NFL Fans In Seattle And Kansas City Battle Over Who's Louder

The Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs aren't scheduled to play each other during this NFL season — unless both happen to make it to the Super Bowl. But the two cities are in competition with each other over the title of having the world's loudest outdoor stadium.

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As a matter of pride - and also recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records - NFL fans in Seattle and Kansas City have been turning up the volume big-time. They want the distinction as the world's loudest outdoor stadium, and this has stoked a battle of ear-splitting cheers that is spreading around the world. From Kansas City, Greg Echlin reports.

GREG ECHLIN, BYLINE: Just listen to this crowd noise for a moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ECHLIN: It's that noise that's becoming the story. In the last minute of an October home game against their long-time rival, the Oakland Raiders, the PA announcer for the Kansas City Chiefs informed the fans that a Guinness World Record had been achieved for an outdoor stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Chiefs fans, with a decibel level of 137.5. You are the world's loudest stadium.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ECHLIN: And, of course, the rest of the announcement was drowned out by another boisterous cheer. News of the Chiefs' record didn't go over well with Joe Tafoya, a former Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman. Seattle fans previously held the record, thanks to a marketing effort by Tafoya. After hearing the news from Kansas City, Tafoya says his heart sank.

JOE TAFOYA: Someone else takes it away from us in less than a month. So, we didn't really get to enjoy it and appreciate. But I kind of started thinking about it a little bit further: Wow, we did something that's cool enough that another fan group and organization wanted to challenge.

ECHLIN: Seattle grabbed the record back during a Monday Night Football game earlier this month. The margin was about the narrowest possible: just one-tenth of a decibel point. At the same time, Seahawk fans shook things up so much in that game, it set off a small-scale earthquake, registering between a one and a two on the Richter scale. Since then, Tafoya says he's been contacted by other NFL teams, baseball teams and international soccer clubs, all of them wanting tips on challenging the decibel record.

TAFOYA: It's recognized that fan interaction and fan participation in the game by screaming and getting loud and driving the energy towards the field, it matters.

ECHLIN: And on the field, the players love it. Any edge for the home team is always welcome. Fans for the playoff-bound Chiefs have had plenty to cheer about this season. Chiefs' tight-end Sean McGrath - who played for Seattle earlier this year - says the Kansas City fans have made an impact.

SEAN MCGRATH: Chiefs kingdom has shown over and over again that they're not stepping down to any challenge. And, I mean, I'm fixing, by the end of this thing, we'll probably be up to 140 decibels, I bet. So, you know, they do a great job, and we spoke out many times before on how they really do affect the game.

ECHLIN: But the noise may also be affecting the fans. Stacy Baldwin is a Kansas ear doctor who doesn't like this fascination with setting decibel records.

STACY BALDWIN: I just think people need to understand that with that excitement and that loudness does come some safety concerns for their ears and for their hearing. And while it's very fun in those moments, that one moment can cause a hearing loss that will last the rest of your life.

ECHLIN: Despite Baldwin's plea, loud and proud appears to be the credo, as sports fans want themselves heard. Lately, though, the goal for fans is nothing short of being the loudest ever. For NPR News, I'm Greg Echlin.

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