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Where did “The Wave” Come From?

“The Wave” originally started from a professional cheerleader named “Krazy” Henderson, caught on video. Henderson claims he had to go section by section of the stadium to explain what they needed to do.

The Mexican Wave

Fans can feel it coming at sports events all over the world. The crowd is electrified. At this very moment, an unexplainable motion starts, and even those who don’t want to participate can’t help but get up from their seats and throw their arms in the air. That is the very definition of “the wave,” or the Mexican Wave, as known for those outside Northern America. The phenomenon was initially seen at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. A strong demonstration of team pride. (Source: The Culture Trip)

The wave has several origins. On one occasion dated back to 215 BC, Native Americans would line up and raise their spears to get a bison to run in a specific direction. Others claim it was first done in a basketball game in the 1960s when a Pacific Lutheran cheerleader started the trend. (Source: ESPN)

In modern times, some people argued over which of them invented the stadium phenomenon. A professional cheerleader, “Krazy” George Henderson, claims that he first used the move on October 15, 1981, between the Oakland A’s and the New York Yankees. Henderson claims he went section by section and explained what it is and how it will be accomplished to the audience.

Then Rob Weller and Bill Bissell from the University of Washington said that the first wave was done in the University of Washington’s Homecoming game in 1981. Further on, they note that Weller had done a version of the wave in past minor league and high school games, but there were no videos to prove his claim. (Source: The Culture Trip)

Henderson won this argument since he had irrefutable evidence; a video of the actual wave he initiated. 

The Science of the Wave

The normal stadium wave spans approximately 15 seats at any time and moves at a fast of 20 seats per second. These waves pass through minor gaps in U-shaped stadiums and will reflect off of dead ends. Over 60% of stadium waves flow in a clockwise direction.

For the wave to succeed, we need to understand its basic rule, which is to copy your neighbor. And the ideal number of people to accomplish this is about 25 people. But in real life, the wave does not begin with a 25-person organized confederacy. Rather than that, these waves begin when a small number of people perform a repeated mini-wave and are gradually joined by their neighbors. When this group reaches around 25 people, the miracle occurs: the concept of “copying your neighbor” goes viral.

It is possible to achieve a perfect wave only if all the fans cooperate well and know exactly when to perform their assigned task. But what is fascinating about the phenomenon is when done spontaneously. (Source: Exploratorium)

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