those relatives thought on Sept. 4, when a Ray Lewis statue was unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium?

Am I making too much noise out of nothing here? Does it sound amplified or piped in?

My bad. Just a harmless joke, right?

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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