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Soup of This Day #250: It Ain’t What They Call Rock And Roll

September 27, 2012

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
Detail from Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. This c1830 woodblock print is worthy of everyone standing to applaud. And then sitting down. And then standing again. And then sitting down. And then standing again – Image: Katsushika Hokusai, c1830. Katsushika Hokusai is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

A wave of the hand is a good thing. It’s a gentle indication of acknowledgement at distance. It’s a hello, a goodbye, an apology, a summons for help – Whichever way it’s framed, it’s a connection between humans and it’s really quite powerful. For me personally 1 of the great milestones in the development of The Noah was when he was 1st able to wave, often with both hands tracing frenetic and expansive patterns through the air. You couldn’t part from him without grinning at that farewell.

So I’m quite fond of a wave. This is at the forefront of my mind today for 2 reasons. The 1st is that I have to merge with differing streams of traffic several times on my way home. In doing so I rely on the kindness of fellow drivers. It is a bit of a 2-step – You wait hopefully for someone to let you in and then once they signal that you’re ok to go you acknowledge the good deed with a wave of the hand.

Preferably not with both hands like The Noah would do – You do need to keep at least 1 hand on the wheel.

I try to pass the favour forward where I can, allowing traffic to jump in ahead of my car. Mostly they do so with a wave and I get to feel a little bit like I’ve done my bit to help others enjoy the universe. Sometimes they don’t wave and I mentally add them to the list I keep in my head of people who are not nice.

I should stress that this is a mental list and that it contains no details. I do not have a photographic memory for number plates or for strangers driving cars and there are no real consequences to making the list unless you count me glaring at the offender and muttering something about how they clearly do not deserve to have hot sex that night. I do not though in any way work to ensure that they do not have hot sex that night. That I think would be stalking.

My 2nd reason for writing about waving is that I recently read some criticism of the practice in a sporting context. Specifically the complaint was around the Mexican wave.

The Mexican wave is an example of metachronal rhythm. Which is a technical way of saying that successive participants in a line stand with arms stretched out above them and then sit down in such a way that they are slightly behind in sequence the person preceding them. Typically you’ll get the whole stadium involved and the wave will seemingly ripple around the stands, sometimes with considerable speed and precision.

The concept gets its name from it being made popular at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. This brought the effect to the notice of the world, whereas it had previously been just a North American thing.

As to who invented it, it’s hard to verify. The Canadians allege that waves were present in Vancouver (Fittingly for the then-North American Soccer League’s (NASL) Vancouver Whitecaps) and Montreal for the 1976 Olympics. South of the border and Americans claim credit for fans of baseball’s Oakland A’s, college football’s Washington Huskies and the National Football League’s (NFL) Seattle Seahawks. Those latter 3 all date their waves to 1981 so it would seem the Canadians have the edge.


I have participated in waves but I have never initiated 1. I’m not overloaded with confidence or a surfeit of energy so I tend to wait for others to get it happening.

It is important for me to declare that I didn’t start any waves. You could say that I did not start the fire. When I came along it was already burning. I think it has probably been going since the world’s been turning. No sirree, I did not start that fire. I didn’t light it. Which is important for me to declare because there are those who have tried to fight it.

In particular some sporting purists do not like the wave. As far as I can tell this is because they believe that it detracts from the spectacle that is the sport. The reasoning goes that if you go to the sporting event you should be devoting your fullest attention to the action on the field of play. You should not be otherwise engaged in crowd-generated mayhem such as waves, the surfing of inflatable objects or the singing of Sweet Caroline. That last in particular is seen by some as not so good, so good, so good.

To those objections I’d like to offer the following:

In this instance ‘Francis’ is just a catch-all place-holder. If you are named Francis and you reckon that you’re already pretty lightened up then feel free to imagine that Sergeant First Class Hulka is talking to somebody else

If you have been at Fenway to see the Red Sox during the 2012 season then you probably could use a sing-along. The Sox, for those who missed it, went 34 and 47 at Fenway this term, their worst home record since 1965. Which is roughly 4 years before Neil Diamond released the song Sweet Caroline. Likewise, if you want to get involved with a crowd generated metachronal rhythm, then you go for that. You can even wear a pink hat if you feel like it complements your eyes.

That’s right, Longworth72 supports your right to wave. And it’s not just empty words either – This being the 250th post and carrying on a tradition, below you’ll find representations of the 50 images marking the past 50 Soups of These Days. As you flick through them imagine that they are all standing up in turn, their own homage to the Mexican wave.

Wave on – It’s a crazy feeling.

The Great Wave off KanagawaCurling at CarsebreckRiver Don at Hillsborough, SheffieldPool ballsThunderbird 6 ejectingJohn F. KennedyBuntingR.A. DickeySan Francisco bridgesBlack swanLongworth72 at home in BeverleyEarly Egyptian juggling artLA Dodgers uniform scriptThree Proud PeopleRock doveBurbo Bank windfarmAVE MizarThe Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport HotelMartian faceLeague Park, ClevelandCharlotte CooperHill Ten, KenyaThe Gascoyne River, Western AustraliaIranian submarineAphrodite’s RockSunset on MarsPerth Arena, Western AustraliaRing-tailed lemursA Khulan in the GobiThe Olympic Cauldron in VancouverThe Tower of LondonMayflyCazaly's Stadium, Cairns, AustraliaGrumman F-14 TomcatFrank SchleckCalifornia poppiesCrossing the Neman in RussiaHacky sackMetlife Snoopy II blimpYaroslava ShvedovaThe Thin Red LineWimbledon Centre CourtCircus elephants in Los AngelesSchool of fishTinglesHaymaking on the ThamesPeel CastleCT scannerAmur tigerKevin Youkilis

Peace be with you all and thanks for reading. I’ll be here all night. Try the chicken noodle soup at the buffet.

Longworth72, September 2012.

It Ain’t What They Call Rock And Roll

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