In Major League Baseball's ongoing effort to make the entire ballpark experience as maddeningly slow and repetitious as Nomar Garciaparra in the batter's box, the league has announced mandatory metal detectors at the entrance gates of all stadiums by next year.
The Giants, ever the trend-setters, will install detectors this season.
For San Francisco fans, this may well conjure up dark memories of last season, when the team's response to the Boston bombings resulted in tens of thousands of fans milling about in Willie Mays Plaza -- which was, to a tee, the most counterproductive outcome that could have possibly occurred.
As SF Weekly wrote at the time: "In reaction to an attack directed at many thousands of people packed alarmingly tightly into the streets of Boston, AT&T Park security measures resulted in many thousands of people being packed alarmingly tightly into the streets of San Francisco."
Last year's security measures -- stricter bag checks and "wandings" -- resulted in glacial lines. As a result, Giants employees eased off on the wandings as first pitch approached. With metal detectors, however, that won't be an option.
Major League Baseball's mandatory metal detector dictum struck struck security expert Bruce Schneier as "awful." Recycling his standard line about onerous and overt security measures that hardly guarantee collective safety -- but definitely guarantee collective misery -- he states: "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it."
He adds that "if there have been blazing gun battles inside the ballparks, now they'll be outside the stadium. Have there been gun battles? I don't follow baseball."
This season, those who object to metal detectors may avoid the ballpark too.
Update, 3:55 p.m.: Ohio State University professor John Mueller, co-author of Terror, Security, and Money, offers the following assessment via e-mail:
If the detectors will speed up the entry, I suspect it'll be accepted. However, with the NSA controversy, people may be beginning to revolt -- and have the option in this case of staying home and watching the game on TV. Also, the emptying of pockets is not a quick process and is seen by many as intrusive.
In looking over the targeting plans and fantasies of actual would-be terrorists in the US, the idea of attacking a stadium never comes up. The Boston guys did target a crowd at an outside sporting event, but they were just looking for any sort of crowd and had originally planned to wait for the 4th of July and instead decided to attack the most photographed spot on the planet at the time on a whim. The cases:
The idea of attacking malls does comes up in the planning from time to time, but you don't see a lot of metal detectors in malls. Maybe the mall owners know something the Major Leagues don't. It's pretty clear security measures have deterred airline passengers from flying. This is seen mainly where they have a choice: on short haul flights, choosing instead to drive. How much of an attendance drop are the Major Leagues willing to tolerate in the age of HD TV? 1% 2%? 5%? Or are they just hoping for zero? Are there any risk analytic studies on which this decision is based?