TOC Editorial: The Wave Must Die

The Wave

(Ed. Note: If you are participating in the above activity, you look like an idiot. Also, photo not taken at Wrigley Field.)

It takes a lot for my blood to boil while enjoying a Cubs game on a warm summer night at Wrigley Field.

For all its faults, Wrigley is actually a fairly decent place when the temperature’s alright and you’re not sitting too close to anyone who spent a bit too much time pregaming at the Cubby Bear across the street. But that’s not the point of this rant.

On Wednesday night, I witnessed – and staunchly refused to take part in – the absolute nadir in American sports fandom.

Now given the fact that I was at Wrigley Field, this could have been any number of things.

It could have been a grown man taking a leak in a trough. It could have been a couple of pink hat-clad bleacher bums slurring their words and asking why Sammy Sosa wasn’t playing right field. Or it could have been…well you get my point.

No, during the 8th inning of last night’s game, something far worse unfolded before my very eyes.

30,000 fans – human bodies not bodies of water, mind you – doing the one thing nobody should ever be doing in public for fear of being pilloried like a common 16th century criminal. 

The wave.

Folks, say it with me. The wave must die.


To make an analogy most pop culture enthusiasts can comprehend, the wave is the Snooki of the American sports stadium experience.

Nobody knows how it became popular. It is both awkward and embarrassing to watch. It has no redeeming qualities of which to speak. It is kitsch in its absolute worst form, a desperate cry for attention sated by a nation without anything better to do, living on in our collective conscience far beyond the fifteen minutes (at most) it should have had.

And yet just as Snooki continues to get book deals and make TV appearances, like a weed, the wave keeps popping up in stadiums throughout the country. Whilst both Snooki and the legend of the wave continue to get richer, we as consumers of American pop culture continue to get poorer.

The wave is the very embodiment of groupthink, the surrendering our individuality in order to follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff and in to a gray matter (look it up) killing mass of stupidity.

Much like a Frenchman would turn up his nose at you for asking where you could find a French restaurant as you went strolling down the Champs Elysses for being a silly American tourist, any true sports fan (or really, sane human being) should turn up their collective noses at those around them taking part in a ritual designed to…well crap, I’m not sure what exactly the wave is designed to do to be perfectly honest.

While some rituals in sports have a purpose – to create noise or give the players on the field a self-esteem boost (as though they need one) for instance – the wave’s sole purpose seems to be to amuse the fans. Which really says more about the people who are participating in it than anything.

If you paid $75 for a ticket and are so unamused by the goings on before your eyes that you feel the need to stand up really slowly, put your hands in the air, emit a high pitched “woo” real quick only to sit back down quickly afterward, chances are you should’ve given that $75 to your local food pantry and watched the game in a bar with your pals. Clearly you’d be equally amused because if you feel the need to do the wave, you’re not paying that much attention to begin with. As an added bonus, your money would be going to feed hungry families in a down economy. But wait, there’s MORE! God (or whichever deity you believe in) will throw in an extra handful of karma points that you would have lost had you gone to the game and taken part in such a banal ritual.

Watching someone try and fail to start the wave at a sporting event is a lot like watching a drunk person trying to light a bonfire with flint and steel. He’ll strike a couple of times, flailing wildly as everyone around him points and laughs. He looks silly, you derive some merriment at his expense, and in the end everyone wins except him.

You’ll know an aspiring wave starter when you see one as well. They’re the type of fan who wears a shirsey with the tags still attached with the name and number of the star of the moment on the back. Conversations are peppered with non-word words like “brah” and “dude” if they’re a guy, “fierce” and “preggers” if they’re a woman. Occasionally during the game they’ll burst out in a loud, obnoxious heckle, doing just about anything they possibly can to draw attention to themselves. They feed off that attention, they crave it, cannot live without it because without it, their very existence is not validated.

if you want an example of just how stupid the wave actually is, let me give you a homework assignment. Next time you’re sitting somewhere in public, do a one person wave and see how people react around you. Better yet, have a friend videotape with a camera phone just so you can see it for yourself. 

People will look at you like you’re waaaaaay too happy about gently caressing a giant imaginary horse’s ass, only in actuality the giant horse’s ass is you for trying to start an inane group cheer in a public place. That’s how it looks when you do it in a stadium. It’s not cool, it’s not funny, it is the bandwagon fan cliche at its absolute worst.

How we as a sporting public decided that tens of thousands of people excited about petting giant horse’s asses in unison was a worthwhile use of our time after spending way too much of our hard earned money to attend a live sporting event is logic that I couldn’t wrap my mind around with a bottle of KY and a pair of pliers. But I do know this much. You, dear reader, are the key to drying up the wave. Tell your friends, tell your coworkers, tell everyone you know. 

For the record, immediately after Cubs fans started doing the wave in the top half of the 8th inning, Atlanta’s Alex Gonzalez snapped them on the collective wrists with a ruler. Gonzalez blasted a solo homer to center, an angry bolt of lightning that shocked even the most apathetic Cubs fan into sitting in his seat and simply enjoying the damn game as it was intended to be enjoyed. It was as though the baseball karma gods were saying “do not befoul one of our sport’s finest cathedrals with such an execrable act.” 

The wave must die.