Bills fans Sunday were loud.
They were rock concert loud. They were even jackhammer-right-next-to-you loud.
But they weren’t record-breaking loud.
An attempt at smashing the world record for noisiest stadium fell flat Sunday afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Bills lost to the New England Patriots, 40-32.
“The whole thing was to bring joy, excitement, loudness and just noise to this stadium,” said Brandon “Grippy” Campbell, who led a fundraising effort to bring a Guinness World Records representative to the stadium. “We brought noise. We got as high as 124.8 decibels, which is pretty loud. But it just wasn’t loud enough.”
Fans reached that respectable peak after the Bills’ second touchdown, when quarterback Tyrod Taylor connected with tight end Charles Clay late in the second-quarter.
But the record remains in Kansas City, where fans roared at 142.2 decibels – louder than a jet plane flying overhead – last Sept. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Clearly, the 70,858 fans in Orchard Park had a monumental task ahead of them at kickoff.
“142 decibels is a jet engine at take-off when you’re standing 10 feet away from it,” said Chad M. Walber, a research and development engineer for PCB Piezotronics, who measured Sunday’s crowd noise. “It’s loud. And it’s painful.”
He and a sound level meter on a tripod were positioned on the stadium’s photo deck above Section 134, along with Kimberly Partrick, an adjudicator with Guinness World Records who was flown in from New York City. They watched the meter’s digital display fluctuate through fans’ alternating cheers and groans.
His Larson Davis meter is essentially a voltage meter attached to a microphone. As a type 1 sound meter, it’s calibrated at his company’s Depew headquarters to an accuracy within one decibel. “Buying just a random off-the-shelf meter doesn’t really cut it,” he said. “It doesn’t have the accuracy you need to do this.”
Fans registered 118.8 decibels during player introductions; 121.2 after the National Anthem; and 122.2 after the Bills took a first-quarter lead with a two-yard touchdown run by Karlos Williams. A second-half peak of 122.9 decibels was reached after Sammy Watkins caught a 24-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth-quarter to bring the Bills to within five points. It was still loud enough to leave a ringing in the ears.
“It was very, very loud here,” Partrick said. “So I hope that people go home feeling proud of themselves for being loud fans. It’s just a very difficult record to break and it can’t be successful every time.”
In fact, there’s been a tug-of-war over the record recently between two National Football League teams, the Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, she said.
“The fact that it’s been broken so many times over the past couple of years, I think, shows that it’s not necessarily about how big your stadium is or how it’s shaped,” she said. “It’s all about the fans on the day, what’s going on and how loud and excited they can be.”
Campbell, who raised more than the required $8,000 through a gofundme campaign, was undaunted and hopeful about giving it a second shot. “We didn’t get the results that we wanted, either way,” he said. “But I really appreciate everybody that helped.”
Walber said he was “cautiously optimistic” about breaking the record heading into Sunday’s game. “It’s meant to be a difficult record to break,” he said. “I still believe the Bills fans can do it. It just needs a little bit more work.”
The Kick family drove to the game from their home in New Bern, N.C., and were among the thousands who lent their vocal cords to the effort. The trip was a birthday present for Brandon Kick, a big-time Bills fan who turned 18 on Sept. 3. At halftime with the score 24-13 in favor of the Patriots and many fans feeling deflated, the Kicks were still optimistic.
“We’re going to go home with no voices,” said Brandon’s mother, Corey. “It’s going to be a quiet 12 hours back home.”
Campbell was similarly hoarse by the end of the game, although, he said that’s typical.
“Anybody that knows me, that knows I go to a game, never can understand me the next day.”