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#DeathToTheWave or #KeepOnWavin: That cheer we love to hate

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TCB’s resident protector of baseball etiquette and nitpicker of fan life, Terri Schlather, takes on one of baseball’s biggest controversies – no, not the umps, not the designated hitter, not the balk or timers for pacing of a game, not reviewable plays or balls and strikes, …but the Wave.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re already familiar with my thoughts around etiquette in a baseball park and have read either my introductory rules or the follow-up, you know that the wave is not something I will ever encourage at a baseball game. In fact, do it while the home team is on defense and I will get irate. Don’t disrupt Dallas Keuchel’s delivery or risk bodily injury. Ask my friends that sit with me at games.

I don’t play when it comes to the wave.

But, like many things in life, not everyone agrees with my opinion and not everyone sees things my way, so I thought I would do a little digging to see where this abominable beloved sports tradition came from (I’m guessing north of the Mason-Dixon line) and what fans really think of the wave.

Where’d this thing come from?

There’s a little bit of he said/he said as to who actually started this whole wave thing, but this much is true, it originated some time in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s . Krazy George Henderson, who holds the distinction of being the longest continuously active professional cheerleader (yes, read that again, it takes a minute to sink in), seems to have been the predominant originator.

The first time the wave was done on a national stage was even at a baseball game. October 15, 1981 in the AL Championship Series the Oakland Athletics were hosted by the New York Yankees and the wave found itself a part of baseball. The Yankees won that game 4-0. Please take note that it DID in fact start above the Mason-Dixon line.

There are a couple of guys from the University of Washington who say they started it there in the early 1980’s at Huskies football games and even if they did or didn’t begin it, they certainly did make it a popular cheer as fans embraced it at all of their games. Regardless of which story you choose to believe or retell or bleach from your memory, that’s the jist of how the wave began.

FIFA took the wave to a whole new level in 1986 when Mexico hosted the World Cup. It was there that the wave, commonly known as the "Mexican Wave" outside of the United States, was debuted to a worldwide audience. And there’s been no stopping the wave ever since.

It is a staple at most sporting events.

A Statistical Look at the Wave

This is Crawfish Boxes, the site that loves all things stats, so I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a bit of statistical information about the wave. In 2002 a university in Hungary conducted a bit of research on the wave. They looked at video of 14 waves in Mexican football stadiums. We’d call that #SmallSampleSize, but kudos to anyone who sits and watches video of the wave for any duration of time, so I’m not criticizing the researchers at Eotvos Lorand University for this one!

What they uncovered was that it really only takes about 24 or so fans to truly kickoff a full-fledged wave in a stadium, a surprisingly small group. And once a couple of dozen fans get it going, a wave generally flows through a stadium clockwise and moves at a rate of approximately 40 feet per second.

How many people get up at once? Most waves are about 15 seats wide at any given time. I will buy a beer at an Astro’s game for anyone who is willing to confirm all of this information at Minute Maid Park.

What Do Fans Really Think of the Wave

I'd like to believe that all fans think like me and dislike the wave, but if that were the case, it wouldn't happen EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. But it does happen, so I believe the vast majority of fans like it. It makes them feel like they're part of the live baseball experience and doing a good thing by cheering on their favorite nine guys.

If fans would embrace only doing the wave when their team was at bat, I could get behind that theory. But fans do the wave at weird times, distract their own pitcher and end up essentially cheering for the visiting team. It's abominable.

It's so bad that several stadiums have tried to ban the wave. In 2011 the Texas Rangers posted a warning on their video board that doing the wave would cause injury to fans, children who did the wave would be sold to the circus, but reassured everyone that "doing the wave is safe at pro football games and Miley Cyrus concerts."

There's a website called stopthewave.net that highlights the fun other ballparks have had poking fun at or attempting to destroy fans' attempts at starting the wave. Australian cricket officials went so far to ban it as well.

But it seems that sports pundits and hard core fans are the only ones who really detest the wave and that's likely why it still continues to haunt me at every game. All I ask is that if that you are sitting in my section and in particular the three rows in front of me, will you do this girl a favor and pretend the wave isn't happening? We'll all enjoy the game a bit more.

Want to know what my twitter followers think about the wave? Here's what twitter had to say when I asked if they were on team #DeathToTheWave or #KeepOnWavin.