Sporting events have one thing in common with concerts: A few douchebag fans can ruin everything. They're running onto the field, they're blowing some kind of plastic horn in your ear, they're throwing shit down onto the playing surface.
It kind of makes you stop and wonder, who the hell started this? And why did other people decide to copy it? Well, we know the answer to the first one ...
If you're an American, you might be saying, "WHAT? I've never seen a naked man run onto the field of a sporting event I was watching!" That's because TV networks have a policy of not showing them -- they just cut to the sidelines or have the announcers in the booth banter while the guy is apprehended. So a naked man running onto the field looks like this if you're there (NSFW) ...
... but becomes this in the TV broadcast:
This "run naked onto the field" fad has been going on for almost 40 years now, and we can thank ...
In February 1974, England was battling France in a crucial rugby match at Twickenham Stadium in London. Over 53,000 fans were at the game, including many British royals, and all of them were treated to a healthy dose of flopping genitals. 25-year-old Australian Michael O'Brien had just taken a bet from a friend to run across the field naked and became the first known streaker at a sporting event.
The crowd all looks like they've seen better.
Up to that point, streaking was relegated to college courtyards, but no one had considered running naked in front of thousands of spectators, some of whom would no doubt have cameras. The police chasing him were baffled as to why anyone would willingly do it and were just as amused as the audience.
In fact, after assessing a fine, they actually let O'Brien go right back to his seat for the second half of the match. During his moment of arrest, however, one policeman had the decency to cover up the offensive bits with his hat, which immediately became an iconic photo worldwide.
The policeman would immediately file paperwork for a new hat.
And that was that; the photo triggered a wave of copycat offenders at sporting events all over England, and then the rest of Europe and finally America. For the next four decades.
It turns out people everywhere were just looking for an excuse to get naked in front of packed stadiums, and now they had one. Naturally, the once-spontaneous event lost its charm pretty quickly for sports fans and particularly for police. They clearly didn't anticipate how awful it would be to tackle naked people at every other game, and on one occasion, the Academy Awards.
Of all the horrific ways that mob mentality can manifest, the wave is easily one of the gentlest. Fans attending sporting events from Little League baseball games to the World Series have all realized how gratifying it can be to just stand up and sit down at an opportune moment. The result of several people doing it in succession is a massive wave that ripples across a stadium, or in the case of Little League games, a small set of bleachers.
It's considered so annoying and disruptive to the game that some stadiums have banned it, and coaches have personally pleaded with fans to stop.
"What is the appeal here?"
Whose idea was this?
In 1979, George Henderson was a professional cheerleader for the San Jose Earthquakes and the Oakland Seals. Now, when we say cheerleader, you are probably picturing a peppy, strong young kid with sweatbands doing some flips, but what you ought to be picturing is this:
Krazy George, Professional Cheerleader
The jean shorts are crucial.
George Henderson didn't match the mold for the standard cheerleader, but he was still phenomenal at riling up crowds. So good, in fact, that he was hired by professional teams across all sports to hype up spectators.
In 1980, while leading cheers at an NHL game in Edmonton, Henderson discovered the wave by accident. He was encouraging fans to all jump up and shout at the same time, but with an arena full of drunk Canadians, many of the fans were slow to respond. So, the cheer rippled helplessly across the group before dying out. What probably seemed like a failure at the time gave Henderson the vision for a cheer no one had ever considered before.
Krazy George, Professional Cheerleader
His previous hit, the Farting Mountie, was beginning to wear thin.
He saved it until an American League championship game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees in 1981. He tried to incite the fans into doing the wave, but like puppies learning a new trick, they all collectively cocked their heads and stared. But after realizing the crazy guy with the drum might be on to something, the fans gradually learned to do it. Again. Again. And again. All during the game. Since then, it has become an institution at games everywhere. Whether you want to or not, if you're at a sporting event, you are obligated to participate in the wave. All thanks to Krazy George.
"Thanks" may be a strong word.
Within the last decade, however, George Henderson's claim to have started the wave has been challenged by the University of Washington. A graduate named Rob Weller argues that he started the wave during a football game against Stanford, also in 1981. Chronology, however, suggests that he's wrong, because that game happened on October 31 and the final game of the American League Championship was on October 15. For now, Krazy George is still credited as the creator of the wave, or as some people know it, "That damn cheer you have to do at every game that distracts everyone from what's going on down on the field."
Krazy George, Professional Cheerleader
Hey, it beats baseball.
In most sports, throwing anything onto the field of play is a good way to get kicked out and possibly arrested, but in hockey it's a different story. Considering hockey fans are some of the hardest in sports, it seems strange that they treat games like a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Following hat tricks, they toss hats on to the ice. In San Jose, fans toss small sharks onto the ice after every goal. In Nashville it's catfish and in Boston it's lobsters. The epicenter for this bizarre phenomenon is Detroit, where fans have been tossing dead octopi onto the ice after every playoff goal since 1952.
Hockey, ladies and gentlemen.
Yes, it was more than half a century ago. It started when the Red Wings were on their way to a Stanley Cup victory. At the time, playoffs meant playing just two series, each one being the best of seven. So for the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, they had to win eight games. Fans Pete and Jerry Cusimano reasoned that since an octopus has eight legs, it would be symbolic of the struggle in a completely convoluted and frankly terrifying way.
After hurling them onto the rink following goals, the Red Wings not only went on to win the championship, but also swept both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. So in the mind of sports fans, that clearly meant, "If we keep doing this, we will continue to win championships because mollusks have magical hockey powers!"
"MAY CTHULHU BURN OUR FOES!"
By 1995, dozens of octopi littered the ice after each goal, some weighing over 35 pounds. Today the octopus-throwing has become such a big deal that when the Red Wings go on the road, the cities instate an identification requirement from anyone buying octopi, and if the license is from Michigan, they are turned away.
Obviously other teams couldn't let the Red Wings keep all the "throw shit on the ice" magic to themselves. A half century later, the damage by the Cusimano brothers is seen everywhere. Every team has their own little trinket (often an animal carcass) that gets tossed out on the ice, and everyone, including the players, has to sit and wait for someone to clear away all the bodies before play can resume.
Nothing about this scene makes sense without tequila.