History of ‘The Wave’
How Edmonton Oilers’ fans allegedly started a global phenomenon
Chances are if you’ve ever watched a live sporting event, you’re familiar with “The Wave.”
For those of you who haven’t, it is the most recognizable silent cheer in sports. The “Wave” consists of audience members going from the sitting position to an upright position with their arms extended. When a crowd all does this in delayed timing, it gives off the effect of the crest of a wave. It can go around and around a stadium, with one or more crests.
The first televised appearance of “The Wave” came in an MLB American League Championship Series game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. This took place just over two decades ago, in 1981. It was led by professional cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson. However, when pressed for his inspiration in creating “The Wave,” he claims it came from watching an accident at the Northlands Coliseum (the home for the Edmonton Oilers).
He was leading the fans in one of his typical routines. On that day he had one section of the audience jump and cheer and then had the opposite side react and respond to it. However, on this night there was a miscommunication between the sections. People started cheering at staggering times from each other. The story goes that it immediately caught on, and soon the Oilers’ fans were all doing this staggered cheer, but nothing serious came of it. However, this was enough to inspire “Krazy” George. He began to take this new routine to stadiums across North America, culminating in its televised appearance in 1981.
Of course, there are just as many people who would tell you that “The Wave” came from Edmonton as there are who would claim that was false. The earliest recorded rumour of the beginning of “The Wave” comes from the 1960s, at a basketball game at Pacific Lutheran University. Cheerleader Bill Peterson would run up and down the sides of the court, encouraging the audience to stand when he passed them. Even though this would only last ten seconds at a time and would never be a complete wave, many believe this to be the birth of what would become “The Wave” as we know it today.
Folks in Boston believe it came as just an attempt to watch the game at Fenway Park. One of the sections in the baseball stadium has its seats packed so tight, it was impossible to see when one person stands up. When one person would need to walk across the section, the entire row behind would have to stand as well if they wanted to see. This had a domino effect with each row, and so each row would all stand at once when someone passed as to not miss the action.
It was first documented outside North America in 1986, at the Mexican FIFA World Cup and became an instant hit with soccer stadiums worldwide. This is what led to it being called the “Mexican Wave,” despite documented proof it came from north of the border.
Despite all rumours of where it could have came from, “The Wave” is relatively young, and could probably still see many innovations by sports fans for years to come. The next time you are part of it, perhaps offer a small bit of thanks to Krazy George and what he saw up in Edmonton while you are cheering loudly and then taking your seat.