It was LA cold, the sort of cold where people that have been here for more than two years pull out their knits, and the people that have been here less than two years laugh at them. My father was in town from Chicago, and my boyfriend and I had taken him to see his White Sox (because, as I’m told, “true baseball fans always claim ownership”). Slightly confused by the diagram on Stubhub, I had accidentally purchased bleacher seats at Dodger Stadium. My dad smiled politely, with the simple grace of a tourist, and said “these are good seats, these are where the real fans sit.” If you’ve never had the opportunity to be in the bleachers at a Dodgers game, I will tell you that this is, in fact, where the real fans sit. The sort of place where, after a few beers into the third inning, things could get ugly if you are rooting for the wrong team, which of course, my dad was.
These were sort of people whose children were walking billboards of Dodger-wear, from their blue high-tops to their flat-brimmed baseball caps with holographic logo. If anyone was going to catch a ball it would be because the Dodgers had scored a homerun, and not a foul ball (White Sox home run balls would likely be thrown back on the field in disgust, or, more likely, sold to those hopeless fans on eBay to pay for more refreshments from the Budweiser family of beers). This was also the stomping ground of the ninety-year-old independent contractor distributing peanuts (not the famous one), who held my attention even more than that game, because nothing was going to happen to him on my watch. And then there was us, smelling like Chicago by association, and drinking beer more expensive than the seats we were sitting in. The gentleman seated in front of us was somewhere between mildly annoyed and enraged when my dad shouted about “his White Sox”, but after a few innings, I could see why he was extraordinarily peevish: this guy just wanted to start the wave.
“Let’s do the wave!” shouted this thirty-something, a man who had earlier purchased peanuts from the aforementioned vendor and shared them amongst his row. His hands cupped around his mouth like an improvised megaphone, he had used the same stance to BOO when the Dodgers Stadium announced that the next song to be played was “Love Shack.” The first time he “waved,” most of his comrades laughed at him. “What the heck,” said my dad, in his casual polo and new wayfarers, “doesn’t he get that the wave is dead? Nobody does the wave.” Since my dad is a Converse wearing fan of food trucks and the last time I did the wave was in the sixth grade at a Ricky Martin concert (Samba Wave), I took his word for the fact that nobody does the wave. The second time he tried the wave, post “Love Shack,” a nearby three year old joined in. On the third go at it, I did.
An hour passed. It was a decent game, but I as I am nothing of a baseball virtuouso (the miniature men on the field were up to something, but what, I was not sure) my focus was on waving. So I waved. And waved. My boyfriend joined in, and my dad perfected a cooler version of the wave – the “seated wave”. By the fourth inning, there were about twenty people in our section joining this fellow, who always began with the same enthusiastic burst of energy, “Let’s do the wave!”
As the sixth inning was ending, it began to seem like a dead mission. He’d had at least eleven stabs at the wave. I’d burned off the pizza I’d just gorged on at Pitfire. I was feeling a bit like the peanut guy, like I’d been here forever, like wave would never happen, and a dream would be broken. The crowd fell silent as the White Sox were up to the plate. This time he shouted; with enthusiasm, but also with urgency, with desperation. If only he could breach the next section, the one with individual seats for each person and a miniature version of Carls Jr., the momentum might be enough to take it towards home plate. He shouted his rallying cry and began the countdown. 3! … 2! … 1!
And he waved. And I waved. And someone in that impenetrable section past the bleachers stood up, and another, and another, and the wave carried on to the next section. And the next section. And the next. Clockwise. The wave circled Dodger Stadium seventeen times. And there, in the bleachers of section 311, with the Dodger fans, no one was watching the game. We were doing the wave.
This one man did it. I still do not know his name, but that night, he made something that lasted longer than a homerun. He brought thousands of people together for one purpose in one moment. He inspired me to start my own waves: picking a goal, being persistent in the face of failure, and watching it spread. At the end of the night, I heard him say, with a mix of seriousness and levity (and a smile on his face), “I don’t even care who wins now. I started the wave.”
We really did have the best seats in the house.
He started the wave.