GELFAND: Debating the Kiss Cam and a Divisional Round Pick

Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The final seven games of the NFL season often produce memorable results, but that doesn’t make them wagering opportunities. Indeed, as the games get bigger, the lines get sharper.

If, like me, you are stuck, it’s probably best to move on. No, no, not with your life; that would be an inappropriate and extreme response. I’m saying you might want to move on to other sports.

I prefer college basketball. Not the games as a whole, but the second-half total. Then there’s the NBA if you swing that way, and I would never belittle a gambler for putting serious money on a hockey game.

Which always brings to mind the joke about the guy who was losing big money on pro basketball. You know the one: the bookie says maybe you should try betting hockey. The gambler scoffs. “What do I know about hockey?”

So I’m betting the hoops totals, but also trying to reconnect with vital social issues I may have ignored during the NFL regular season. And where better to turn for those insights than the latest Bill Simmons inspiration?

Simmons, known for strategic fits of outrage, finely-tuned columns, obsequious TV interviews and cleverly timed entrepreneurial media ventures, is tapping into the millennial mindset these days with The Ringer, a website that serves up hip cultural references and sportswriting. As an irrelevant guy who once wrote for actual newspapers, I liken reading these pieces to watching David Price pitch.

In fact, as I scroll through the site, I recall the classic piece of dialog from the classic film Kingpin, in which Woody Harrelson greets an old and very broken-down acquaintance.

“How’s life?” Harrelson asks.

“Taking forever,” comes the response.

So, if you haven’t come across it already, the latest link-worthy piece from The Ringer is an essay on the venerable kiss cam. In which we are faced with the urgent question: “Is It Time to Kiss This In-Arena Stunt Goodbye?”

I’m pretty sure that, like me, you would have been shocked to discover that the answer was in the negative.

And if, like me, you avoid “in-arena” viewing like the plague — or, in this case, the kiss-cam — you might even be mildly surprised that this abhorrent stunt actually still exists.

Here I stipulate that public displays of affection make me uncomfortable. Hell, even private displays of affection make me uncomfortable, so perhaps I am not exactly part of the control group.

Nevertheless, I know a hot cultural issue when I stumble into one, so I packed a few snacks, poured a large mug of coffee and endeavored to consider all aspects of this inquiry before I came to the “no” at the end.

The author, Britni de la Cretaz, doesn’t just ponder the issue. She contemplates it, elucidates it, mediates it, and, eventually, strangulates it. This is, after all, the Internet — a bottomless medium that strokes the fantasies of all writers who never had to face a space limit, and certainly not the attention limits of a generation whose patience has been not just tested but destroyed by an addiction to devices that one day will be just as obsolete as books. But, for now, why not just upload every insight, thought and dyskinetic spasm?

And thus the piece achieves the length of 4,350 words, just 4,078 more than the Gettysburg Address. On the other hand, it still checks in at 557,000 (give or take) words less than Atlas Shrugged, and the kiss-cam piece is certainly better written.

I have to admit that I hadn’t given the kiss-cam all that much thought. I assumed that most reasonable people — meaning people who don’t engage in in-arena experiences — could agree on the idiocy of it all. Plus, I still haven’t seen anything as moronic and culturally bizarre as what I used to see all of 40 years ago, when I traveled the country as a baseball writer.

I recall seeing, for example, what I assumed to be the last of the Halter Top Night promotions, which took place in (ahem) Kansas City. Yeah, like the first 5,000 presumably busty women received a half-ounce piece of fabric called a halter top. You might have to Google that one, because I am not about to define this piece of phallocentric apparel.

Then there were the brazen strippers, sometimes referred to as kissing bandits, who somehow found their way onto the field and proceeded to smooch their favorite player. Sometimes you could even detect a bit of frottage. Kind of shocking — the first time.

This isn’t meant in any way to trivialize all that’s wrong with the kiss cam. Mainly, I’m just trying to point out that sometimes people have trouble figuring out that the worst of these promotions aren’t really politically incorrect, at least not in the sense that the term is used today. No, they’re simply incorrect.

Not that I would discourage anyone from reading the dissertation authored by de la Cretaz. I cheered her on as she humiliated a fossilized kiss cam defender who works for an NFL team. I was inspired by the revelation that the University of Toronto has a professor of semiotics and linguistic anthropology. (I went to some political science classes but, after four years, never got around to majoring in anything, so I am easily impressed. But, still…)

I felt sad when I learned that some people who go to games live in fear of being coerced into smooching the person sitting next to them. (Just another reason I don’t sit in stands, but even so, I am adding this to my lengthy list of phobias.)

It was nice to know that some teams are now combining the kiss cam with the tiresome in-game (I am learning the jargon) marriage proposals. Why not fold two markers of the impending end of civilization into one?

But mostly I was just puzzled. Is the phrase “heteronormative norms” redundant?

If two people are, in effect, coerced into kissing, has a criminal offense been committed? (Alas, no, says a New York lawyer who, I am left to assume, is a damned good one — even though I’m not entirely sure that he can make it there).

I am astonished to learn that one team’s promotion guy insists that “he’s never had a noncelebrity fan ask to not be featured.” The larger question here — is this a triple negative? — is not answered.

Someday you’ll thank me for somehow managing to condense all these thoughts into just a little more than 1,000 words. Because now you have time to read the Gettysburg Address 12 times.

And, I should add, with enough time left over to read my one, sad, football pick. But, in fact, two wagers, because I’m picking Indianapolis to defeat a Kansas City team that I think may be trending downward. I’ll call it Colts 30, Chiefs 26 — Indianapolis plus 5 for $30; and Indianapolis plus 195 on the money line, risking $20 to win $39.

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