DHS briefed the owners on ballpark security and it was predictably depressing

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Beginning in 2015, something new came to very major league ballpark: metal detectors. A handful of parks had them the year before, but in one of his last acts as Commissioner, Bud Selig ordered every team to either install walkthrough metal detectors or place security staff with wands at every gate. 

The reasons for the metal detectors are somewhat murky. My assumption is that they were primarily inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing, which I suppose is understandable on a certain level. It’s worth noting, of course, that a marathon does not have gates like stadiums do and that ballparks have long had people visually inspecting bags which would, presumably, have identified the types bombs the Boston attackers used.

It’s also the case that there have been no terrorist threats or acts at major league ballparks of which the public is aware. No one has come in and pulled a knife or a gun or has otherwise done anything that the presence of a metal detector would’ve prevented. In light of this many experts have, quite understandably, criticized the ballpark metal detectors as “security theater” which could, perversely, create a dangerous situation in the form of thousands of people bunched up outside of stadiums, attention focused elsewhere, in a location that, by definition, is outside of the security perimeter. Some might even call that a target-rich environment. 

But onward we forge into the post-9/11 world where we spend an awful lot of time fearing fear itself. Against that backdrop, last week at the owners meetings Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson briefed the assembled owners. And quotes like this spun out of the meeting:

“There’s got to be more security than there is now. I don’t know what it will be,”Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said Wednesday. “Everybody realizes that the world has changed and these people are never going to give up, so we have to give up some of our comforts.”

Translated: we have no idea what the threat is or if there is one and we have no idea what to do about it, but dammit, we’re going to do something.

Obviously people are hyper-aware of security and I don’t wish to minimize the danger posed by an individual determined to cause violence. But it’s also the case that when this topic comes up people in charge tend to skim right past logical threat assessment and expert-informed countermeasures and immediately move to the easiest-to-implement and, usually, most inconvenience-inducing means of providing security. Or attempt to at least. And you read things like this:

According to [Marlins president David] Samson, Johnson told the group a stadium could be 100 percent secure if additional steps were taken, such as prohibiting fans from bringing any bags and eliminating food and food-services workers. Checking the trunks and bottoms of cars entering parking lots outside ballparks could be another step discussed at some point.

I presume — and sincerely hope — that the context of those comments was “hey, we can’t be 100% safe and the only way to do that would be to do these crazily insane things and obviously we’re NOT doing that, ha ha ha.” But we live in an age when we all take our shoes off at the airport and do all manner of other silly things that do nothing to actually enhance security, and we never question it. And we get fearful quotes from guys like Reinsdorf which seem to imply that, yes, unless we are 100% safe we’re going to worry like crazy.

Would it honestly shock you if some the things mentioned in that paragraph were implemented? Maybe cutting food service is not going to happen — there’s too much money in that — but I could see them cutting out bags or outside food and drink. I could see them banning tailgating at parks which have it. I could see them firing or discriminating against stadium workers of a certain ethnic or religious background. I can see them imposing “security surcharges” to tickets to pay for those metal detectors or new security staff at parking lot entrances. I could see them starting some form of TSA Precheck, but for season ticket holders, which would allow them to bypass all of this mess for a mere $79.99 a year.

Indeed, I predict the measures which would be claimed as necessary to keep us safe would likewise serve to increase ballpark and club revenue in some 100% unintended and, really, unanticipated ways which are totally beside the point and how dare you even think that such ulterior motives could exist?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my flight and I need to pick up a $4.00 bottle of water at the gift shop past the security gate. It’s so great that those are there now that we can’t bring our own.