As the shock of Monday’s marathon bombings begins to wear off, thoughts turn to what the broader implications of this cowardly attack will be on American life. The inescapable conclusion I reach is that sports spectating will never again be the same.
No more sauntering through Gate D, handing over a ticket while an usher makes a passing inspection of your purse or backpack. Unless we have learned nothing from the Patriots’ Day bombings, every stadium and arena in America will soon have airport-type security at all entrances. The lines to get in will be long and will move slowly. It will be annoying; it will require changes in long-established patterns. But until the madness of terrorism against innocents is eradicated — and when, if ever, will that be? — it will be a necessary precaution.
For years I’ve dreaded the vision of a bomb exploding at an athletic event. That it happened at the Boston Marathon, outdoors, on a flat street, where the power of the explosion was dispersed — horrific as it was — should serve as a wake-up call to every sports official in the country. Had those same bombs been detonated in a packed indoor arena — a Bruins game, a Celtics game — the toll on human life would have been far worse. A packed bleacher… a grandstand… if innocent lives are your goal, what targets could be more tempting?
Look, I hate the thought of this. I hate the further intrusion into our way of life and our freedoms. Part of me says, as soon as we institute these expensive, exhaustive preventative measures, the terrorists have already won. They’ve changed us. They’ve poisoned our peace of mind. They’ve made us burn valuable resources to try to stop the unseen and unknown, and they will move on to some other target.
But a more rational voice tells me: Never again. Never again should any father worry about bringing his child to an athletic event and exposing him to a senseless terrorist attack. Not if it can be prevented.
And it can be. The Olympics have pretty much shown that. Ever since the 1972 Munich Games, when Palestinian terrorists kidnapped the Israeli Olympic team out of their dormitory, security has been the number one concern of every organizing committee. And the security measures have worked. The only other attack that has taken place in the past 40 years was in 1996, when a pipe bomb was detonated in a crowded but unsecured Atlanta park, which was open to all visitors. The security screening process at all Olympic Games is expensive; it’s time consuming; it requires planning and implementation. But it works.
And guess what? The additional security doesn’t diminish the pleasure of the spectators one bit. Ask anyone who went to this year’s Masters golf tournament if they objected to going through a metal detector before entering Augusta National. The payback they get for the added inconvenience of metal detectors, X-ray machines, and thorough bag searches, is peace of mind once they’re inside the secured areas. I’ve been to 15 Olympics and have never heard a serious complaint. Fans know they need to allow an additional 20 minutes it may take them to get past the screening process, just as they know to arrive at the airport early. In both instances, it’s a small price to pay to know we are safe — or as safe as anyone can be in the crazy world in which we live.
The time for every professional team and every major college program to act is now. Buy the screening equipment. Hire the extra security personnel. Tell your fans to expect some inconvenience when they arrive at the ballpark.
And promise your patrons: Never, ever again.
- Adding Security Along Marathons Would Be Herculean Task
- Only A Game: Charlie Pierce’s Accounts Of The Scene At The Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon Bombings
Three people were killed and more than 170 injured when two bombs exploded on April 15, 2013 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Cognoscenti Contributors Respond
- Kevin Donovan: Explosions Sounded Like Cannon Fire
- Jim Walsh: They Picked On The Wrong City
- Robin Young: Our History Will Be A Guide For The Future
- David Ropeik: Why Terrorism Works
- Eileen McNamara: The Redemption Of The Man In The Cowboy Hat
- Alex Ashlock: The Scenes I Will Remember
- Sharon Brody: Suddenly Calling Boston Home — With A Vengeance
- E.M. Swift: Spectator Sports Will Never Be The Same
- Anita Diamant: After The Bombs, Pop-Up Landmarks Of Consolation And Solidarity
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