KQED listener Chris Thompson is an avid A’s fan who recently found himself at a Giants game with work colleagues. He noticed fans a few rows away trying to get the wave started, but saw they were quickly booed by other Giants fans. Eventually ushers came over and told the group trying to start the wave to simmer down.
Thompson wrote to Bay Curious asking:
Why don’t they allow people to do the wave at Giants stadium?
First thing we have to get cleared up right away — there is no official policy against the wave at Giants games. It’s a self-imposed ban that has been a part of Giants fan culture for decades.
But why? I mean, it’s the wave. At many stadiums, it’s as much a part of baseball as hot dogs and beer.
The Oakland Athletics Started It
Some Giants fans point back to the origins of the wave on Oct. 15, 1981, as the reason they developed a no-wave tradition.
The Athletics were battling the Yankees for the American League Championship, and things were not going well for Oakland. The A’s were down by two games in a best-of-five series, and were scoreless five innings into the game.
That’s when a professional cheerleader called Krazy George decided to unveil a cheer he’d been developing at local high school pep rallies.
Watch our video of Krazy George Henderson reliving the very first wave:
There is some dispute about whether or not Krazy George’s ’81 Oakland wave was in fact the first wave in history. Other claims point to the University of Washington or international soccer matches. But if you ask Krazy George, all of those other claims were either later than October 1981, or lack the proper supporting evidence of his nationally televised wave at the Oakland Coliseum.
“I say, ‘I don’t claim to have invented the wave. I DID INVENT THE WAVE.’ ”
Whether that’s definitive or not, the wave’s early connection to Oakland and the A’s is enough to turn some San Francisco Giants fans against it.
Bennett Dake came to a recent Giants game wearing a T-shirt he got in the ’80s. The back says: “Top 10 Reasons Real Fans Go to the ’Stick.” One reason? No wave.
“That’s Oakland,” he says. “We’re San Francisco. It’s always been like that. We don’t do the wave here.”
The Wave Was Associated With Los Angeles (and Thus, the Dodgers)
Though the wave might have started in Oakland, it was broadcast internationally for the first time during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Television sets across the world showed images of the crowd doing the wave at the soccer final — in many minds forever linking the cheer with that city.
“I think the wave is seen as something really Los Angeles, and it was San Francisco reacting to that,” says Dan Fost, author of two books about the Giants. “[The Dodgers fan] experience is all about beating the traffic, getting to the game late, leaving early and throwing beach balls around in the stands. And the wave is just such an L.A. part of that.”
It’s Too Mainstream
One identity trait that came up repeatedly during interviews with Giants fans was their feeling of uniqueness.
“Giants fans sort of think that they’re a little different, so we would never stoop to something as pedestrian as doing the wave,” says Pat Gallagher, who worked as the team’s director of marketing for nearly 33 years.
And let’s be honest, this identity goes beyond the baseball diamond. The San Francisco Bay Area as a whole has a long history of reveling in the ways it stands apart from the rest of America.
“Not doing the wave is a way of saying, ‘San Francisco is different and we don’t do that here,’ ” says Fost.
Need another example? Look no further than the Crazy Crab. At a time when baseball teams around the country were eagerly bringing cheery mascots into the mix, the Giants introduced an anti-mascot. The crustacean was a walking mascot parody, and fans were encouraged to boo, hiss and sometimes throw things at the poor schmuck stuck inside the costume.
Real Serious Fans Are Real Serious
Beyond tradition and perception, what is it about the wave that Giants fans dislike so much?
To put it simply, some people think that “real baseball fans” don’t do it. It’s seen as yet another frivolous ballpark novelty that detracts from their beloved pastime. Right up there with the Kiss Cam.
One Giants fan we spoke with says, “It’s an obnoxious response to fan excitement. I don’t like it. I think it’s silly.”
Real fans chart every pitch and obsess over fundamentals. Everyone else does the wave and eats cotton candy.
“Giants fans don’t do the wave because they are serious about baseball,” Fost says. “They love the game, they’re paying attention to the game, and they don’t want to take themselves out of the game.”
How the Tradition is Passed On
The Giants anti-wave philosophy is carried on as a sort of oral tradition. That is, via hearty “BOOOOOs.”
Gallagher says that when the team played at Candlestick, you’d often hear hardcore fans boo when anyone tried to start the wave.
“They weren’t booing the players, they were actually booing other fans,” he says.
It appears this tradition has made the trip from the ’Stick to AT&T Park.
Giants fan Dalton Hurst had a rude awakening at one of his childhood games.
“When I was a kid, I tried to start [the wave] and someone yelled at me,” says Hurst. “I don’t know why they don’t do it.”
But New Fans Doing The Wave?
Despite the booing, long-standing tradition and ’80s T-shirts — sacrilege — the wave has been spotted circling AT&T park recently. It may be that the team’s success is attracting new fans who just don’t know the rules yet.
Several die-hard fans blamed these bandwagon fans, (or “hipsters,” as one Giants fan called them) for bringing this abhorred tradition into their no-wave stadium.
On one YouTube video of an AT&T Park wave, the comments section spells out this argument.
Sharing our Findings
We took our findings back to Chris Thompson, the question-asker for this Bay Curious story. He couldn’t help but laugh.
“Are they proud to be that bourgeois?” he says of Giants fans. “This is baseball. … It’s waves and hot dogs and beers.”
To wave or not to wave? Sound off in the comments below.
Got a question you want to see the Bay Curious team take on? Submit it!