Who Created The Wave and Why It Needs To Die

wave

The Wave.

I cannot stand the Wave. There are few things I see at a baseball game that evoke a more visceral and angry reaction from within me than the Wave. That’s saying something since I’ve resolved to try and stay calm during baseball games. It prevents outbursts that call for everyone’s firing mid-inning after a seeing eye single.

Not the Wave, though. It sends me blowing past the peaceful exit, barreling towards the one for disdain and disgust.

So who to blame for the Wave? This is a time in society where we demand fault and blame from someone in every situation gone afoul.  Who deserves my wrath? Who brought this locust-like plague upon the cathedrals of the game I love?

Turns out that answer isn’t an easy one, as lots of people want credit for starting the Wave.

That disturbs me. You don’t have multiple people trying to take credit for West Nile. Nobody is out there fighting for name checks whenever the bubonic plague’s origins are discussed. Yet here we are, with a disputed claim on who did their best to innovate this sports scourge.

A wonderful article on this terrible subject by ESPN a couple of years ago takes a look at the Wave, including all the rumored first appearances. The conclusion is that October 15th, 1981 was ground zero for what has been a three-plus-decade abomination.

So an angry baseball fan turns his eyes to you, Krazy George Henderson.

Henderson, who was a professional cheerleader for the Athletics at the time, started the first recorded Wave during a playoff game between Oakland and the New York Yankees at the Coliseum. A game mind you Oakland would go on to lose 4-0, completing a 3-0 sweep by the Bronx Bombers.

I’ve never been happier to hear the Yankees won something.

There are others who say they innovated this superior brand of annoying crowd technology, most notably the University of Washington, but “tape don’t lie”. For better or worse, Henderson’s name is forever tied to the Wave.

In the same article (which also cites Chuck Morgan and the Rangers as noted Wave enemies) Henderson gives us this quote:

“You get The Wave going, you set it up, and it goes four, five, six times (around the stadium), it raises the energy of the crowd,” he says. “They get more behind it. They think they’ve accomplished something with the team. They express themselves with the team, how they feel about them. It makes all my other cheers after I do The Wave, louder, more intense. And I can build off that.”

Here’s a krazy idea, George. Instead of involving the fans in something that has nothing to do with what the fans paid to see, you get their excitement up BY MAKING THEM INTERESTED IN THE BASEBALL GAME! They aren’t expressing themselves with the team as you say. They’re being self-serving and petulant. Nothing about the Wave helps the team on the field. If anything, it hurts them.

We can all agree that when tens of thousands of people are cheering on their home players, it’s a good thing. It can be the juice they need to execute that one pitch, or to put a little more oomph behind the bat to drive home that last run. Can I prove this? Of course not. That said, we can’t deny, that inside every individual, the capacity for their emotions to enhance or degrade their performance is real. It seems safe to say an engaged loud crowd does not hurt at the very least.

What’s a player to think when he’s in a tight spot, a crucial part of the game, and instead of the crowd giving it all they’ve got for the home team, they’re standing up and down like buffoons with their arms flailing about like they are the wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man in front of used car lots? How must a player feel when he’s trying to feed off the energy of the crowd, yet they’re doing their best to entertain themselves despite having live entertainment RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM?

In a more real sense, how is the hitter who has seen a stationary outfield all game going to react when he sees a ton of motion out of the corner of his eye when the ball is released? Suddenly instead of just that ball, he’s seeing this large motion in his field of vision. It’s different, and potentially damaging because that split second of focus lapse could be the difference in his swing time. It could mean the difference between a hit or an out, between a home run or a pop-up.

All because Jimbo, who had five $8 beers in two innings time, decided he needed to be the star of the show in section 320.

News flash, Jimbo: your name isn’t on the ticket. That billing goes to the two teams who are on the field playing. You know, the whole reason you’re able to be where you are.

Krazy George was ready for that. He had a message for the Wave haters like me out there.

“Here’s my theory,” he says, laughing. “I love saying this. For The Wave to go and look great, you’ve got to have 98 percent of the people participating. That means 98 percent of the people like The Wave. They’re having fun.”

He doesn’t intend to, but Krazy George tells us what is the problem. He’s right, a lot of people (maybe not 98% but the man spelled crazy with a K so I’m willing to cut him slack) enjoy the Wave. People enjoy the Wave so much that they’d rather do it at important times in games than cheer.  They’ve got this delusion that the Wave is somehow an act showing support, spirit, and passion.

Wrong, wrong, so, so wrong.

The Wave is nothing more than a distraction. It’s no different than the cell phone in your pocket, the beer in your hand, or anything else that aids fans in paying attention to anything but the athletes on the field. If anything it’s worse, because those are just neutral acts. The Wave draws attention to you when it isn’t needed. You’re not the star, you’re not the focus. Just because you’re wearing a jersey doesn’t mean you’re the same as the professionals who do so.

It is useless, plain and simple.

So I’m imploring you now: stop this madness. Put your hand up to the screen and resolve to never participate in another wave ever again. Make a promise to yourself that if some bozo in your section tries to start a Wave, you’ll do what is necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen. Call an usher, call security, call Chuck Norris, call the Texas Law Hawk, whatever it takes. Spread the Anti-Wave gospel among your friends. If they’re smart, they’ll nod in solidarity. If not…well, hey, we could all use practice in making new friends right?

This is not a request; this is a demand for all Globe Life Park attendees now and in perpetuity. This is on you to shut down this infestation, to root it out and return the stands to what they should be: a sea of fans, cheering on the home nine instead of body parts forming a corpulent wave of humanity.

The fate of respectable fandom is in your hands.

With your help, we can stomp out the Wave and Make Arlington Great Again.

It’s on us to be the change we want to see in the baseball world.

It’s time for a change. Let’s all be that change.

Enough is enough.

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Samuel Hale
When Samuel isn't displeasing you with his opinions about the Texas Rangers, he's trying to corral young broadcasters at UTA Radio. If you buy him pizza and high class chocolate milk, he'll probably be your best friend. Probably. He got to see Texas clinch a World Series berth in person, and sports cried when Pudge Rodriguez went into the Rangers Hall of Fame. He enjoys the Oxford comma and over tweeting.

4 comments

  • I’m old enough to remember the beginning. I was a kid. I liked it at first. But growing up and actually loving the game enough to want to appreciate it more thoroughly, the wave was clearly more distraction than purposeful. It’s become annoying.
    As our society has become more narcissistic and self promoting (my own opinion of course, you’re entitled to yours), the wave is more “look at me!, look at me!” mantra than it is anything having to do with what’s happening on the field.
    The only thing at a ballfield worse than the wave is the guy who throws the opposing team home run ball back on the field. Again, it screams “look at me”, because it means absolutely nothing to the hitter. He’s one of 30,000 people in a ballpark, he’s lucky enough to grab an actual game souvenir, but in some vainglorious self-absorbed show of machismo he symbolically gets to tell the hitter “up yours”. Nice.
    Oh, and then there’s the guy who keeps the actual game ball and throws the $1.99 K-Mart tee ball special that he brought with him (he’s seriously thought this through) out on the field, pretending it was the real thing. Yeah, I want my kid to model that behavior.

  • I have a faint memory of a long-haired, shaggy-bearded guy named Wild Bill Hagy, standing atop the 3B dugout in old Baltimore Memorial Stadium, leading the Orioles fans in a version of The Wave during the 1983 playoffs. He was the choreographer – he would point to a section in the right field bleachers, all the fans would stand up and scream “O”. He’d point at the next section, they’d stand and scream “R” – and so forth, all across the outfield bleachers until they spelled out “O-R-I-O-L-E-S.” Frankly it was cool and a lot more fun than the drunken stupidity that passes for The Wave today.

  • BRAVO!!!!! 👏👏👏👏👏👏

  • Two or three years ago I would have been right with you on this. I’ve now gotten to the point that I’m lashing back against all the anti-wave backlash, so I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here.

    First, I refuse to believe that the wave is any more distracting to a hitter than some drunk idiot heckling them from the third row. Secondly, kids love the wave. Even as a lifelong baseball fan I always enjoyed it as a lad. Whatever we can do to get kids to enjoy the ballpark is fine with me. Part of learning to love the game is being exposed to it. finally, it is entirely possible to participate in the wave while staying engaged with the game. Anybody that says their attention is completely focused on the on-field happenings for the duration of a baseball game is full of it.

    All that said, you won’t see me participating for now. If it makes my little girl smile when she’s old enough to go to games, though, I’ll be waving with the best of them.

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