On the list of baseball writer cliches, hating ballpark proposals ranks somewhere between an infatuation with Bruce Springsteen and complaining about the length of replay reviews. Many writers, especially those on the national or team-specific beats, likely see a couple dozen ballpark proposals in a given season. One can understand why they might tire of it.
At The Ringer, Claire McNeal pleads for fans to stop proposing to their significant others at ballgames. She’s quite passionate about the issue, but she doesn’t really have an argument other than, “I don’t like it.” Which, really, is what a lot of anti-ballpark proposal arguments boil down to.
There are some very legitimate reasons to dislike ballpark proposals. One of them is that proposing publicly puts pressure on the person being proposed to, and that person might give an answer they don’t truly want to give. The person may fear retaliation if he or she rejects the person in public, which can be embarrassing and damaging to the proposer’s ego. Women in particular have to worry about this. But that isn’t specific to ballpark proposals, but public proposals in general.
Another reason to dislike ballpark proposals is that it isn’t relevant to what’s going on. Everyone is there to watch a baseball game; they’re not there to see you get engaged. But there are lots of things at the ballpark that aren’t relevant to what’s going on. Between innings at a Wilmington Blue Rocks game, I once watched two people dressed in eyeball costumes race down the left field line. Later in the game, there was a potato sack race. At Citizens Bank Park, the Phillie Phanatic rides around on an ATV and shoots hot dogs out of a cannon into the stands. The Jumbotron has Kiss Cam and Bongo Cam. So, once again, the lack of relevance isn’t specific to ballpark proposals.
One more argument against ballpark proposals is that one shouldn’t be subjected to other people’s personal business. It’s a pretty weak argument, because it can be extended to things like overhearing conversations. I don’t really care for this argument. We’re not talking about secondhand tobacco smoke.
The big thing underneath the proposal criticism is that the people making the proposals are easy targets. They are, to the rest of the world, anonymous. And the group of “people who propose at ballparks” are reviled by a majority of sportswriters (and fans), so not only does one feel cathartic in picking on them, but one gets socially rewarded as well in the form of likes and retweets and “go get ’em!” remarks. There’s no downside to picking on them and there’s a lot of upside. It’s like hating the wave, another harmless thing people do at ballparks that gets way too much undeserved criticism.
There’s also possibly a bitterness aspect to this. Some sportswriters aren’t exactly the most ecstatic people and seeing others achieve life benchmarks they haven’t could make one feel resentful, particularly if it’s shoved in their faces a couple dozen times a season. You’d have to ask them about that, though.
We don’t know each couple’s story. There may be a meaningful reason why one proposes to one’s significant other at the ballpark. It could be a memory between each other or a memory of a lost loved one. Frankly, though, there doesn’t need to be any justification. If it’s within the ballpark’s guidelines and they continue to allow it, then people should feel free to continue proposing at ballparks, much to the chagrin of bitter sportswriters nationwide.