I am ready to recant a position that I held in my childhood and teen years. I have learned that I was wrong. I was misled by a desire for attention and a lack of knowledge of the history involved, and for many years I betrayed my roots. But I have seen the error of my ways.
I don’t do The Wave anymore at sporting events.
For those of you non-sports people, The Wave is a cheer where people stand up and scream for a few seconds, then sit down. Fans are supposed to stand up and cheer when the fans next to them start doing it, so the cheer ends up progressing like a wave around the stadium. When I first saw this on TV at some point as a kid, I thought it was fascinating, and it looked like a lot of fun. I started trying to get The Wave going at my brother’s Little League games. It usually didn’t work, and my mother would always tell me to quiet down and stop making a scene. I’m not sure why she was always so against me being loud and having fun – you’re supposed to be loud at sporting events, after all, right? Maybe because she grew up in the kind of family where children were seen and not heard when in public, and that was all she knew. (Mom, I know you read this. No hard feelings. I’m not holding a grudge.)
During my senior year of high school, I went to every football game, both home and away. At away games, I always sat with the group of students from my school who made the trip (much of this group consisted of the girlfriends of football players). A few times, I got them to help me start The Wave, and it actually succeeded. It felt good to have people actually pay attention to me being passionate and not discourage me from making a scene.
I never really tried to start The Wave on my own after that, but occasionally I would be at a sporting event where The Wave got started, and I would enthusiastically participate. About a decade ago or so, though, I started hearing more and more people point out that Giants fans (this is San Francisco Giants baseball) don’t do The Wave. I never knew why, and I never really gave much thought to it, although since then I had noticed people at Giants games being discouraged from doing The Wave. But I also had a memory from childhood of a Giants game where The Wave actually happened.
A few years ago, I was at a math teachers’ conference, attending a session about, um, I don’t remember the topic now, but the presenter was modeling how to get students to think in an open-ended way about math problems. She presented a scenario involving The Wave, and some questions about the speed of The Wave and the number of participants. She began the presentation asking for volunteers to ask any questions we might be able to think of about The Wave. Most of the questions were mathematical in nature (“How fast does The Wave travel?” “How many people are needed to successfully start The Wave?”). I took a different approach and suggested the question, “Why don’t Giants fans do The Wave?” Another teacher in the presentation answered my question, saying that Giants fans don’t do The Wave because it started at an Oakland Athletics game.
I did the research when I got home, and although the origin of The Wave is disputed and unclear, one of the earliest documented performances of The Wave was indeed at an Oakland Athletics game, during the 1981 playoffs. Another early performance of The Wave was in Los Angeles, during soccer at the 1984 Olympics. An origin in Oakland or Los Angeles would each be unacceptable to Giants fans, with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers being the Giants’ primary rivals.
Last week, I was at a Sacramento Kings (basketball) game, and The Wave got started at one point. For possibly the first time ever, I didn’t participate. Now that I know the full history behind why Giants fans don’t do The Wave, I have to stay true to that, even though this was an entirely different sport. More importantly, though, The Wave is often a distraction for fans who are bored with the game itself. I was trying to watch the game. Five minutes were left on the clock, and the Kings were losing, as is usually the case these days. One of the few positive things I noticed about the game, however, was that the Kings had not missed a single free throw for the entire game. During the time that The Wave was going, a Kings player (I think it was Rudy Gay) was shooting a free throw. The Wave passed by behind the basket just as Rudy was shooting the free throw… and it missed. The Wave ruined our perfect free throw shooting night.
So I’m through with The Wave.