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Origin of “the wave”

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The rippling effect produced by the sequential action of structures such as the cilia of ctenophores is called metachronal rhythm. A more familiar example might be the “Mexican wave” or “Ola” which came to the world’s attention during the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. However, in North America the origin of what they simply call “the wave” is the subject of controversy.

“Krazy” George Henderson, a professional cheerleader, claims to have recorded the first wave on 15 October 1981 at a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. Until then his routine involved having one set of supporters jump and cheer then make the opposite side respond. One night in Edmonton, Canada, there was a delayed response from one section of fans then the next set hesitated and a ragged wave spontaneously circled part of the stadium.

Henderson’s experiments to find a way to start the crowd moving rhythmically culminated with that first televised wave 30 years ago. Mathematicians have since calculated that a wave can be triggered by just 25 people acting in unison.

However, there are other claims which were not recorded or verified at the time they were performed. For example, a cheerleader named Bill Peterson says he created a version in the early 1960s by sprinting around basketball courts during games encouraging fans to rise and cheer as he passed. Both the Canadian National Hockey League and the Vancouver Whitecaps football team say they invented the wave in the 1970s, the latter for a commercial with the slogan “Catch the wave”.

When the audience waiting for President Reagan to speak at a convention in June 1981 tried to start a wave they were stopped by the Secret Service in case it compromised their ability to monitor the crowd. That would have been the first to be televised, beating “Krazy” George by four months.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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