By Jessie Tobin
Kiss cams have become a staple in sport culture. If you have been to a sporting event, you may have seen the gimmick. Fans can be prepared to be broadcasted on the jumbotron when romantic music begins to play throughout the stadium, and a large heart graphic appears up on the screen.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, I love the kiss cam!’,” said Rob Calia, the Atlanta Hawks’ senior manager of event production, in an article by The Ringer. “That is the one thing that people always seem to take away from games because we try to always make it so something memorable happens during the kiss cam.”
Though many people like to think that the cameraman is making all the calls, people operating the cameras get orders from people in a booth above the arena. Depending on the team, organization, or league, this group falls under the game presentation. This team of people is creating the fan experience to ensure the crowd is continually having a good time during a game. When it comes to the kiss cam, the team looks through the crowd for couples that will hopefully play along.
Brooklyn Boyars, the senior director of game presentations and events for the Los Angeles hockey team, told the New York Times that the more you go to the games, the more you’re likely to get on camera. Boyars told a story about an older couple who attends at least 40 games during the season and ends up on the kiss cam every time they’re in the crowd. “She’ll lean over and grab his face. It’s the kind of thing you might see from a newlywed couple, but they’re in their 70s.”
The kiss cam gimmick was created to engage and entertain fans during breaks in a game, but though it has been a silly part of the fan experience, questions about how it holds up with our current cultural environment have raised some red flags.
The origin of the kiss cam has been traced back to the Dodgers when they decided to get a video board sometime in the 1980s. Since then, just about every team in the nation has a scoreboard in their stadium, but not all organizations use the kiss cam.
Even though the kiss cam was never intended to make fans uncomfortable, people feel pressured to participate in various instances. For decades the kiss cam has only focused on heterosexual couples and avoided making assumptions about people’s sexuality, relationship status, or comfort levels.
“Just pick people. It doesn’t have to be a man and woman”, said Doug Johnson, co-creator of PuckBuddys, a site aimed at gay hockey fans, in a Deadspin article. Johnson believes that teams should “make it more inclusive.”
“It’s a kiss,” he said, “not a car crash.”
Maybe we’ll see the kiss cam reappear in some arena’s once the pandemic fully subsides, and hopefully, we will see more same-sex couples up on the big screen too. If you want to get a smooch the next time you go to a live game, remember that game presentation teams are looking for people in the crowd who are engaged, show interest, emotion, and even dance. Sit across from the cameras in the arena, wear some team apparel, and remember to be sitting next to someone you’ll want to smooch.