Keith Strudler: The Winning Proposal

Nov 8, 2017

The World Series is now a something of a memory, ending almost a week ago with a Houston win in game seven on the road against the LA Dodgers. Since then, all the parades, accolades, second guessing – it’s all come and gone as baseball looks towards its hot stove season and American sports fans focus intently on football, if they hadn’t already. For most of us, players included, game seven was the end.

Except, perhaps for Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, whose final game in the Series may have longer impact. During the postgame frenzy, as he was being interviewed on television, Correa dropped to a single knee and proposed to girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez, who said yes, by the way. The moment was straight out central casting, Correa a championship athlete and Rodriguez the 2016 Miss Texas. The only way to make it more authentic was if this were the homecoming football game in West Texas, and John Cougar Mellencamp were playing guitar in the background.

With that, Correa has generated two rings from the evening – a World Series Champion ring he’ll get soon enough and the massive stone he gave to Rodriguez. I’m not sure what the World Series bonus was this year, but he’ll use every penny and more on that rock. Of course, if you’re bold enough to propose on national television, I suppose you better be prepared to complete the myth with something resembling a diamond from a heist in a James Bond film.

Correa is by no means the first athlete to propose after winning a major sporting event. At the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State running back Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend – who of course was captain of the cheerleading squad – after scoring the game-winning touchdown. If you Google the topic, you can find more college athletes proposing on the field and court than you’ll care to watch. And of course, fans proposing at sporting events is such an established practice that teams offer special packages for just this purpose, like it’s trip to Hawaii. In virtually all these examples, the assumption is that the only possible answer is “yes,” and what better place to share a couple’s most important life decision than in front of thousands of likely intoxicated strangers. I totally get it.

Star athletes proposing to their girlfriends right after a championship game reinforces virtually every stereotype and gender norm we can imagine – so much that ‘s it not worth listing. But to put it simply, I don’t remember seeing female athletes proposing to their partners after their big win. And if they did, I wonder what the reaction would be. And of course, I also don’t recall any same sex proposals on the field, which would defy two common assumptions. This isn’t a critique of the newly engaged, but just a recognition of common practice.

Certainly, these proposals make for great television. Which is odd, because often baseball does not. But it’s like taking the best part of The Bachelor and making it part of a post-game show. It’s the ultimate realty TV, with all due respect to any and all of the Kardashians. So I’d imagine that everyone from Fox Sports to ESPN will gladly accommodate these proposals into their program rundowns, as much as it might hold up the thrill of a championship award ceremony. There is little more exciting than watching a billionaire sports owner talk about overcoming odds. And for what its worth, athletes seems to view a proposal much like a sporting event – it’s something you try to win. So to athlete, getting to yes after a championship is like two victories in one night. Hopefully, they’ll come to realize that marriage isn’t like a proposal. At least that’s my experience.

I would not be the first to critique athletes for hogging the spotlight after a title to pop the question. And I’d likely agree with most of the common critiques – it reinforces “I” at an assumed time of “we;” it comes off as every so slightly more formulaic than a Disney movie; and to be honest, it’s not even a fair question. Who possibly could say “no” in that moment? That’s like telling your mom you don’t like her cooking at Thanksgiving dinner. In this situation, there’s only one possible answer. Now, if a few people started saying “no,” then perhaps this might be a bit more interesting. So I’ll go on record saying that I don’t particularly enjoy these post-game proposals, if for no other reason than they feel more synthetic than a diet soda.

In the end, perhaps we should be surprised this doesn’t happen more. We live in an environment where nothing is real if it hasn’t been externally validated. Which is why everyone posts every meal they’ve ever eaten on a series of social platforms. Where a simple trip to the Post Office – and I’m assuming they still exist – requires a short film on Facebook. So of course, why wouldn’t elite athletes, who’ve often been raised in something of a Truman Show environment, where everything they’ve ever done is a highlight reel, why wouldn’t they present the most solemn question of their lives to a nationally televised audience? You have to admit, it’s quite memorable. For Carlos Correa, even more than the World Series itself.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

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