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Wave goodbye? Longtime stadium cheer is loved by many, loathed by others

Wave goodbye? Cheer is a polarizing issue

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 anti-wave 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 is more rare 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 last Monday. The arena was about 2,600 fans short of a sellout.

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

The Coyotes declined 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, Tex. “I think now with the feedback that I’ve received from players, fans, et cetera, 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 tongue-in-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.”

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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