Wave good­bye?

Long­time sta­dium cheer is loved by many, loathed by oth­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GRE­GORY STRONG

TORONTO — The wave can be as po­lar­iz­ing as a ball­park frank — some fans en­joy it as part of the sta­dium ex­pe­ri­ence while for oth­ers, it leaves be­hind a bit­ter taste.

Dis­missed by crit­ics as a dis­tract­ing, lame at­tempt at gen­er­at­ing noise and ex­cite­ment, the prac­tice of spec­ta­tors rais­ing their arms in the air to cre­ate a rolling cheer across the stands has been a com­mon sight for decades. Some fans — es­pe­cially kids — love tak­ing part. Other spec­ta­tors, mean­while, groan once the wave starts to gain mo­men­tum.

The Ari­zona Coy­otes made head­lines this week by pooh-poohing fans’ ef­forts to start the wave at Gila River Arena, while the Texas Rangers have posted hu­mor­ous an­ti­wave signs for years. Sta­dium an­nouncer Chuck Mor­gan cre­ates the score­board signs at Globe Life Park but ad­mits it’s a los­ing bat­tle.

“I think the wave gets worse when we put the mes­sages up,” he said with a chuckle. “I think it in­ten­si­fies.”

The wave’s pop­u­lar­ity can de­pend on the mar­ket and the venue. The cheer is quite com­mon at base­ball sta­di­ums but less so at hockey, foot­ball and bas­ket­ball games.

The wave tends to work best when the venue is near or at ca­pac­ity. Crit­ics are only too happy to watch the wave fade away, es­pe­cially when it reaches a sparsely at­tended sec­tion and only a few arms make it up in the air.

It was un­clear if at­ten­dance was a fac­tor in the Coy­otes’ de­ci­sion to put the ki­bosh on the cheer in a 3-2 win over the Ana­heim Ducks.

The arena was about 2,600 fans short of a sell­out.

“At­ten­tion fans in 112: We don’t do the wave here,” the Coy­otes’ tweet said.

The team de­clined to com­ment on the post.

Base­ball, with its larger sta­di­ums, seems to be a bet­ter fit for the wave. Like the sport’s pace of play, the wave’s pop­u­lar­ity also has its ebbs and flows.

“The wave was widely re­garded as dead (de­servedly so, IMHO) some years ago but it ap­pears to be com­ing back,” Ma­jor League Base­ball his­to­rian John Thorn said in an email.

Mor­gan, mean­while, started his ca­reer with the Rangers when the wave was in its in­fancy. He can see both sides of the is­sue.

“The first time that you see it, it’s pretty amaz­ing that the fans in your ball­park or arena all get to­gether and do some­thing like that,” he said from Ar­ling­ton, Texas. “I think now with the feed­back that I’ve re­ceived from play­ers, fans, etc., is that ei­ther they just don’t like it or it comes at the wrong time.”

Mor­gan, who also co-or­di­nates in-game en­ter­tain­ment at Globe Life Park, has cre­ated some tonguein-cheek score­board signs over the last few years.

One in­cluded an im­age of ac­tor Chuck Nor­ris from the TV show “Walker, Texas Ranger” which in­cluded the line: “Warn­ing: No­body waves un­til I say so.”

An­other faux warn­ing said that sur­geons had de­ter­mined the wave could cause mus­cle tears, that any chil­dren do­ing the wave will be sold to the cir­cus, and that the wave is only safe at pro foot­ball games and Mi­ley Cyrus con­certs.

“I did one with Yoda,” Mor­gan re­called. “I had a big pic­ture of Yoda and then it just said: ‘The wave is the path to the dark side. Once you start down the wave’s dark path, for­ever will it dom­i­nate your des­tiny.”

Mor­gan said he sup­ports hav­ing fun at the ball­park, adding he makes sure never to ac­tu­ally tell the fans they can’t do the wave. Re­al­iz­ing there was no way to stop the cheer, he de­cided to start hav­ing some fun with it.

“I hear from just as many peo­ple that like it as I do that don’t like it,” he said.

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syn­der­gaard has not been shy in voic­ing his wave dis­dain.

“Des­per­ate times call for des­per­ate mea­sures. #re­sist­theurge#ban­the­wave,” he said in a retweet of an on­line story about the Coy­otes.

Syn­der­gaard also chimed in af­ter a Mets vic­tory over the Mi­ami Mar­lins last sum­mer.

“Very happy we won ... but I want the name and ad­dress of the per­son who started the ‘Wave’ tonight,” he said in the post.

Syn­der­gaard’s tweet picked up over 4,700 retweets and over 10,000 likes, in­clud­ing one from Blue Jays slug­ger Josh Don­ald­son.

Some­times the only thing that stops the wave is a big play or end of an in­ning. Mor­gan said fans are get­ting bet­ter at not re­ly­ing on the wave to cre­ate some sta­dium at­mos­phere, giv­ing a nod to Blue Jays fans in Toronto.

“I’ve got to tip my cap to them, were so into the game,” he said of the Rangers-Blue Jays play­off se­ries at Rogers Cen­tre. “They were up on ev­ery pitch. I think that’s the thing that I’d like to see out of Rangers fans. Even in the first in­ning, get two strikes on a hit­ter and you’re up on your feet and things like that.

“To me the game on the field is still the most im­por­tant thing and not what we do on the (score­boards) or any­thing. But to re­ally get (into) the game that’s on the field.”

KATHY KMONICEK, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dis­missed by crit­ics as a lame at­tempt at gen­er­at­ing noise and ex­cite­ment, the prac­tice of spec­ta­tors rais­ing their arms in the air to cre­ate a rolling cheer across the stands has been a com­mon sight for decades.

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