I recently attended a Diamondback game. They were trailing in the 7th inning during a game in which nothing memorable had occurred. My attention was drawn to the stands just behind the Diamondback bullpen. Sure enough, almost on schedule (meaning there was nothing better to do), someone in that section decided it was time to do The Wave. If you’ve been to enough games, you know who “that guy” is; he is not motivated by inciting the crowd to back the team because his timing never seems tied to what is happening on the field. In any event, if “that guy” triumphs and The Wave takes on a life of its own, it takes a few laps around the ballpark and then mercifully comes to an end.
“The Wave” has its origins from two sources. First, a true super fan named Krazy George had accidentally caused a wave while leading a cheer at an Edmonton Oilers NHL game in late 1980. He has been recognized for a more purposeful effort that occurred during the American League Championship series between the Yankee’s and A’s in Oakland on October 15, 1981. It was particularly impressive since the game was sold out, so the wave never had any gaps as it lapped the stadium. A few weeks later, The Wave was done at a University of Washington football game and ever since, they have debated Krazy George as to the who created The Wave. Whether it is UW or Krazy George, I will blame them both equally after having suffered The Wave for the past four decades.
Perhaps the funniest portrayal of The Wave (and proof of its inane purpose) is from a scene in the film “When Harry Met Sally.” Harry (played by Billy Crystal) attended a ballgame, and he along with his friend maintained an entire uninterrupted conversation about relationships while also partaking in The Wave when it incrementally reached their section.
Phoenix is a complicated sports market since so many residents are transplants from other parts of the country. Nonetheless, haven’t there been enough of us who have lived here long enough to create our own traditions? Also, doing a wave in the middle of the desert and hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean? Really?
Some may argue that traditions take years to develop for a sports franchise. For example, throwing a squid onto the ice in Detroit at a Redwings game first began as far back as April of 1952. Back then, a team needed only to win eight playoff games to secure Lord Stanley’s Cup. Two brothers threw an octopus onto the ice, with each of its eight legs representing one of the required wins. The Redwings swept the 1952 series and a new good luck charm was created.
Singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” has been a seventh inning stretch celebration at ballparks around the country for generations, dating as far back as 1908. It was perfected by Harry Carey at Chicago Cubs’ games starting in 1981 (even though he actually began the tradition during his prior announcing tenure with the Chicago White Sox in the 1970s). Now, when “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is sung anywhere other than at Wrigley Field, it comes across as a bad imitation.
It is noteworthy, however, that even some of the oldest sports franchises have developed new traditions. The Boston Red Sox adopted Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” as its 8th inning routine, becoming part of each game back in 2002, when John Henry’s group purchased the team. It became so identified with attending a Red Sox game that the 2005 film, Fever Pitch, included the stadium version of “Sweet Caroline” in one of its scenes.
If you have ever gone to Yankee Stadium, you can’t help but notice the “only in New York” start of each game. Once the Yankees take the field, the fans in the right field bleachers chant the name of each of the starting nine players until acknowledged in some way by that player, which they all willingly do. Each home victory ends with Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York.”
So, come on Phoenix, let’s take our collective life experiences and varied origins from around the country and develop something that is our own. Perhaps we can take a literal approach and adopt the song “Bring It” from the film “Snakes on a Plane” that starred Samuel L. Jackson. Or maybe we can be more message-filled by adopting Joe Cocker’s version (rather than The Beatles) of “A Little Help From My Friends” or “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. Actually, I am sure there are far better ideas out there. There must be someone in charge of game operations at Chase Field who is more creative than am I or who will sponsor a contest so that the fans can make the selection for the start of a tradition we can call our own.
In any event, it is time to wave goodbye to The Wave. Please!