Joe Staley And The Conundrum Of 'The Wave'

Joe Staley is the left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, and a reasonable man. He's a man of the people; a man who understands the simple pleasures of fandom. But that also means he's unafraid to speak his mind when he is witness to a grave injustice on his home turf. Following Sunday's game, which included shutting out the St. Louis Rams to the tune of a 26-0 final score and punching the team's ticket to the postseason, Staley took to Twitter to make a modest proposal.

Staley's message was short, succinct and earnest, but said so much:

Thanks to the fans for being so supportive and great this year so far. Keep it up. Just don't start the wave anymore when we are on offense

Ah, yes. The Wave. Bane of the hardcore fan and the statistician. Boon to the casual fan and the stretching enthusiast. Long condemned as a distraction to everyone in the stadium, both on the field and off, The Wave often seems much more a statement of "WE ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION WOOOO" or "LOOK AT US THE FANS RATHER THAN THE PLAYERS WE OSTENSIBLY CAME TO SEE WOOOO" rather than what I presume is the intended meaning of "WE SHALL RISE IN RHYTHMIC UNISON IN SUPPORT OF OUR LOCAL SPORTS SQUADRON WOOOO."

When you think about The Wave, it really does seem to be much more of an externalization of boredom or disinterest than of support. In that sense, it makes a lot of sense to bust out a Wave when the opposing team has the ball, as a means of subtly suggesting that the visiting team's offense bores you into simulating some sort of odd circular wave. That's quite the calisthenic bon mot, sports fans. You're a regular 40,000 Oscars Wilde. (As an aside, shouldn't The Wave actually be called "The Whirlpool?" That would probably be closer to what the fans are simulating. Unless they're simulating that weird perpetual wave from the surfing portion of California Games.)

The Wave is often cited as a reason why Bay Area fans are better than Los Angeles fans at cheering on sports teams. It's kind of a silly argument, you guys. "We're the better sports-cheerers." Besides, let's not forget that The Wave was created by Krazy George -- who was the Bay Area Fireman Ed before Fireman Ed was the actual Fireman Ed -- at an Oakland Athletics game. But I'm getting away from the point here. Let's get back to Staley and Sunday's game.

Chris Chase at Yahoo! Sports thinks that Staley is arbitrarily picking on "sports cliches" because in that same game he doused his coach with the trusty Gatorade cooler. But this isn't about "sports cliches." This is about fans doing something annoying and distracting, and being demonstrably removed from the events of the game. It's easy to see why Staley put out his plea. Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury took it a step further, and seems to think we need to institute a "ten commandments" of Candlestick. I don't think we need to go so far as to instill doctrine into this issue. How un-San Francisco does a manifesto of "correct sports enjoyment" seem?

Peter Hartlaub of the SF Chronicle weighed in on Wednesday with an official statement from an analyst who is something of an authority on the subject:

Just got off phone with Krazy George, whose word is final: Don't do The Wave while football team is on offense.

So there you have it. The dude who created the dang thing says to knock it the heck off when your team has the ball. Sound advice. But just be nice about it and lead by example. If some yahoo next to you starts the wave at an inopportune time, either explain your viewpoint calmly or just keep your butt planted in your seat. You know, passive resistance. Make like Gandhi and don't do The Wave. Besides, all that moving around while watching football is decidedly un-American.

To Wave or not to Wave? Discuss this vital issue with your San Francisco brethren over at Niners Nation.

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