22 Feb 2011

The Mexican wave, or "olà"

I get increasingly annoyed by the silly practice of people jumping up and down in masses while throwing their arms in the air when they are in rugby stadiums. Apparently they also do this in other public sports arenas like soccer stadiums, but I never watch soccer. I have yet to see this plague hit cricket stadiums, but it may have done so.

The so-called "Mexican wave", or "olà", is seemingly carried out for no particular reason linked to the course of the game in progress, as it takes place quite irrespective of whether either side on the field have scored a try or marked other points or even have just conducted a spectacular or beautiful action. If this were the case, I would be more understanding! In fact I am fairly sure that most of those involved are not even particularly interested in watching the game that they have paid money to come and enjoy, preferring instead to indulge in this stupid collective habit and then booing and hissing at anyone who decides not to participate in this weird ritual.

For those who are not at all sure what I am talking about, here is a definition of the "Mexican wave" to be found in Wikipedia.

The wave (US) or the Mexican wave (British) is an example of metachronal rhythm achieved in a packed stadium when successive groups of spectators briefly stand and raise their arms. Each spectator is required to rise at the same time as those straight in front and behind, and slightly after the person immediately to either the right (for a clockwise wave) or the left (for a counterclockwise wave). Immediately upon stretching to full height, the spectator returns to the usual seated position. The result is a "wave" of standing spectators that travels through the crowd, even though individual spectators never move away from their seats. In many large arenas the crowd is seated in a contiguous circuit all the way around the field, and so the wave is able to travel continuously around the arena.

Now anyone reading this might well say to me "so who are you to criticize a sports crowd for having a bit of fun?" And they would be right, up to a point. After all, it is only a game and these people are not bashing each other senseless like football hooligans tend to do when they get together. But I am more than a little suspicious of mass crowd behaviour, its side effects and its sorry consequences in some cases. I am also, I think legitimately, annoyed when this piece of sheep-like jumping to one's feet prevents me from seeing what is going on on the field at various points during the game. After all, it may be just the moment when somebody is scoring the try of the century. So, please, just SIT DOWN and enjoy the game.

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