Kiss Cams have been a game-day scoreboard staple at college and professional arenas for decades. They can provide cheap laughs, as when two players from a visiting team are shown together. They can provide oohs and ahhs when grandparents smooch. There are occasional marriage proposals and occasional exaggerated gropes.
Mostly, though, there are camera operators and directors and nervous couples trying to create five seconds of lovin’ in front of thousands of sports fans in about the least-romantic setting imaginable.
“It’s not scripted. That’s what kind of makes it great,” said Carrie Blankenship, an assistant athletics director of marketing at Maryland. “It’s raw — love and humor all at the same time. You never know what you get.”
You might get Maryland junior Kelsey Franey, who was sitting next to a male friend at Comcast Center on Sunday. The friend — who declined to provide his name — is dating someone else. He and Franey stared at each other as they realized that more than 16,000 people were watching them in anticipation.
“Oh no, oh no, not me,” Franey later recalled thinking. “It’s very stressful. . . . He really likes [his girlfriend], so he didn’t want to upset her.”
The man kissed her on the cheek and rolled his eyes. Franey smiled and blushed. “For probably about 20 minutes afterwards, I was like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ ” she later said. Her friend cursed in disbelief when approached by a reporter and asked not to be quoted.
Or you might get Alexander Jonesi, a sophomore Terps super fan. Jonesi arrives hours early for home games, the better to display his massive flags honoring the state of Maryland, Ukraine (home of Maryland center Alex Len) and the Bahamas (home of fan favorite Shaq Cleare).
Jonesi’s vigor and colorful accessories often land him on the video board mid-cheer. This time, though, he was supposed to kiss Melissa Capurro. She dates one of his friends; his own girlfriend was sitting on his other side.
“Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh,” said video operations coordinator Ed Clark, sitting in the control room and watching multiple monitors full of prospective couples. “No, them over there! Those other ones!”
Jonesi and Capurro leaned away from each other, as far as humans can lean, toddlers fleeing a nurse’s needle, seeking refuge outside the frame. There was no kiss.
“That awkward moment when you’re on the kiss cam with someone other than your boyfriend,” Capurro later wrote on Twitter.
Why no kiss? “If I didn’t know her boyfriend, then maybe. And maybe if my girlfriend hadn’t been right next to me,” Jonesi said. “She might have pulled me back. Or slapped me. One or the other.”