New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard is pretty good at social media for an athlete. That’s an admittedly low bar, but his Twitter feed is one you might enjoy following even if he weren’t a famous baseball player. He’s clever, he’s interesting, and he’s often funny.
One of his recurring social media gags is criticizing people who do the wave at baseball games. He has tweeted about it repeatedly:
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) August 31, 2016
Home team stadium started the WAVE tonight. Lost 14-4. Coincidence? #justsaying #????????
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) April 12, 2017
He even made a video about it (cued up to the relevant portion):
I am a big Syndergaard fan. Outside my personal rooting interests, he might be my favorite player to watch. I love his “chubby kid hits a growth spurt and turns into a freak of nature” origin story. Heck, I’m even jealous of his looks, as TimeHop reminded me this morning:
How come Noah Syndergaard gets to look like that and I’m stuck looking like this?
— Jeff J. Snider (@snidog) April 13, 2016
So it is with the utmost respect and affection that I say this: Syndergaard is wrong about the wave.
I know that’s not a popular opinion, at least in certain circles. The cool kids hate the wave. And to be honest, I don’t actually participate in the wave, except to occasionally half-heartedly lift one arm as it rolls through my section. But I don’t begrudge other fans their wave-loving ways, and my reasoning can be summed up in two simple points:
First: The wave isn’t hurting anyone.
Players don’t notice the wave when they’re playing. (They notice it when they’re sitting on the bench and looking for something to snark about on Twitter, but not when they’re actually playing.) Ask Madison Bumgarner if he got distracted when the wave rolled behind the plate as he was delivering a pitch, and he won’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
I’ve heard the wave described as a safety hazard to fans, the idea being that if they are distracted by the wave when a foul ball is hit at them, they could be injured. Foul balls are hit in the direction of distracted fans every night, and injuries are rare. Moreover, the next time someone gets hurt by a foul ball while doing the wave will be the first time.
I’ve also heard complaints that the wave disrupts the game-watching experience for others. Sorry, amigo, but the number of seconds your view is blocked by wave-doers is a fraction of the time you’re blocked by peanut vendors, people getting up to go to the bathroom or buy another beer, and the thousand other things that cause a person to stand up during a game.
Simply put, every complaint of harm or potential harm done by the wave is a thinly veiled attempt to hide what the person really wants to say: I’m too cool to do the wave and I’m embarrassed to be around less-cool people. Which brings me to my second point:
Second: Not everyone at a baseball game is as big a baseball fan as you.
There are 81 games in every stadium, every year. Fourteen times a month, your favorite team is trying to get 30,000 people to come watch a baseball game. A good chunk of those paying customers will be big baseball fans, but not all of them. You have the fans’ significant others, who may not love baseball but love spending time with their husbands/wives/boyfriends/girlfriends. You have children who are still in their formative years as baseball fans, and even some children who will never grow up to be fans but enjoy spending time at the ballpark with Mom and Dad. You have people who come for the social event.
For people who end up sitting in a baseball stadium for three hours despite not being baseball fans, they don’t care if the tying run is on second base in the eighth inning and the home team has the opponents’ ace pitcher on the ropes. They don’t care that “their” pitcher is one strike away from tying a team record for blah blah blah. They came to the game for entertainment, and the game on the field is just one piece of that.
Look, in my perfect world, everyone would love baseball and hang on every pitch. But in my even-more-perfect world, I would sometimes sit at Dodger Stadium with my wife and our three kids for a midweek day game against the Padres like I did last Thursday. It was my five-year-old son’s first visit to Dodger Stadium. He ate a Dodger Dog. He wore a Dodger hat handed down from his big brother. And yes, he did the wave. Repeatedly, and joyfully.
And he had a great time at the game and can’t wait to go back.
Not everyone in the stadium hangs on every pitch like you do, and that’s okay. If you want them to keep coming back, letting them enjoy a silly thing like the wave once in a while is a pretty good idea.
And Noah, if you want a big payday down the road, from the Mets or any other team, some of that money is going to come from paying customers who showed up even though they don’t really care about baseball, and those people enjoy the wave. So I respect your right to be too cool for the wave, but I also think you’re dead wrong.