Smoke bombs, chants and songs are just fine at FC Cincy games. Just don't do THE WAVE in the Bailey!
Hard-core fans hate it, but for different reasons
Laurel Pfahler | WCPO contributor
7:00 AM, Apr 28, 2017
7:23 AM, Apr 28, 2017
CINCINNATI -- Fans in the Bailey section at FC Cincinnati games have been trying to kill The Wave since last year.
They even have a song about it, and now "No Wave in the Bailey" shirts are popping up.
The debate took over social media and Reddit after FC Cincinnati's home-opening 4-0 win over St. Louis FC on April 15, but perhaps the controversy isn't such a bad thing. After all, in a United Soccer League that averages fewer than 4,000 fans a game, most stadiums don't fill enough to even consider a Wave.
FC Cincinnati averaged 19,603 fans over its three-game home stand and now travels to face Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday in a rematch of its 2-0 loss April 9 in front of 3,005 fans at Goodman Stadium.
"Whatever people want to do, as long as you're having fun," said season-ticket holder Jeremy Hill, who sits behind the west sideline at Nippert Stadium, along with his 10-year-old daughter, Gwen. "I understand why the fanatics don't want to do it, but at the same time, people are coming out and having fun. Enjoy it. It's going to happen whether the Bailey does it or not."
The Bailey members are mostly in agreement not to do The Wave, but for varying reasons.
Some say it's a baseball tradition and has no place in soccer. Others don't like that it seems to indicate fans aren't interested in what's going on in the game. And some just don't do it because that is the stance of the Bailey. The song -- to the tune of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" -- solidified the unwritten policy, according to Lindsey Massa and Brad Miyagawa, two 23-year-old season-ticket holders in the Bailey.
"It's not meant in any exclusionary way or divisive or holier than thou," said Miyagawa, who is a member of The Pride supporters group. "It's just something we do here. I'm totally down to see the wave, especially with the shape of the stadium. Seeing the wave has always been a hallmark of American soccer, but it's just become part of our identity to start singing during the wave, and since we're already standing and have our hands waving, we just don't participate."
The Wave has been a part of sports in this country for at least 30 years but the origin has long been debated.
Some insist it began at old North American Soccer League games between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders in the 1970s or at a soccer game in Monterrey, Mexico, in that same era. In the U.K. and the rest of the world, The Wave is called the "Mexican Wave," because viewers across the globe first noticed it in televised games of the 1986 World Cup from Mexico.
However, it is most widely believed to have started here at an Oakland Athletics playoff game against the New York Yankees on Oct. 15, 1981 -- a claim backed by film and a national television audience.
Even now, The Wave is often thought of as a baseball tradition, which is why non-Bailey season-ticket holder Chris Doran also is in favor of killing The Wave at FCC games. But sports purists don't believe there is a place for such nonsense during any kind of competition.
Local celebrity Marty Brennaman, the long-time Reds broadcaster, is one of them.
"More often than not, when a group of sports fans -- whether it's at a baseball or soccer game or any other sporting event – when they begin to Wave, it's out of the sense of boredom," Brennaman said in a phone interview Tuesday. "They are tired of what's going on and need to entertain themselves. Because of that, I've never been a big fan. Probably more people than not feel that way. I don't think it's necessary at sporting events."
Brennaman said it most likely didn't begin that way, though, and probably early on it was done in crucial moments in the action to encourage the home team. Now, he only sees it when the game is a blowout and fans have lost interest. It's rare, he said, to see The Wave during a closely contested game.
The Pride member Kevin Wallace took to his group's blog recently to address the Bailey's stance on The Wave, and he shares Brennaman's sentiments that it draws attention away from the action on the field. He also didn't like that the day after the home opener so much attention was brought to the Bailey's lack of participation in The Wave, rather than how well FCC played against St. Louis.
"In the Bailey, we agree: please stop the wave," Wallace wrote. "Yes, we in the Bailey are standing, singing songs, banging drums, and setting off smoke bombs, but everything that happens in the Bailey is in reaction to the action of the field. You'll hear, 'We don't, we don't, we don't mess around, HEY!' after every goal or the hilarious Reading Rainbow song after the other team gets a yellow card. Everything is done to support the team on the field, and they appreciate it, a lot."
The "No Wave in the Bailey" chant is the only one done not in reaction to what's happening on the field, though.
Players don't seem to mind the idea of The Wave occurring in addition to what the Bailey does with its various chants, smoke bombs and tifo displays.
"As a kid, (The Wave) was always the coolest thing in the stadium," FCC defender Austin Berry said. "It's still kind of cool to look around and see The Wave going, but I see what the Bailey is saying. We just have to have patience because this is still only the second year. The ultimate goal is to have the whole stadium singing the same songs and stuff, but that takes time. It's just cool to see every fan in the stadium interact in some way, so until we get everyone on the same page, The Wave is cool."
Midfielder Corben Bone said he didn't notice The Wave at the home opener, but he likes the idea of it as a way to get fans on their feet.
"I love it because it gets the fans loud, it's igniting," Bone said. "It keeps the fans engaged. If the Bailey isn't doing it, I think that's fine because they are doing something just as cool."
Some members of the Bailey are fine with The Wave at FCC games, just not in their section.
Die Innenstadt member Chris Di Meo, 25, of Hyde Park, is another who doesn't like the attention being taken from the game but said he would do The Wave if the Bailey participated.
"I've always as a sports fan been against The Wave because it takes away the attention from the game," Di Meo said. "I think sometimes the supporter group culture in general tries to control fandom too much, and I don't think that's right, so if people want to do The Wave, go on and let them.
"I would probably do it if it became a thing in the Bailey, but I wouldn't personally advocate for it because I prefer watching the game. But part of what supporter groups do is outside the game, too."
In some ways, The Wave is just another version of what the Bailey does.
And it's similar to what is seen in other stadiums around the world, such as the highly organized, elaborately choreographed displays put on by the entire crowd of Borussia Dortmond fans at home games, known as "The Yellow Wall."
"All over Europe and all the big leagues have crazy choreographed cheers," Miyagawa said. "They have big things where they have signs they can flip over and in certain ways to show something. The 2014 World Cup showcased a couple of those in Brazil, and those were fun to see.
"The home-field advantage really comes into play, especially when you have things like that going on, and the players on the field can play off it, so anything to get the fans involved is great. The idea behind the Bailey is that we're involved no matter what, so we don't need The Wave."
Season-ticket holder Steve Doran, 31, of Western Hills, said, however, that FC Cincinnati does need The Wave. And he will keep doing it as long as fans keep starting it.
"Soccer doesn't have the greatest following over the last 10-20 years, so if that's what it takes to get the stadium filled and get the youth in here and get the little kids excited about coming to a game, I'm all for it," said Doran, who sits on the west side of the stadium, not far from the Bailey, along with his family. "Whatever brings the numbers in here and eventually gets an MLS team here, I'm all for it.
"If you watch games from all over the world, you notice nobody ever sits down, so I think eventually we will get to that level of energy in the stadium where everyone is standing, start to finish, and you won't need The Wave. But if that's what it takes to get there now, I'm all for it."