As the Wizards game on Friday, February 20th ended, 15,711 fans streamed out from MCI Center, still abuzz with what they witnessed.
Sure, the game was entertaining, and both the Wizards and Pacers played hard, but a spoof during a break in the action stole the show.
Conceived in mischief, and executed without flaw, the Washington Wizards Game Operations department pulled off the prank of the year, simultaneously bewildering and wildly entertaining thousands that could not believe their eyes.
It started as a routine timeout contest, not unlike the one that occurs at every other Wizards home game. A fan, seemingly chosen at random, is pulled from the crowd, brought on the court and blindfolded. Then, according to the cheers or boos from the crowd, the fan navigates the court in search of an inflatable Chevy Chase Bank mascot waiting with a prize.
The female fan staggered around the court, arms outstretched, in search of her knight in shining rubber. And when she found him, the crowd cheered as always, the fan pulled off her blindfold, and everything seemed like business as usual.
Yet, what ensued was anything but usual, as the inflatable mascot deflated, and a man emerged on bended knee. With an engagement ring in hand, the man bent before his better half, while the thousands in attendance ooohed and aaahed at the romantic interlude.
Until hilarity broke out and the not-bride-to-be ran from the court in tears, leaving her stunned beau embarrassed in front of the masses. The scoreboard flashed “SHE SAID NO”, and MCI Center rocked in bewilderment. The woman was gone, disappeared into the tunnels below the arena, and the man slumped off court.
“Was that real?”, “How could she do such a thing?”, “Poor guy, I’ll marry him”. Nobody knew what to think, and when the couple made a return appearance at the next timeout, prominently displayed once again on the scoreboard and featured on the Kiss-Me-Cam, the boos that rained down on the woman drowned out the Game Operations staff’s admission that they just pulled off the prank of the year.
Too late for Valentine’s Day, and too early for April Fools, nobody knew whether the “proposal spoof” was real.
To be sure, it was not, but the prank garnered the attention of the national media and tales of the tomfoolery spread far and wide. On nationally syndicated television and radio shows, the story was told, hashed and rehashed in an attempt to get to the bottom of things.
All the while, the game operations masterminds behind the spoof delighted at the flawless execution of their gag that tugged at the heart of all.
“Many times in NBA arenas you see marriage proposals that result in a happy couple,” said Ann Nicolaides, Vice President of Marketing for the Wizards. “We thought it would be fun to see the fans reaction if a marriage proposal went badly. Judging from the response we’ve had, I think we got everyone’s attention!”
There is no word on whether the actors will make a return engagement at MCI Center, while the national spotlight shines on America’s next celebrity couple.