The Wizards still use a Kiss Cam about every other game, prompted by a sponsorship deal with the D.C. Lottery. Kate Layman, the team’s director of game operations, said sponsors love the 75-second segment because fans are “literally staring at the video board the entire time.”
“It’s like live television. You’re not quite sure what’s coming next,” she said. “You have couples that surprise you, an older couple in their 70s and they’re just making out all of a sudden.”
Betty and Tom Lugenbeel aren’t in their 70s and they didn’t make out, but they sure like to kiss. She’s 64, he’s 68; they celebrated their 34th anniversary this month. Generations of Lugenbeels have been coming to Maryland basketball games, ever since Bud Millikan led the program in the 1950s and ’60s, but Betty and Tom had never been on a Kiss Cam before Sunday.
“I’m like, ‘Why don’t they ever pick us?’ and then they did,” said Betty, who was the first to notice their moment and hastily patted Tom on the arm to get his attention.
“C’mon, guy,” someone muttered in the control room.
“None whatsoever,” Tom said.
“No, not after 34 years,” Betty agreed. “We like to kiss.”
After their kiss, Betty leaned her head on Tom’s shoulder and grinned.
“You could almost feel people smiling,” Clark said.
On the other end of the spectrum were Michael Helderman and Kate Correia. He’s a sophomore, she’s a freshman, they’re both from New Jersey and they both love Maryland basketball. They’ve been dating for 3
months, Helderman said — “four months, almost,” Correia pointed out — and they had
been featured on Maryland’s Kiss Cam once before.
“I actually saw the camera there this time,” Correia said Sunday. “So I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I’m gonna be on the Kiss Cam again. Great.’ ” She closed her eyes, leaned in and covered her face in embarrassment.
“Yayyy!” Clark said in the control room.
Youngblood, sitting to Clark’s right, has three cameras to choose from: two handhelds roaming the floor and a third
near the 100-level concourse. The cameramen have to instantly judge who might be a couple, while dodging all the detritus of a basketball sideline — T-shirt tossers, resting cheerleaders, print photographers.
“Anybody, Stephen?” Youngblood asked cameraman Stephen Cohen midway through Sunday’s segment.
“Can’t find anybody,” Cohen answered, a hint of desperation in his voice.
The Kiss Cam became an every-game feature in College Park only this season, when Elephant Auto Insurance stepped up as a full-time sponsor. The background music can vary from Katy Perry to Barry White to the Temptations — to “get them in the mood,” Blankenship explained. The goal is eight to 10 couples per segment. (Betty and Tom Lugenbeel made seven, six of whom had kissed.)
“Anybody?” Youngblood called out from the control room. “Two more. Ready 1. Dissolve 1.”
Camera 1 meant Scott Norton, who had been trolling the student section closest to the floor. Now he found an attractive pair of young professionals not wearing Maryland colors: The man wore a blue vest, the woman wore a cream-colored top. They appeared on the video scoreboard and almost winced. He whispered in her ear, then shrugged helplessly at Norton’s camera as a fan in the background mockingly puckered his lips.
Turns out they were co-workers. They’d been dating for a week. No one at the office knew.
“We were just trying to have a nice Sunday,” she later joked. “It’s like, ‘How did the Kiss Cam know?’ ”
“All right, let’s bring it out. T-shirt toss,” Youngblood said in the control room as the Kiss Cam ended and basketball resumed.
“Yayyyyy,” Clark said again.
“Can’t all be winners,” added Youngblood.