is the first in a series on words and phrases, some old, some new, some
borrowed and maybe some of that other kind.)
Provided you are
not a die-hard Member of the Sydney Cricket Ground (or similar venerable
institution), then if you’re a one-day cricket fan who has actually
attended an international game or two you will probably have some
fondness for that audience participation diversion called the Mexican
Wave – or the Wave, for short.
But how did the
ritual arise? Mexico is no cricketing nation, so are we to assume it
originated at a football match? And what’s it for anyway?
According to the Macquarie
Dictionary of New Words of 1990, it did indeed begin in Mexico City,
at the 1986 World Cup finals.
quotes two local references. The first, from the Brisbane Telegraph
of 29 July 1986, asserts that the Wave “was designed to distract
competitors” during those finals, and complains, “it has since been
seen in test cricket matches in England”.
The other quote,
from the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 February 1988, doesn’t
attempt to explain origins (assuming that by then we all knew?), but
does a give reasonable definition of what it calls “the very latest
it’s a spontaneous action where one section of spectators stands up,
arms waving, then sits as the next section does the same. The movement
goes on and on around the ground, forming a spectacular rippling effect.
Oxford Dictionary of New Words of 1991, while adhering to the
1986 World Cup bit, declares that it was originally called the “Human
Wave” and was practised in the early 1980s by American football
crowds. When it was done in ‘86 in Mexico, it was seen on TV and then
copied world-wide under its new name.
By 1989 an extra
ingredient had been added, or more accurately several thousand
ingredients. The Oxford quotes from The Times, which on 12 June grumbled
was first delayed when another rendition of the Mexican wave, that
mental aberration which cricket should long have discouraged, was
accompanied by a confetti storm of torn-up paper.
what purpose, according to the Oxford, does all this community
body rippling serve? The crowd, it would seem, thereby “expresses
appreciation of what is happening in the match”.
So, while you
unruly Wavers are having a good time, if you really need
self-justification you may take your lexical pick. You are either trying
to distract the players, or else showing your appreciation of them.
Sorry, no. I’m
afraid that neither of those desires motivates Australian cricket
spectators. From personal observation at the SCG, I’d say that our mob
do it simply out of boredom. You see, the Wave never begins during
exciting play, and in fact can always be guaranteed to peter out if a
wicket falls or a four is scored.
as if the crowd is saying to its collective self, “We love our
cricket, sure, but we also expect some slow moments, so when they occur,
we’ll provide our own fun.”
As a rule at the
SCG the Wave begins on the Hill. After a couple of false starts, it
moves in a clockwise direction, first to the huge Clive
Churchill/Brewongle stand, where it is welcomed by all tiers, then to
the Ladies Stand. Here a few hardy souls brave the displeasure of their
neighbours and join in, grateful perhaps for the vulgar chance to
stretch their legs.
Next door is the
Members Stand, and on a good day the most you can expect to see here are
one or two half-hearted pairs of arms, accompanied by raucous boos and
catcalls from the rest of the ground.
But now it’s
the turn of the M.A. Noble Stand, where the undulation ever so slowly
picks up again (half this stand is for Members). And now to the Bradman.
Here enthusiasm fully returns, echoed with exhilaration in the Bill O’Reilly
and finally in the Doug Walters, whence once more the Hill sends it on
its rolling way.
Mind you, despite
its reputation for rowdiness, the Hill doesn’t claim exclusive right
to Wave initiation. Usually in the latter stages of a match the
countdown can just as easily start in the concourse area of the O’Reilly
or Bradman Stands.
For years the SCG
endeavoured in vain to discourage the disgraceful practice, even to the
extent of flashing warnings on the electronic scoreboard. Recently it
seems to have accepted the inevitable, however, and the Aussie Wave (its
Central American origins utterly forgotten) continues to prosper.