August 2, 2011

The Wave: "The Macarena Of Audience Participation Activities" or Gateway To Facsism? Or Both?

The American League will not be abolishing the Designated Hitter any time soon and the likelihood of MLB returning to a playoff format devoid of wild cards is equally unlikely, but progress is being made regarding another scourge of the national game:

The Texas Rangers have banned the Wave from their home park.

Whenever a group of mouth-breathing idiots starts the Wave in Arlington, a warning is posted on the stadium's message board:
Chuck Morgan, Senior Vice President for Ballpark Entertainment for the Rangers, said the idea for the "warning" (the wave is not really banned, sadly) came after fans complained to the club that wave-conducting morons were ruining their experience at the park.
I was getting lots of emails and Tweets from fans during the game asking me to do something to stop the wave. So I said, "Let's see if we can have fun with it."
While I have never run a corporation, I question whether making fun of loyal customers who have voiced a legitimate complaint about your product is the smartest way to run a business.

Greg Holland runs the website Stop the Wave:
Doing the wave is basically giving the middle finger to the guys on the field. You're telling them you don't care about what's going on ...
Thanks to Holland's site, I watched a Rockies commercial in which four players scold a fan for starting the Wave and I heard Rangers reliever Darren O'Day say that doing the Wave is "uncalled for". (For accuracy's sake, though, both O'Day and the Rockies say that fans can do the Wave, but "never when the game is on the line". That's not ideal, but it's a start.)

Now, this is more like it. The St. Paul Saints have "officially" designated Midway Stadium in Minnesota a "No Wave Zone". According to the Fan Guide of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball:
Those who try to start "The Wave" will be chastised by Eric Webster on the PA system.
In 2009, Steven Hyden, a Brewers fan, demanded an end to the Wave, which he described as "the Macarena of audience participation activities - only people didn't get sick of doing it after six months".
The wave is stupid, highly annoying, consistently ill timed during game-time moments, and - have I mentioned this yet? - just really fucking stupid. ... I think it would be great if people went to Brewers games because they were more interested in watching baseball than engaging in mass acts of basic calisthenics. But that's not the way the world works. ...
No, it's not. Hyden cited a study headed by Tamas Vicsek of the University of Hungary in 2002. Using "mathematical models initially developed to study the spread of forest fires and the propagation of electrical impulses in heart tissue" and analyzing videos of Mexican soccer matches, Vicsek found that "it takes only a few dozen fans leaping to their feet with their arms up to trigger a wave".

The idea that thousands of people can be quickly coerced into altering their behaviour and blindly following the example of a few dozen people should not surprise any of us. Examples of an "information cascade" are on a continuum: from attendees at a sporting event pavlovically yelling "Day-O" to a frenzied populace crying out for the mass murder of innocent people in a foreign country.

During ESPN or Fox baseball broadcasts, you will sometimes hear that the Wave started at Fenway Park. Thankfully, that is nowhere near the truth. Its origins are unclear, but I think the Wave can be traced back (at least) to the 1936 Olympics.
Basil Fawlty was right!

Here's my idea: Since teams now restrict smoking to certain areas of the park (or forbid it altogether) and they have designated some sections as alcohol-free, why not institute "Wave Zones", where any morons who want to do the Wave can sit?


Michael Holloway said...

"Wave Zones"

That's a great idea!

Perhaps stadium owners could reconfigure those sections so all the seats faced in towards each other, so the wave wouldn't stop when it gets to the end of the 'Wave Zone' --- That way the section could watch each other as they waved up and down, and up and down for the whole three hours. Hot dog vendors could just prop hot dogs up-right on the seats as the wave went by, so those people could wave and consume at the same time.

Then at the end of the game - after everyone else has left - they could pay again - you know - to leave. I think a lot of people like that would see the value in that kind of deal, to be seen paying Again for tickets and miralax and stuff...

After a while it might really catch on - there might be whole stadia that would be configured like this - you know instead of WWF and Monster Truck rallies, and taking up perfectly good seats at baseball games.

Jeff P said...

Not sure I fully agree. People who take their kids (and themselves) to Fenway pay a lot of money for it. So, for a lot of people, going to Fenway is a rare thing simply because it's so expensive. So, they should be allowed to do whatever they want (within reason, of course) that is "fun". It may be a heresy to say this out aloud but going to the ballpark for just the baseball is a little outdated. These days it's more of an "experience" and that includes non-baseball trivialities as well. This includes Sweet Caroline, The Wave, Sausage Races, whatever. Two cents.

laura k said...

I think everyone who wants to do the wave should first be forced to wear a sign saying I AM A SHEEP and be made to bleat instead of speaking.

General question for anyone. Why should the price of your ticket (to anything) entitle you to do anything you want? Do people in the priciest seats get more privileges than those in the cheap seats? Sounds like expensive seats could encourage some really bad behaviour.

FenFan said...

Count me as someone who despises The Wave. I put up with Sweet Caroline, Sausage Races, etc. more because they happen between innings, but The Wave usually takes place in the middle of the action, making it a serious distraction.

If it's a one or two-run game and the next play may alter the final outcome, I don't want to be looking at the oversized behind of the twit in front of me when it happens. would be great if people went to Brewers games because they were more interested in watching baseball than engaging in mass acts of basic calisthenics.

I just had a flashback to grade school gym class... and ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!... and ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!

laura k said...

"going to the ballpark for just the baseball is a little outdated."

That is very sad. Not necessarily true but clearly what most teams believe, and very very sad.

Also makes me wonder when "these days" began, since it's been the trend for at least 25 years.

machinehead1956 said...

I don't care about the wave so much as T do about the morons who stand up and yell out to the players on the field. They can't hear you and if they did they would ignore your timely advice anyway. So sit down and STFU already for Christs sake.

Patrick said...

I love that us morons do the wave in Fenway. I think it's hilarious!

laura k said...

your timely advice

I love when those morons yell out specific advice that they picked up on the same shows that everyone else watches and listens to. "Don't let your shoulder fly out!" "Keep the ball down!"

I imagine this professional athlete and his professional coaches slapping their foreheads. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that! Keep the ball down! If only I had known!"

FenFan said...

My personal favorite is the fan who yells "Swing!!!" with an opposing batter in the box.

Dude, I think you pysched him out! Awesome!!!

allan said...

It may be a heresy to say this out aloud but going to the ballpark for just the baseball is a little outdated.

I don't know if it's heresy, but it is a statement that deserves as much ridicule as it gets.

Maybe publishers can start putting some noise chips in novels (like the ones in some greeting cards, that play a tune when you open them) because reading a book for just the words is a little outdated.

allan said...

My personal favorite is the fan who yells "Swing!!!" with an opposing batter in the box.

Mine is "good eye" when the hitter takes a close pitch.