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A ongoing discussion that I have been having recently with a number of people on Twitter has regarded “The Wave,” a much derided stadium tradition that purists hate. Every time the wave is done, someone at the Stadium or noticing it at home sends out a frustrated tweet, decrying its existence and ripping those who participate. To be honest, I used to be one of those people, and when I am at the Stadium while the Wave is done, I occasionally tell the people in front of me to stop doing it. However, I have recently had a change of heart on this issue.

The case against the Wave is simple. It is a distraction, as it has thousands of people jumping up while many of us are attempting to focus on the game. Furthermore, it shows a lack of interest in the events taking place on the field, which suggests that those doing the wave might be better served finding another source of entertainment. Finally, as @Larry_Koestler mentioned, it creates a slippery slope issue in that it is hard to draw the line as to what type of entertainment is appropriate at a ball game. If the Wave is alright, how about t-shirt cannons or mascots? As Larry noted, these things tend to cheapen the experience.

What changed my mind was a recent discussion I had with a number of people about John Sterling. While many find him excruciating to listen to, I always note that his voice and antics helped stir my interest in the sport, and I know that he has done so for many others. My nephews are just getting into baseball, and they frequently mimic his home run calls and other assorted expressions. While they are certain to tire of him and his mistake filled broadcast eventually, the fact is that he helps hook the younger or more casual fan. The die-hards may hate his inability to perfectly convey the action, but there is plenty of value in an announcer who helps to build a fan base.

My position on the wave is much the same. Although it may not have any inherent value, it makes the game more fun for casual fans and children. While the ideal situation would be for all fans to take attending a game as seriously as you and I might, that is simply not realistic. I know that when I take my girls to the Stadium for the first time, the odds that they will want to sit through a nine inning game and just watch the field the entire time are slim. When a wave starts, I probably will not do it with them, but I certainly do not plan on telling them to sit down. I’ll explain that there is a time and place for everything, and that it would be inappropriate to do the Wave in the late innings of a close game, or at any point during a playoff game, when all attention should be focused on the field. If the time is right, I have no problem with my kids having some fun that is not centered on the game itself.

By making the experience more entertaining, we make it more likely that these people will attend more games and eventually focus on the contest itself rather than the external stimuli. It may be slightly annoying for the hardcore fan, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. How about you? Should the Wave be taboo? Or is there a time when it is acceptable?

12 Responses to “Discussion: Etiquette Of The Wave”

  1. Well-said, Moshe. Obviously a nine-inning baseball game can be a pretty tedious affair if you’re a kid and/or not maniacally obsessed with baseball. Perhaps my cold, heartless facade will shatter at some point down the line when I am at a game with my future Yankee-fan children, although that remains to be seen.

    Not to get too personal or anything, but would you buy your daughters pink Yankee hats? Doing The Wave reminds me of pink Yankee hats. If I had a daughter or two, I would of course be tickled if she were able to glean a fraction of the enjoyment I get out of watching baseball, but if she wanted a hat there’s only one that I will buy for her, and it won’t be pink.

    It’s funny — while I consider myself a very progressive fan on the statistical end of the spectrum, I do feel a strong pull toward certain traditional aspects of the game, e.g. hatred of the wave and all that it stands for, no names on the back of uniforms, no alternate jerseys, etc.

    I actually wrote a humorous tirade four years ago on my old blog about the (few) things I hated about the experience of attending a game at Yankee Stadium (too much profanity to link the post here). It included a thrashing of the YMCA; obviously a savaging of The Wave (sample: “No self-respecting baseball fan does The Wave. Leave that bull**** to the National League — if I had to watch my pitchers waste at-bats I’d be bored as **** too.”); and of course, ripping Cotton Eye Joe to pieces (“Why anyone with any authority whatsoever at the Stadium thinks this utterly wretched song would appeal to any human being with even a shred of dignity is ludicrous, and the fact that they pay some ******** to dance around like a ******* in the control room is just hateful.”).

    Needless to say I was a bit angrier and less restrained in my youth, but the point still stands. I’m just not a fan of anything that takes away from the experience of watching a baseball game, even when it takes place between innings.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    Ditto to Larry’s last paragraph.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I probably would not buy thhem pink hats, but if my wife did, I wouldn’t throw them out. As I said, I’m fine bringing in fans if the measure is appropriate. So a 25 year old jumping on the bandwagon with a pink hat is one thing, while a 6 year old who wants the hat in pink and won’t wear one otherwise is another.  (Quote)

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  2. let fans have fun. if they want to do the wave let them go at it. it is entertainment after all.  (Quote)

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  3. Well said. You’ll never convince the purists, though. And there are certainly times when the wave is inappropriate. Between innings would be the best in terms of not distracting from the action.  (Quote)

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  4. I couldn’t disagree more. The waveis never appropriate at baseball games. It’s a football invention, created for the hours of downtime during a game. Plus, the visual illusion doesn’t work in a baseball stadium, with it’s staggered levels and sparse outfield seating. It requires the neverending bowl of football stadium to work properly.

    And the worst part is people never do it at an opportune time, like in between innings. Do I mind mascots, the YMCA and t-shirt cannons? No. Why? Because none of them happen when the game is actually being played! Wave fanatics do the damn thing all of the time, while people are busy actually watching the game.

    It’s annoying, and stupid.  (Quote)

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  5. As a card-carrying purist I was going to trash the Wave, but I think everybody has already said about all there is to say on it, pro and con. So instead, just to stir the pot, I thought I’d throw out Ten Other Things I Really Don’t Like About Modern Sports (not just baseball). In no particular order they are:
    1 – Trash talking 2 – Over-the-top celebrations 3 – Music during breaks in the action 4 – Throwing at batters 5 – Guaranteeing a win 6 – Stupid interview questions (i.e. all interview questions) 7 – Fifteen-hundred dollar seats 8 – Tying patriotism to sports 9 – Entitled athletes 10 – Fans thinking they’re part of the game. Honorable mention goes to endless, constant spitting.
    I realize some of these things have been around for a long time but so have I, and I would argue that on the whole they are far worse now than they were a few generations ago. Not that the Good Old Days didn’t have their problems: surely nothing today is as bad as what Jackie Robinson had to put up with, so at least some things are better….  (Quote)

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  6. it should be banned at the stadium..thats for fans in SD  (Quote)

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  7. Terrific piece, Mo. It’s one thing to take our interest in the sport seriously, but quite anoither to take ourselves too seriously. God forbid people have some mindless fun at a sporting event.

    I especially liked this part:

    “What changed my mind was a recent discussion I had with a number of people about John Sterling. While many find him excruciating to listen to, I always note that his voice and antics helped stir my interest in the sport, and I know that he has done so for many others. My nephews are just getting into baseball, and they frequently mimic his home run calls and other assorted expressions. While they are certain to tire of him and his mistake filled broadcast eventually, the fact is that he helps hook the younger or more casual fan. The die-hards may hate his inability to perfectly convey the action, but there is plenty of value in an announcer who helps to build a fan base.”

    Amen. 10 years ago, criticizing Sterling was an appropriate way to add balance to his prominence in Yankee land. But now, you can barely find a soul with the guts to say anything even marginally positive about the guy. Now, everybody bashes him, fairly or unfairly for anything and everything he does. As tiresome as his shtick can be, the knee jerk Sterling bashing at every turn is every bit as tiresome.

    The recent discussion of where John Sterling was standing in a White House photo op was the nadir for the Sterling haters among us. If someone could prove that he insisted on a certain prominent position in some diva-like fashion, you’d have a story. But for all we know, he was told by some PR flak to stand somewhere and all he did was what he was told to do. This was just Mushnick and Best seizing upon their preconceived notion of him always making everything about himself, and presenting no evidence to back up that claim. It was a nakedly hateful hit piece by Mushnick and Best, and frankly I was disappointed that Ben decided to jump aboard. Ben is usually much more fair minded than that and giving that garbage blog space was a rare low point for RAB.  (Quote)

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  8. To each his/her own I guess.

    Personally I never participate in the Wave, but I don’t see a big deal in it, especially if it is done between innings or in between a pitching change when the stadium’s PA annoucner wants to get some noise going

    Just do not forget being “purist” can be synonymous with “fundamentalist” and we all know the negative connotations of the latter word.  (Quote)

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  9. I rather have the 60′s 70 ‘s 80′s in the bronx…boy do i miss the bronx zoo….the “wave” in the bronx… i have to throw up..  (Quote)

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