The Wave

updated 12/24/1984 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/24/1984 01:00AM

It used to be that when Americans took themselves out to the ball game, their main intention was seeing the ball game. Now they go to see themselves. There's a method to this madness, and it's known as The Wave. If, somehow, you've missed taking part in this human tsunami, and you're afraid you'll be out of step when you step out to the stadium, contemplate the montage on the previous pages. That's Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker, demonstrating the two simple steps (plus, of course, the wave that enhances The Wave) of America's latest rite of belonging. Think of that old football cheer: Shake it to the left, shake it to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight. Okay, now forget about the shaking and fighting. Just stand up, get those hands in the air(giving the fan behind you a clear shot at the Heimlich maneuver) and sit down again. Now do it in synchronized sequence with 20,000 of your closest friends and, presto, you've got The Wave.

This might seem like nothing more than good, clean, inane fun, but some people think The Wave is a drowner. Reggie Jackson claims to be "distracted" by the phenomenon, and one of those old party poopers at the New York Times has likened it to a "plague" causing normal fans, if that isn't a contradiction in terms, to act "like village idiots." Despite such denunciations, more than one village idiot, including a roving cheerleader known professionally—and fittingly—as Krazy George, has been noisily claiming the dubious title Father of the Wave.

It's a meaningless quarrel. The real question is: What human need has The Wave fulfilled that has caused it to spread so far, so fast? The answer seems obvious. Even spectators eventually get tired of spectating; they want to get into the act. By every indication The Wave is still cresting. College football fans have even taken to competitive Waving—seeing how many times they can keep a Wave whirlpooling around an oval stadium. Perhaps 1985 will bring professional Waving, complete with competing Wave teams and hysterical fans. If that happens, look for someone to start distracting the professional Wavers—maybe by hanging 10 in the bleachers.

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