THE BLOG

Kill the Wave

08/30/2009 05:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Readers of this blog know that I am an ardent sports fan. I love the games. Sometimes, however, the people who attend the games just annoy me. Maybe it is because it rained so much this summer or that I am not ready for the academic year to begin once again, but let me catalog just a few of my pet peeves about baseball fans. (Fans of other sports might also qualify for censure, but let's pick the sports apart one by one.)

1. I really get annoyed by the "wave" at baseball games. Are the spectators so bored that they must entertain themselves with displays of rhythmic undulation? I particularly get annoyed when this happens in a 1-0 game in the eighth inning with runners on base. Just go home if you have had enough of the national pastime. They don't lock the gates.

It is unclear who first devised the wave for sporting events. Reports on the web indicate that it might have been started at a hockey game in 1980 or at a University of Washington football game in 1981 or an Oakland A's game the same year. (I figured Charlie Finley had something to do with this travesty; he also concocted the designated hitter rule.) In any case, the wave gained great international exposure as a result of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. (How come we flock to the wave, but not to soccer?) In Fenway Park, the wave always starts out in the deepest reaches of centerfield. Perhaps they are so far from home plate that they think the game is over, the Sox won and it is time to celebrate.

Dr. Tamas Vicsek, a physics professor at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, studied the wave and found that 20 or 30 fans can get the whole stadium moving. The typical wave is 15 seats wide, travels about 40 feet per second, and always moves in a clockwise direction. His article appeared in 2002 in the British journal Nature. Vicsek has studied "collective phenomena in biological systems -- flocking, oscillations, and crowds." I guess we are just like the birds. Now if we can get him to focus on how we stop it!

2. At any time he sees fit, some guy in the stands who sits in front of me arises and announces to his fellow fanatics: "Everyone up!" His exhortation is delivered with mucho decibels. Our self-appointed, natural leader has decided that the home team needs the standing support of the faithful at that moment. For some fans who do not have the dexterity of the spontaneous cheerleader, standing up is not that easy. For others who came to watch the game and not the backsides of the people in the front rows, this obnoxious fellow should sit on it. Of course, any sensible suggestion to that effect is answered simply: "You must be one of those Yankees fans ..."

3. Speaking of the Yankees, who are enjoying a spectacular year in the impossible American League East, they are subject to abuse by Boston fans even if they are nowhere near the Fenway. At any given time during a home game against the Rays or the Orioles, a cadre of Boston rooters will announce: "Yankees suck." This, in fact, is not true this year and has not been for a long time. Their epithet, however, is not intended as a commentary on the baseball play of the men who wear the pinstripes. It is hurled at the entire metropolis on the Hudson.

There is much to criticize about "the City." It is noisy, friendless, rushed and discourteous. It is dirty, polluted, clogged and obnoxious. The City and its baseball team, however, do not "suck." (The Mets, on the other hand, do "suck.")

4. Beer has long been a major reason why folks attend baseball games. Baseball is the largest outdoor summer beer fest. (Football takes over in the fall.) The National League in the nineteenth century banned those clubs that sold beer to patrons, starting with Cincinnati. They thought it would attract the wrong kind of customers. Almost immediately, a rival league -- the American Association -- was formed with beer brewers at the core of the club owners. Beer and baseball have forever after gone hand in hand (except during Prohibition).

I like a beer at the games. My peeve is with those who carry two 16-ounce cups of brew back to their seats. As the game progresses along with their inebriation, those cups tend to spill on their return trips to the seats. If you want to get sloshed, that is fine, but don't slosh it my way.

5. The cell phone has created a major new distraction for baseball fans. Folks talk on those phones as if it is a primitive technology that requires that they shout into the receiver. Once again, boredom must be the cause, because the conversations tend to last for a couple of innings. Parks banned smoking; now if we only get an official study that proves that cell phone use is carcinogenic to those who are seated near the offender.

This is an unusual amount of spleen to spill at one sitting. Despite all of this, I still love the games and the fans. Now, if we can just figure out a way to get more tickets!