Thundersticks are inflated plastic batons often used as cheering aids at major sporting events or political rallies. The air chambers inside the batons help to amplify the sound as the user strikes them together in a clapping motion. The effect of hundreds of thundersticks colliding simultaneously, especially inside a closed arena, can be quite impressive. Fans seated behind a basketball goal or football end zone may also wave thundersticks as a distraction to opponents.
Frequently, these batons are used as promotional items for sports teams, corporate sponsors, or political candidates. Companies specializing in promotional and cheerleading items may offer thundersticks in an array of popular themes, along with an option to create customized batons. Professional sports stadium operators routinely hand out promotional thundersticks, or at least offer them for sale in gift shops or through traveling vendors.
Some sources say that the first use of thundersticks in the United States occurred in 1992, when the Anaheim Angels, a professional baseball team based in Anaheim, California, distributed hundreds of thundersticks during the playoffs. Others say that they were already being used in collegiate football games, and at least one conference, the PAC-10, had already banned their usage for numerous reasons. Actually, the first thundersticks were invented in South Korea and used for both sporting and political events. Those imported to the United States still bore the KOREA emblem.
The creator of thundersticks appears to be anonymous, which may be a smart career move considering all of the negative fallout surrounding the product. A number of sportswriters and other serious sports fans now consider the ubiquitous use of thundersticks to be a detriment to the game. The noise generated by hundreds of these batons can be deafening, and the oversized ones are often visually distracting. The popularity of thundersticks has declined in recent years, along with the oversized foam fingers and the stadium-wide event known as the wave.
While support for thundersticks appears to be waning in professional sports arenas, they are still fairly popular for local cheerleading sections and political rallies. Customized thundersticks are relatively inexpensive to produce and provide a large surface area for logos, campaign slogans and other advertising copy. Younger children are especially fond of the oversized thundersticks, and parents do not have to worry about sharp edges or choking hazards. They are not indestructible, but they are indeed replaceable.