The Wave

February 17, 2019

This article is written by Krista Young about the creation of “The Wave”, made famous by the University of Iowa, that has transcended sports and become one of the game’s most meaningful traditions.  

There’s nothing like a shared love of a team to bring strangers together.

Do you ever cross paths with someone wearing the same mascot as you in the grocery store and make an instantaneous decision that they’re your kind of person?  And where else can you go other than a stadium or arena where its a normalcy to high five some random guy?

If I take a look back to who I spend my freetime with I see a pattern.  It’s family…In the summer, my baseball family, in the Fall, my football family, and in the Winter, my basketball family. It’s me, the kids, and the parents who help carpool our players to practice and spend our well earned weekends at tournaments.  They become our “go-tos” and the people we share our excitement and frustration with. Sports have that effect on people. So when there is victory we celebrate together. And when there is defeat, we hurt (and mope and agonize) together.

We’ve all seen the commercials.  Football is family.

When my three sons were little, we started our own family tradition of traveling to historic Kinnick stadium with some friends and their families to take in the home opener every year.  Several seasons ago, my boys started to revel at the towering building going up to the East and all of the big equipment propped above. Through the next few years, that hospital took shape and we could see what looked like a giant observatory but we had no idea it was going to house a special “press box” where patients could gain access on game days. It wasn’t until the 2017 season was nearing that I realized who was going to be up there and how amazing the view was actually going to be. The U of I and The Stead Family Children’s Hospital started sharing photos online of tiny fighters that had been allowed up there to scope out the beautiful scenery.  Photos of bright bald heads peering down onto Kinnick. After a few days of seeing those bald little heads (they get me every time) the simplest of thoughts came to me. So, with tears in my eyes, I jumped onto Hawkeye Heaven, a fan-run Facebook page I follow, and typed up a couple of sentences… “I think with the new U of I hospital addition open, Kinnick should hold a “wave to the kids” minute during every game. Can you imagine how neat it would be to have all of those fans, players, and & coaching staff looking up at you sending a little extra inspiration?”

The page had almost 100k followers at the time so I had zero expectations of someone reading it, let alone replying. The administrator, Levi Thompson, responded about an hour later: “I really like this idea and will be pushing for this.”  I had no idea what that entailed until about a week later when HH started a weekly campaign on social media encouraging fans to make this a thing. Then those Hawk fans jumped on board without hesitation. And it became a thing. A really big thing.  I had used the phrase before the wave’s official debut asking my friends if this might actually become “a thing”?!. It was later used by the great Scott Van Pelt on that weekend’s “One Big Thing” so it’s since became my favorite declaration of existence.   

No one could ever really pinpoint why this became a thing, but I have a pretty good hunch.  It’s because football is family. When there is victory, we celebrate together. And when there is defeat, we hurt together.  The kids up in those windows are feeling defeat. Their Mothers and Fathers and brothers and sisters are feeling defeat. I can’t fathom a more heartbreaking feeling than watching your child in pain and having zero ability to make it all just go away.  I’d like to think that for just that minute when everyone in Kinnick is waving, that hurt and fear is silenced. So when they’re up there fighting for their lives, regardless of what colors you’re wearing, we’re all on the same team. And part of a family.

We’ve all seen the commercials.  Football is family.

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2 comments on “The Wave

  1. John A. Kundel Feb 18, 2019

    I ABSOLUTELY love this. Even though I am retired, I work part-time. here in St. Louis during the academic year, recruiting students for the University of Iowa’s Office of Admissions. Part of my presentation about what makes Iowa special is this story. We have a Hawkeye Spirit and as I say, “Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye!” What has in Kinnick is just one example of that spirit of our Hawkeye Nation.

  2. John A. Kundel Feb 18, 2019

    I ABSOLUTELY love this. Even though I am retired, I work part-time. here in St. Louis during the academic year, recruiting students for the University of Iowa’s Office of Admissions. Part of my presentation about what makes Iowa special is this story. We have a Hawkeye Spirit and as I say, “Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye!” What has happened in Kinnick is just one example of that spirit of our Hawkeye Nation.

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