Security

MLB's New Metal Detectors Are Pointless Security Theatre

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Last April, days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston Red Sox slugger and serial self-promoter David Ortiz took the mic at a solemn pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park. After thanking first responders and local politicians, he famously declared, "This is our f**king city and nobody gonna dictate our freedom."

The designated hitter known as Big Papi was celebrated for hitting just the right notes of anger and defiance in the wake of the horrific tragedy, but just one year later, Ortiz has already been proven wrong. Terrorists, even the lo-fi pressure cooker-tossing screwups in Boston, do indeed dictate our freedom, as evidenced by Major League Baseball's new policy of installing metal detectors at every stadium beginning next season. 

A soft rollout has already begun, which I experienced last night at Yankee Stadium. I was 30 minutes late to the game, so there was no line to get in, but the security process was still confused and chaotic.

At the gate, a bored-looking attendant blocked the barcode reader I would have normally used to scan my ticket and go on my way. Instead, she checked the date on my ticket and waved me through. Although I knew the metal detectors were coming soon, I was startled to see one right in front of me, having attended a game just a few weeks ago when none had been installed.

I walked through the metal detector, setting off no alarms, when a stadium security guard yelled at me to empty my pockets of keys and electronics. I complied, dumping my pocket contents into a plastic bin, then walked through again still setting off no alarms. Then, I headed toward a third person, who finally scanned my ticket. 

No biggie, right? It took an extra 60 seconds, but at least I know I'll be safe, right?

Whether it's reacting to the "shoe-bomber" by forcing everyone from the ages of 12 to 75 to remove their footwear while waddling through airport security or the inexplicable banning of liquids of more than 3 ounces, post-9/11 America is always fighting the last battle. But in the case of metal detectors at baseball stadiums, there isn't even a prior event to react to. 

In the 13 years since 9/11 as well as the century preceding 2001, there has never been an attempted terrorist attack on an American sporting venue (even the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing was at a concert far from the stadiums). Still, likely as a reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings which took place on a public street, baseball fans will be subject to pointless security theatre that may end up placing them in greater danger.

VICE Sports quotes University of Alabama economist Walter Enders, who co-authored a study on the effectiveness of metal detectors, as saying, "You're trying to get in the door, there's 20,000 people standing around outside. I could do a lot of damage there, just as easily as I could if I brought the thing inside. Maybe even more."

Such an attack, like all terrorist attacks, remains highly unlikely. What is certain is that the new screenings will cause logjams of tens of thousands of fans outside all MLB parks next year and that once added security measures are taken, no matter how intrusive and pointless, we just get used to them and they never go away. 

The new sports security theater reminds me of a hilarious, politically incorrect and very NSFW rant by early YouTube star, the late Mike Caracciolo AKA The Kid From Brooklyn, about the irony of metal detectors at Yankee Stadium on Bat Day:

(Reminder: NSFW)

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    1. Flagged.

  1. Well we are less free and poorer since 9/11…

  2. Not a lot of comments…as if some other topic was sucking the oxygen out of the room…

  3. I finally ran into this at Safeco a few weeks ago. Utterly fucking pointless. Thanks for making my walk home after the game less safe, though, MLB!

    1. Have yet to see this at Nationals park in DC, you would think with all the congress critters at the game that it would be the first place with the k9’s and the wands.

      1. They are all up in the sky boxes, which I’m assuming are bullet-proofed. They also enter and exit in much more secured ways than you do, peasant.

  4. I saw the documentary “Black Sunday”. You America hating anarchists want a repeat of the terrorist bombing of Super Bowl X?

    1. Depends who’s playing…

    2. Don’t give them any ideas, because a metal detector big enough to fly a blimp through will have to come out of the taxpayer’s pockets.

    3. The Minnesota Vikings bombed at three Super Bowls.

  5. I got a TSA level of surliness from the metal detector guy at Target Field on Sunday. What is it about being a rent-a-cop that makes people so angry?

    1. How do you know it wasn’t a TSA agent working part-time?

    2. You’d be angry too if you sold your soul.

  6. The biggest threat terrorism poses to baseball is that it might make baseball briefly interesting.

  7. VICE Sports quotes University of Alabama economist Walter Enders, who co-authored a study on the effectiveness of metal detectors, as saying, “You’re trying to get in the door, there’s 20,000 people standing around outside. I could do a lot of damage there, just as easily as I could if I brought the thing inside. Maybe even more.”

    This is actually a great point. By trying to prevent such events, you collect people into security checkpoints/chokepoints that may become attractive targets.

    1. If we had actual no B.S. suicide bombers in this country, they’d blow up the lines in front of the TSA scanners, or go to a mall on Black Friday. Fortunately all we have so far is almost complete idiots like the Tsarnaevs.

      1. I would hope for an Apple Store in September.

      2. The IRA had no problem bombing bars, restaurants, and hotels. Frankly, you just can’t protect everywhere, so there are always going to be plenty of targets.

    2. My buddy pointed this out years ago as we were coming back from Vegas on a busy weekend — thousands of people lined up to go through security at McCarran. Why go through all that trouble to get on a plane if all you’re doing is looking to sow panic?

      Of course he’s a bit swarthy, so I told him to keep his thoughts to himself.

      1. The solution, should this ever happen, will be that trips must be pre-authorized and only those with intra-USA travel visas will be allowed in the airport.

        1. “only those with intra-USA travel visas will be allowed in the airport.”

          Ah, yes, so they’ll check if you’re authorized via …. a big security line outside the airport?

          Er….

    3. They are trying to prevent damage to property. They couldn’t give a flying fuck about people. Blow up 10K people in a line and the property damage would be a couple potholes at most.

    4. Apparently, the answer is to screen people to get in line to be screened

  8. Let’s see, I can buy tickets, sit in traffic going to the game, pay for parking, stand in line for the security b.s., empty my pockets while struggling with the stuff I’m carrying, unzip anything that needs to be unzipped, explain that yes, that’s a camera in there and not an AK-47 or a pressure cooker, finally get through and try to put everything back in place, buy theater priced food, find my seat, hope that I don’t have a basketball team or a group of selfie-obsessed teenage girls (or a selfie-obsessed teenage girl basketball team) in front of me, sit through all the boring parts, “enjoy” the public restroom facilities, shuffle slowly to my car in a giant, slow mass of people, then wait around for traffic to clear enough to drive away…

    Or I could stay home and watch it on TV. Decisions, decisions…

    1. Why do you hate high school girls, Doghouse Riley Jr.?

      1. These half a dozen girls were probably in middle school, no older than freshmen. I was trying to watch the game and they kept alternating between giggling, selfie taking (complete with de rigueur duckface) and making hateful comments to each other the Whole. Damn. Time. I think one of their parents thought it’d be a great thing for them to all do.

        It was not. Well, it wasn’t for me.

  9. I walked through the metal detector, setting off no alarms, when a stadium security guard yelled at me to empty my pockets of keys and electronics. I complied, dumping my pocket contents into a plastic bin, then walked through again still setting off no alarms.

    “Whoops, forgot to turn it on, walk through again please. Maybe remove your shoes this time, that should set it off, I think.”

  10. Project Insight from Captain America 2 would be very useful right now.

  11. You are all forgetting the other great tragedy that comes with this new measure. Given the outrageous price of drinks at games and the fact that they close the bars after the 7th inning, when my team likes to play lots of extra inning games, I tend to bring extra libations in my metal flask, which they will now be able to detect.

    1. Get a plastic flask.

  12. This crap is a perfect reason to always have stroller- or carrier-aged children. You can either duck the booze in the bottom of the diaper bag buried in the bottom of a stroller or carry a couple of pints between the baby and you in a carrier.

    Not only do you evade the rent-a-cops and overpriced beverages, you also have a coping mechanism necessary for bringing babies to a sporting event.

    1. Still-suits. (Patent pending, TM, etc)

      1. “With a Still-suit in proper working order, you can stay drunk in the deep desert for weeks.”

  13. Theater too

  14. Next, they’ll demand that there be metal-detectors in your TV room or you can’t receive their precious game over cable.
    Just another place not to go spending my hard-earned money on prima donnas.

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