The kissing cam

Baseball purists weep at what has become of Major League games: high-resolution videos, sausage races, fireworks, live bands on the veranda overlooking right field, and numerous other distractions. And don’t get them started on the sushi and white wine at the concessions stand.

It’s all an attempt to make interesting games that can, by virtue of rules and tradition, be long and plodding, if not tedious and dull. Flashy video, dynamic music, sound effects, constant contests help the less-than-fervent fan forget that we’ve been in the ball park for three hours and it’s only the fifth inning. We’re having so much fun watching the screen that we forgot there’s a game being played.

The afficionado then is not keen on the “kissing cam.” During a dull moment in the action cameras throughout the stadium catch couples who suddenly see themselves on the jumbo screen and are then expected to share a kiss. It’s fairly harmless, aside from the fact that it deters our attention from balls and strikes, and can sometimes be kind of amusing and, I suppose, occasionally embarrassing. What happens, for example, when you’re sitting next to someone you really don’t like, or don’t even know. Life is full of such dilemmas.

A group of priests gather each summer for a baseball game at Target Field in Minneapolis. Contrary to what this tradition might lead one to conclude, none of us are Minnesota Twins fans and all but one of us are casual baseball observers at best. But it’s fun to get together outside of diocesan meetings, to enjoy the distractions and the baseball and to talk enough business to qualify the adventure as a business tax deduction.

At the risk of committing baseball sacrilege the highlight of this year’s outing was, I must confess, the kissing cam. It began predictably enough featuring couple after couple, various ages, shapes and sizes, and in the midst of kissing couple after kissing couple, the camera stalled for a very long time on an older couple who didn’t seem to notice their faces were being shown to all the world, or at least the several thousand in that stadium. People started cheering, “Look, look, look!” but they just kept laughing and talking.

The kissing cam moved on to other, more engaged couples, who were watching the screen or quickly noticed their visages upon it and who then shared the obligatory kiss.

Eventually the easily bored baseball audience tires even of the kissing cam, but before we returned to whatever was transpiring on the field, the camera returned to the older couple, still engaged in conversation, still oblivious. The crowd cheered louder and louder until finally someone got their attention. They saw the screen, threw up their arms in delight and surprise, and then embraced each other for a kiss.

The place erupted. Not because of a grand-slam home run or a double play or a no-hitter, but rather in response to a kiss. Like some of the great plays in baseball, it was something you couldn’t rehearse or expect, but something you wanted to celebrate and maybe even see again, which we did during the a one-hour rain delay. And the crowd cheered even louder than before.

Oftentimes when couples stand before us and we call upon God’s blessing as they celebrate significant milestones of marriage, they will share a kiss. It’s not planned, but often seems natural and appropriate, probably a reminder of a kiss they shared as they first celebrated the sacrament of marriage. It’s a seemingly slight ritual, but as is often true of ritual it carries great significance of struggle and sacrifice, joy and accomplishment, sorrow and surprise. I’m so grateful we have couples whose promises endure for far longer than they might have ever dared to imagine, and who are willing to come before us at Mass and share the good news of their marriage and invite us to share in the celebration, if only for a moment.

That’s what the couple in the stadium let us do during a late-season lull in a game that meant nothing in terms of post-season play. It took awhile to get their attention, wrapped up as they seemed to be in the ordinary pleasures of a summer day, but who gave us a charge with their kiss, hoping what it might mean in their lives, and the joy it suddenly brought to ours. TL



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