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?