On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that it was beefing up game-day security and that all 30 ballparks are expected to implement walk-through metal detectors at the gates to screen fans.
Some believe these enhanced security protocols are a reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings from April that killed three people and wounded 260 others. Major League Baseball security director John Skinner said of the changes, “It’s the reality, unfortunately, of this world.”
But does it have to be?:
I’m always leery of reactionary policies. If it’s true that the Boston Marathon bombing is baseball’s primary motivation, then perhaps baseball is acting too soon – and too rashly.
Sports are supposed to be our escape from the realities of this world. Not a reminder of how bleak certain elements of society have become.
I admittedly am often annoyed by the mandate that we play the national anthem before each and every sporting event. No matter what sport. No matter what level. No matter the magnitude of the game. Super Bowl? Regular season baseball game? High school exhibition badminton match? All rise for the playing of the national anthem.
Some might think that unpatriotic of me, but it’s more about what sports are supposed to be than it is about a political statement about our great nation. I understand that generations of Americans have literally fought wars to protect America and more recently the rest of the world from tyranny and oppression. The general notion is that we should play the national anthem before sporting events to honor the blanket of freedoms the United States provides that allows us to gather at the local field, ballpark or court to take in the day’s athletics action.
But when I’m at a game, I’m there to get away from politics; from the pains and sufferings of the world. I don’t want a musical reminder of those who have fought and died for causes in the past, of the imminent issues that this country is facing, or of the fact that it’s inevitable that there will be more of the same somewhere down the line in the future. To me, it’s unsettling and takes away from what is the true beauty of American sports: the escape.
Luckily I have a choice. I can (and often do) wait until after the national anthem is played before walking into the ballpark. But I make this point about the national anthem, because I think it parallels with baseball’s security announcement.
With these new metal detectors, it won’t be possible to partake in ignorant bliss. To get in, you’re going to have to walk through them, and that’s just going to bring to the forefront all of the issues our society faces that is the reason the metal detectors are there in the first place.
I don’t believe this decision is final; it is only expected. So to Major League Baseball and to the 30 MLB franchises, I simply ask that you make sure that you truly believe that these types of enhanced security measures are needed to ensure a safe game-day experience for fans. It’s a fact of life that there are bad people in this world, and that some of those bad people are determined to do evil things. That’s an inevitability that has existed since Cain killed Abel. And one that hasn’t been stoppable since.
I’m conflicted on this issue.
How unsafe do we really feel at the ballpark as is? There is already a screening process in place where fans must unzip their jackets and allow security personnel to examine the contents of any bags being brought into the stadium. Most sports-related incidents occur outside of the ballpark in the parking lot areas after the game has ended.
And how much would metal detectors at the entrance to ballparks really help avoid a possible catastrophe like what happened in Boston? It only prevents people from bringing things inside the gates, where serious incidents rarely, if ever, occur.
Then again, I guess if the metal detectors succeed in preventing just one tragedy, then they are probably worth it. You can’t really put a price tag on the preservation of life and happiness.
Times certainly are changing, and changing fast. We live in a completely reactionary society, and I guess it’s time I began to come to grips with that fact. There’s social media outrage over a couple missed calls? Let’s expand the use of instant replay. A player suspended for PED use got a decent, market-level contract this offseason (Jhonny Peralta, in case you’re missing the reference)? Let’s increase the penalties for positive tests. And a couple of crazies detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon? Let’s put metal detectors in all of our baseball ballparks.
According to Skinner, it’s not a matter of if this will happen. It’s simply a matter of when, and the expectation is for the start of next season. I only hope it doesn’t detract from the beautiful escape from reality that baseball has provided for the last 150 years.