The wave

Sunday 7 May 2006This is 17 years old. Be careful.

I was at Fenway park last night watching the Red Sox play the Orioles. (I’m not a sports fan. I’ve lived in Boston for 20 years, and have been to Fenway exactly twice, both times in the last few weeks!)

At last night’s game a Wave went around the stadium. I know The Wave can be a polarizing event: some people love it, others wish everyone would sit down and watch the game. I can sympathize with the die-hard fans that don’t like the distraction, but I think The Wave is great.

Here’s 30,000 people gathered to watch a game. They are in a bouyant mood, and are focused together on the baseball game before them. They’d like to participate, but there’s no way they can from their seats. As individuals, there’s nothing they can do in the stands that could get the attention of the 29,999 other fans the way the ball game can.

But with The Wave, the fans have managed it: they are active participants rather than spectators, and from the cramped confines of their seats, they’ve created a game large enough for the entire stadium to watch. I think it’s great.

Last night, a single Wave went around the stadium three times before petering out. I was especially impressed because the geometry of Fenway is somewhat ad hoc, meaning the Wave has to traverse a number of rough boundaries between sections to keep going.

I wonder how the idea of the Wave got started? It’s not like a guy in a stadium had a great idea and said to his neighbor, “let’s try this”. There had to be at least a little coordination ahead of time.


I go to a lot more games but I still enjoy watching the wave too. The geometry was even weirder before the monster seats got added, there was a big jump as the wave moved from left field to the bleachers.
Wikipedia has some info on the origin of the wave, but it appears there are several claimants:
Let us not underestimate the intoxication level of the waver as relates to boyancy of mood...
Generally, it is only one or two (enthusiastic/inebriated) fans who get it started.

The method is to stand at the front of the crowd, shout about starting a wave to get people's attention, then shout "1! 2! 3!" and run across the front of the crowd in the direction you want to get the wave to go, waving your hands in the air and encouraging folks to get up and wave.

Generally it takes about five or six goes before the wave makes it more than a couple of sections of seating. But for Mr Drunkypants at the front, it's all worthwhile.
Fans playing their own game? Not leaving play to the professionals? How web 2.0 of us. How mechanical-Turkey.

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