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Sporting events ought not to be sullied by public marriage proposals

Public marriage proposals can backfire such as this one earlier this year UCLA basketball game. | Youtube

Public marriage proposals can backfire, such as this one earlier this year at a UCLA basketball game. | Youtube

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Updated: March 17, 2012 10:25AM

Today, friends, I’m here to fight one of the scourges of modern society: the public marriage proposal at sporting events.

Please don’t thank me yet. My work is just beginning.

If you go to enough games, you likely have witnessed the spectacle of a man getting down on one knee, pulling out a wedding ring and asking his girlfriend if she’ll marry him. The romantic is in cahoots with the team’s marketing department, so his image or his printed proposal is displayed on the JumboTron.

The bride-to-be (he hopes) normally is so surprised that she starts sobbing. But why is she surprised? Doesn’t it take a certain kind of man to make a public show out of such a momentous occasion? She’s involved with a person who thinks a proposal in front of 20,000 onlookers is a tone-setter for a marriage. Surely this behavior has manifested itself in some other way in the past. Wasn’t it a tipoff when he listed ‘‘walking past mirrors’’ as his favorite hobby?

By way of explanation, the offender will say he wanted the world to share in his wonderful moment. We grumpy non-roms know better. We know he wanted the world to pay attention to him. Or — I’m feeling really generous here — he wanted it to be about him and his emotionally needy girlfriend. He wanted his moment to be special, and we were all invited!

Am I being harsh? No, I’m trying to save love lives.

My friends, if the proposal is the most exciting part of your marriage, you are in deep trouble.

Or if you believe a shared ardor for the Cubs is one of the pillars of your relationship, then — trust me — the structural integrity of your marriage will be seriously compromised.

What’s the big deal? With so many other bad things going on in the world (the clubbing of baby seals, the White Sox’ signing of Kosuke Fukudome, etc.), why is this so awful? Because it is just the beginning. One day, you’re accepting his proposal in public; a year later, you’re delivering his baby at midcourt. Talk about a slippery slope!

This is the effect Facebook and reality shows are having on the world. Everybody wants everybody else watching them. Self-involvement is at an all-time high.

At the Kings-Bulls game Tuesday, Benny the Bull escorted a blindfolded woman onto the United Center court on the pretext she would be taking part in a contest. Her boyfriend was waiting for her with a ring.

‘‘The crowd really seemed to enjoy it,’’ said Steve Schanwald, the Bulls’ executive vice president of business operations. ‘‘I know you’re not a fan of it, but the crowd reacted quite positively to it.’’

I asked if that meant he wasn’t joining my crusade to eradicate this blight.

‘‘We kind of agree with you,’’ Schanwald said. ‘‘[Tuesday] was an exception because it was Valentine’s Day. We agree with you by virtue of our actions. We get 20 requests a year, and inevitably we turn them all down.’’

You know what we call this, fellow grumps? Traction.

We have a lot of work to do. Public proposals are happening everywhere. On stage at concerts. On ‘‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’’ Apparently, if your proposal didn’t happen in front of an audience, it didn’t happen. If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, did it accept the proposal?

It’s not just civilians. New York Giants linebacker Greg Jones proposed on the field after his team won the Super Bowl this year. Boise State running back Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, a team cheerleader, on national TV after the Broncos won the Fiesta Bowl in 2007.

On Saturday, Lake Forest swimmer Matt Grevers proposed to his girlfriend on the medal stand after winning the 100-meter backstroke at the Missouri Grand Prix. He put his medal around her neck and gave her a ring.

Any time these clips are shown on TV, a news reader coos, ‘‘Awwwwwwwwwwww.’’ I reach for the cyanide capsules.

How did I propose to my wife? I didn’t. She said, ‘‘Don’t you think we should get married?’’ I thought we probably should. We carry that touching moment always. That’s not the highlight. The highlight is the 27 years we’ve been married. Now that deserves an ‘‘Awwwwwwwwwwww,’’ don’t you think?

Look, if you have an uncontrollable urge to propose publicly, you might not be able to help yourself. I understand. Just promise me you won’t have children. I fear this thing might be hereditary.

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