Just 24 hours before the proposal, the plan was very different.
Jake Conrad knew he wanted to pop the quesiton to his boyfriend of two years, Michael Holtzman, at a Chicago Bulls game. A lifelong Bulls fan growing up in Wisconsin in the 1990s, the introverted Holtzman had never been to a Bulls game.
"I just want to see the statue of Michael Jordan before I die,” Holtzman had told Conrad a year earlier. While it may seem like a small task, it’s one Holtzman had simply never done.
Perfect. Conrad bought courtside seats to the game against the San Antonio Spurs (Holtzman’s other favorite team), invited friends and family to watch the proposal, and figured he’d pop the question in front of the iconic United Center statue of Michael Jordan before the game.
The only problem: The statue has been temporarily removed from public access to build a new atrium that will house Jordan’s likeness.
Thankfully Conrad figured that out weeks before the big game. No problem, he simply reached out to the Bulls to see about getting an in-game package that would add to the memorability of the evening. He could still propose to Holtzman before the game, then they could enjoy the game together before rejoining family that evening for a celebration.
The problem was, Conrad had used an old Bulls Web site and, just days before the game, he hadn’t heard back from the team.
It wasn’t until the day before the game that Jake heard from someone at the Bulls. The team could let the couple into the United Center a couple hours before the game, take pictures, Conrad could propose, and then they could come back a couple hours later for the game.
Conrad was thrilled. Walking onto the United Center floor? And Benny the Bull — the team mascot — would be a part of the special event for them? It was more than he had thought possible.
An hour later, the engines started running full-speed.
The Bulls wrote back to Conrad. High-level executives had gotten wind of Conrad and Holtzman’s story and wanted to make their special moment extra super-duper special. The team proposed a mid-game proposal, complete with dancers, the mascot, music and an announcer, in front of the 21,000 fans at the game. It would be something for everyone — including the entire LGBT community -- to celebrate.
Conrad had reservations. Holtzman is a more private, introverted person (the yin to Conrad’s yang) and concerns came from even his parents that this might not be what Holtzman would want.
"My biggest fear in the whole thing is that he was going to freeze up and refuse to go out on the court,” Conrad said.
Thankfully that didn’t happen. When the time came just as planned — during the third timeout of the second quarter — Holtzman followed Benny onto the floor totally unaware of what was about to unfold, watched as dancers encircled him, and when he turned around to see his boyfriend holding a ring pop, ultimately kneeling to ask for his hand in marriage, it was the perfect proposal plan for the couple, executed perfectly.
"If I knew that Jake was going to propose in front of 21 thousand people, I would have probably said no, that's too much for me,” Holtzman said. “But looking back at it now, I am actually happy it happened this way. I'm glad that everyone in the community got to see it. We have seen so many comments that have been so positive. I'm so glad it happened this way. And that's just Jake doing stuff that I just never would ever think of."
Even at the game the couple had strangers hugging them with congratulations. The man sitting next to them at courtside bought them celebratory cocktails.
It was a truly unforgettable experience for the lifelong Bulls fan who had never been to a game.
While some people have called into question using a ring pop to pop the question (Conrad’s cheeky choice), Holtzman thought it was perfect.
"I loved the ring pop,” Holtzman said, “mainly because when I saw how much the courtside seats were I was shocked. So I was so glad that he gave me a ring pop because I would love to pick out something together, and second I loved it because it was only a dollar and I could eat it."
For the record, he hasn’t even taken a lick — That ring pop isn’t going anywhere.
Now looking ahead to their wedding, the couple is torn. While they know it is a remote possibility, they are also cognizant that the Trump Administration, with Vice-President Mike Pence, could try to undo some of the marriage rights that were realized under President Obama. So they may get married in the next six weeks.
Either way, Holtzman is hoping for a simple wedding so they can put more money toward a down payment on a house. As for Conrad — Well, as we all now know, he thinks big.