Homeland security

Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Pat Me Down With the Crowd!

Security theater comes to a stadium near you


Ah, the smell of peanuts. The sight of freshly mowed grass. The sharp crack of the bat! And long, totally pointless lines to walk through metal detectors at every ballpark except Wrigley Field.

Summer means fun! |||

Bruce Schneier, the familiar-to-Reason-readers coiner of "security theater" to describe much post-9/11 safety measures, explains in the Washington Post just how gratuitous baseball's new government-triggered policy is:

As a security measure, the new devices are laughable. The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren't very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets aresailing through — and there are no X-ray machines. Bags get the same cursory search they've gotten for years. And fans wanting to avoid the detectors can opt for a "light pat-down search" instead.

There's no evidence that this new measure makes anyone safer. A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium. For that matter, a bomb exploded at a crowded checkpoint would be no less deadly than one exploded in the stands. These measures will, at best, be effective at stopping the random baseball fan who's carrying a gun or knife into the stadium. That may be a good idea, but unless there's been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games — and there hasn't — this is a whole lot of time and money being spent to combat an imaginary threat.

But imaginary threats are the only ones baseball executives have to stop this season; there's been no specific terrorist threat or actual intelligence to be concerned about. MLB executives forced this change on ballparks based on unspecified discussions with the Department of Homeland Security after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Because, you know, that was also a sporting event.

Thanks to Scott Ross for the tip. Schneier wrote for Reason here, and was interviewed by us here.

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  1. That may be a good idea, but unless there’s been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games ? and there hasn’t…


  2. Everything’s worse when mixed with baseball.

  3. Mouse gun and big belt buckle

    Of course you end up having a gun pointing uncomfortabley close to your junk

  4. It’s particularly stupid because most of the violence happens before or after the game in the parking lot.

    Every few seasons there’s some sort of violent altercation between Dodger and Giant fans, so you’d think adding more security to the areas outside the ballparks would be a better thing to spend money on. Certainly the Dodgers went to great lengths to make the parking lot at Dodger Stadium safer after the Bryan Stowe beating.

    1. Back in my law school days, we’d always try to make it to Fenway for the Sox/Yankees games.

      We always had to sit in the bleachers, but that was cool because that’s where we wanted to sit.

      Blue-collar crowd, drinking heavily and getting into fistfights, with the baseball game as the backdrop. I mean, that’s entertainment.

      1. Back in those days the right field bleachers were the best place to watch police “escort” unruly patrons out of the stadium. It’s amazing how hard it is to properly “escort” someone down the stairs when their shirt is pulled over their head.

  5. So I guess we’re never going to aluminum bats now.

  6. And this is why I went to zero Mariners games last year. Well done, MLB!

    1. Same here. Zero White Sox and Cubs games for me in 2014 and will remain that way in 2015 and beyond until this bullshit is removed. There are plenty of other minor league teams around.

  7. This is all part of MLB’s initiative to attract younger fans. They’ve been acclimated to this shit in their schools. They think it’s normal.

  8. I went to a Bears game this year with my boss. As if that weren’t punishment enough, they confiscated his umbrella on the way in for “security” reasons. Of course it was raining hard…

  9. It is actually more useless than even that.

    Every stadium that I have been do has multiple areas where someone outside the stadium could pass something to someone inside the stadium without any security in the area.

    If you really wanted to do bad things at the ballpark you’d just have an accomplice pass the bomb/gun/whatever through that fence

  10. Having recently attended a Chargers game and other events in a couple different stadiums, the whole “security” thing appears a little too suspiciously like making sure people aren’t bringing in their own snacks and refreshments, the whole protecting us from the terrorists, just provided the opportunity to rummage around in peoples pockets….

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