I’m not sure if I can pinpoint the first time I participated in the wave. It was probably in the mid-‘90s, when the Cleveland Indians ruled the American League Central Division with an iron fist. You know, back when Jacobs Field was more like an exclusive party that everyone wished they could attend, rather than a simple place where grown men tried to hit a ball with a piece of wood.
That first wave probably began somewhere in the bleachers, rippling clockwise until it was seconds away from reaching my seats in the lower bowl behind home plate, because seven-year-old me balled like that. My dad probably began to prepare me, instructing me to stand up and throw my hands in the air when it was time, and I blindly followed. As the wave swept through my section, I did as I was told. I stood up, threw my hands toward the sky and uttered some strange combination of “woo!” and “oh!” Then I sat back down and continued eating a hot dog bigger than my traitorous arms while dreaming of catching a foul ball. I’m ashamed of younger me. He had no moral fiber.
The wave is the worst. It always has been and always will be, and if you disagree with me, you probably also enjoy the smell of vinegar and the third installment of Rush Hour. For starters, your entire participatory experience lasts all of one second. When I want to do something in unison with other people, I want it to last, like picketing all day outside the White House to get Justin Bieber deported. Plus you have to physically stand up. I’ve been sitting this entire game, and I just did 20 squats at my totally awesome Crossfit box earlier. I am in no mood.
Also, the guy who starts the wave is always a deplorable human being. He’s usually dressed in cargo shorts and a tank top with something dumb written across it like “I Do This” or some other phrase that makes you want to set him on fire. He’s almost always drunk, for that’s the only reason anyone could be so passionate about something so horrid. When he asks you to do the wave, it’s more of a demand, like if you don’t participate it’s a slight against God and you’ll be electrocuted on the spot.
“GUYS, COME ON, LET’S START THE WAVE! WOULDN’T IT BE COOL TO DO THAT, RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW, WITH EACH OTHER? DO IT, COME ON! ON MY COUNT!” he screams. And if you don't do it, he points you out, shrugs his shoulders and acts like you've just disrespected the entire stadium. It’s like the dude thinks it’s the first time a group of people has ever gotten together to something in unison in the history of the universe, and he’ll be on the cover of Time for doing it. And though there is never a good time for the wave, the guy always picks the absolute worst possible option. Hey, the home team might have the bases loaded with two outs and if they don’t score here, their shot at a playoff spot is essentially over. But who gives a shit? This plastered gentleman in front of me with the punchable face wants us all to temporarily mimic one of those tube-like blow-up dolls you see at a used car dealership, so if you’ll excuse me, I must participate.
But the worst part? The very worst part of this monstrosity that has warped the minds of our youth in sports arenas everywhere? How smug people are when they join in. Couples are the worst, like, “Oh my God, babe, how much fun was that? We both did it at the same time, did you see that? Want to do it one more time and then Eskimo kiss in front of the girl’s bathroom for a while? Great, I’ll awkwardly massage your shoulders until then.” Children are a close second. They giggle with ecstasy as if participating in the wave is somehow equivalent to receiving an Xbox One for Christmas or finding a check for $200 residing in the Halloween card your aunt just sent you. Chill, youngins. Someday you’ll lie in bed after hooking up with the prom queen and be like, "I got this excited over the wave? What was wrong with me?”
Let this serve as a public service announcement. If we refuse to participate in the wave, it will slowly die, like those horrid vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup that made everyone’s ears bleed. Please, do it for the kids.
Except for you, University of Michigan football fans. You guys keep doing your thing.
Jordan Zirm is a Cleveland-based writer who enjoys eating sandwiches next to Johnny Manziel at The Market and has lost his ability to say no when it comes to buying new sneakers. Send all-caps tweets to him @CleveZirm.