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A police officer stands guard in the outfield as the Atlanta Braves warm up before the start of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Security measures have been increased in Atlanta and elsewhere in light of Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon. (David Goldman/AP)

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.

A packed bleacher… a grandstand… if innocent lives are your goal, what targets could be more tempting?

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?

A Bomb Squad patrol car is parked outside Staples Center before an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Reed Saxon/AP)

A Bomb Squad patrol car is parked outside Staples Center before an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Reed Saxon/AP)

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.

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 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.

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Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Revere

    It’s worth discussing, but Olympic-level security would be very expensive and very time-consuming – I have been to the Olympics, too. More than that, it would never work for an open event like the Boston Marathon.

  • David F

    I sincerely hope that what you are suggesting never comes to pass. What makes sporting events great is that you do just saunter through the gate and show your ticket. Wander over to your seat and enjoy a great event.

    If we buckle down and turn every event into a security event then the terrorists have won. They’ve changed our way of life and not for the better. I don’t ever want to see that happen. I don’t want to live in a security state.

    What happened on Monday could not have been stopped by heightened security measures. Anyone who tells you differently is selling a high dollar security solution and is looking to make a buck from a tragedy.

    What can work is a heightened sense of personal responsibility from everyone attending any event. For example just look around you once in a while, and if you see someone put their bag down and start to walk away, stop that person and say “hey, you forgot your bag.” 99 out of 100 times they will thank you. Prevention is not just up to law enforcement, there just aren’t enough of them to be able to cover everything that needs to be covered. Citizens need to be responsible too.

    Don’t let the terrorists win. We can’t change our way of life in reaction to an event like this.

    Next year’s marathon will be bigger and better than ever.

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • IM

    I think it is worth taking into account that the Marathon wasn’t the original intended target apparently, in a way this could mean that open public events are as secure before this tragedy as after. I initially struggled with taking the attack very personally against an event I think represents the best of humanity, but as their plans come out in the investigation I realize the marathon, and these kinds of events have always been as vulnerable by chance as people I know who were walking closer and away from the blast sites moments before. I hope that how it unfolded made copycat efforts look pretty unattractive unless you want to be hunted until found bleeding in the bottom of a boat like a fish, but unfortunately the basis of what would lead someone to do this is irrational.

    We should have a Marathon Watch, rally thousands to be eyes and ears next year wearing special T shirts or something.

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