Of the innumerable gimmicks that sports-marketing folks have dreamt up to keep people entertained during stoppages in play—from mascot fights to inconveniently timed coach interviews—the Kiss Cam reigns atop my list. When I go to a game, I always find myself looking forward to this moment, even when the game itself is interesting. It’s a uniquely awkward scenario: unwitting and randomly selected fans are expected to kiss the person next to them while thousands of people watch. And if they decide not to participate, the crowd unites in a drone of disapproval. It’s essentially PDA as a result of peer pressure, which is usually the exact opposite of how PDA works. And it’s exciting! (No, not like that.) I’ve gone to Pittsburgh Pirates games where the Kiss Cam segment was easily the most entertaining part of the evening. Granted, that was a few years ago, before the Pirates became a group of legitimate professional baseball players, and I’d go to games just to eat chicken wings and watch strangers kiss one another.
As a Kiss Cam Connoisseur, I know everything about the types of people you’ll see. Let me make some introductions:
The Relatives: One of the many challenges camera operators face when selecting Kiss Cam participants is determining with certainty whether two people are a couple, relatives, or something else entirely. I’ve seen siblings most often. It goes like this: The sister sees herself on the video screen and immediately turns beet red. Then the brother starts shaking his head “no” and laughing. The crowd is left with questions: Are they siblings? Maybe she’s just trying to sell him some software? What if they don’t even know each other? But then the brother mouths “THAT’S MY SISTER,” and everyone has a good laugh.
The Go-For-It Guy and His Girlfriend: I don’t know if the perfect Kiss Cam participants are born or made, but I do know that this dude has been waiting with bated breath to be chosen by the Kiss Cam Gods. It might be the only reason he has ever brought his various girlfriends with him to sporting events. You can see the anticipation in his eyes as soon as the camera finds him, and you can tell he’s been watching intently, hoping—and maybe even praying a little bit—that tonight will be his night. He then accosts his girlfriend for a passionate kiss that lasts about five seconds, even though, more often that not, she wants it to last zero seconds. There is always tongue, at least on his side. The crowd goes crazy, even though what transpired might have been some sort of sexual assault. (That’s Syracuse University’s take, anyway.) At the conclusion, the man triumphantly raises both hands in the air, and makes a promise to himself: never again will he bring his girlfriend to this venue, or any other location where sports are played. His mission has been accomplished; she is no longer necessary.
The Elderly Couple: Lovely old people are a Kiss Cam staple. I’m pretty sure the cameraman who finds the ideal elderly couple gets a bonus for the night. There’s not much to it; they just see themselves on the big screen, smile, and regard one another with that indescribable yet perfectly recognizable look of decades-long love. They plant a little peck or two, and the crowd reacts as if Betty White herself has just made an onscreen appearance. I guess the moment affirms our belief that mating for life really does work out sometimes, and that maybe we won’t end up divorced or alone forever. Also, right or wrong, it’s funny to think of old people expressing their love in physical ways. (Unless they’re family. When my grandfather passed away earlier this year, we found Cialis among his belongings. That produced some really weird thoughts that I wish I hadn’t revisited just now.)
The Couple That Hates PDA: If you don’t dig PDA, then the Kiss Cam is your worst nightmare. When the camera hits this couple, they try to act like they don’t notice, but are forced to acknowledge what’s happening when everyone in their vicinity starts nudging them and pointing hysterically at the screen. They scowl, the audience boos, and, after an uncomfortable amount of time has passed, the cameraman goes to the next couple. These people are the worst, or at the very least are experiencing some serious relationship issues, according to my comprehensive and unfailingly accurate ten-second psychological evaluation.
The Married Parents: These two are too busy for this shit. They’re trying to get their kids to stop spilling nacho cheese on the people in front of them, so someone sitting behind them has to tap them on the shoulders. They look up, and the dad thinks about how this will be the first time he’s passionately kissed his wife in the past fiscal year. Then the mom leans over and gets it over with. She maintains the angry look, even more agitated now than she was before, because some stupid cameraman distracted her, thereby giving her kids the opportunity to hurl objects onto the playing surface. “Well, maybe you should try doing eight loads of laundry and packing three lunches every day, then,” she says to her husband in bed that night when he asks why she didn’t seem to savor the Kiss Cam experience. Then he dreams of kissing Suzy Kolber.
Scott Muska is a writer and journalist who probably wants to watch you kiss your computer. You should follow him on Twitter.