MLB’s metal detector mandate likely to save no lives, ever

And finally, this has nothing to with stadium funding per se, but in case some of my readers might happen to be sports fans with an interest in the experience of attending games (just a hunch), I have an article up at Vice Sports today on how MLB’s new policy of requiring metal detectors at all stadiums isn’t likely to keep anyone safer from anything, ever. Key paragraph:

[Alabama economist Walter] Enders says that the main effect of tighter security at stadium entrances will likely be to drive any hypothetical attackers—and let’s remember that no actual terrorists have actually attacked sports venues in America outside of that time Bruce Dern tried it—to set off bombs outside stadiums instead, which would not be a happy outcome: “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.”

Okay, but what’s the harm in added security checks? Aside from giving people a false sense of security, it diverts attention (and resources) from things that actually do kill fans, unlike so-far-mythical stadium terrorists. If you want to pick something that would be a minor inconvenience but would save lives, how about reducing speed limits on streets around sports stadiums by half? Or mandatory breathalyzer tests before anyone is allowed to check their cars out of the parking lot? Or even just MLB using the same money to chip in toward added police to enforce existing laws like speed limits and bans on texting while driving?As Bruce Schneier says in the article, the metal detector dictate is “security theater.” And yes, he says that about most everything, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right.

(P.S. I should probably also remind you of this.)


23 comments on “MLB’s metal detector mandate likely to save no lives, ever

  1. “. . . unlike so-far-mythical stadium terrorists . . . ”
    Are you sure about that? I seem to remember some people blew up the Superbowl around 2002, despite Ben Affleck’s best efforts to stop it. It was horrible.

  2. Meh. The press tried to convince us it was Baltimore but we all know it was Montreal. It’s really the Canadian’s problem.

    Seriously though, this MLB metal detection mandate is just stupid. Like airport security before it this will solve nothing and hassle good law abiding Americans. At least some teams seem to be trying to minimize the prison yard look by sticking with the bare minimum wants like the Padres. The stand up metal detectors are just an added level of ridiculous. What’s next? Full body scanners?

  3. Hey let’s not forget Bane attacking the football stadium in Dark Knight Rises. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLFAXvFYhsE

  4. Pretty sure metal detectors also wouldn’t stop Magneto from picking up the entire stadium and absconding with it.

  5. Clay Travis of Fox Sports has stated on more than one occasion the fact that in the last 20 years, more people have died falling out of the stands at American sporting events than have died in terrorist attacks (the only two being the Atlanta bombing in 1996 and the Boston Marathon bombing last year). Definitely something worth remembering.

  6. Metal detectors? How rough do baseball games get? I sat in the outfield at Rogers Centre once and a D+ heckler said “f—“, two cops came over and talked to him for two innings.

    Also, the breathalyzer question has an easy answer: If you had this policy at Ralph Wilson Stadium, there’d be more inside it staying the night than lived at the Superdome during Katrina, probably with worse results.

  7. If they are really concerned with fans health and safety, how about not selling cardboard wafers with synthetic cheese substitute #6 drizzled all over them at the concessions? I’m thinking that pseudonachos will kill far more people in an average year than even a dedicated terrorist ever could hope to.

    What they are really afraid of is being sued by fans who might be injured by the mythical terrorists. Why they aren’t afraid of being sued by people who consume the crap they sell under the guise of “food”, I don’t know.

    I haven’t checked this year’s statistics yet, but I think North American roads/vehicles will once again claim in the neighbourhood of 40,000 lives this year – despite the fact that consumers now pay some $5-7k per car purely for mandatory safety devices like air bags and ABS (the latter some believe actually makes cars less safe). To put this in perspective, if terrorists wiped out every fan attending a Marlins game, it would take until mid May for them to reach the total fatalities recorded on the nation’s highways (gotta work in a Loria insult somehow) this year.

    Bicycle helmets are mandatory in some areas because they can save 10-20 lives per year nationwide. But it’s still legal to sell (and buy) cigarettes. Or as many Big Macs as you can possibly eat. In fact, we encourage that as it helps the economy (especially the healthcare economy).

    Do we even need to begin a discussion of airports?

  8. …of course, maybe they aren’t metal detectors… maybe that’s just the government’s cover story…

    I bet they are actually calibrated to detect outside food or beverage being brought into the stadium…

  9. That’ll be the test of whether this is a misguided security move or just a cover for a craven profit boost: If baseball starts banning liquids over three ounces.

  10. Many of my points have already been covered but we decided not to renew our Astros (full) season tickets, in part, due to the treatment we’ve received by the security people at Minute Maid Park entrances. These people are employed by a contractor, paid minimum wage, and are clueless in how to deal with paying customers. The Astros management condones their poor behavior and so we won’t spend more money with them.

    So there is a negative for the ballclub by implementing these measures. If they really wanted to improve security they would hire more police or trained security that actually work for the team. They would then be in the stands during the game. But, that would cost real money.

    Instead they have successfully kept at least one group of law abiding ticket holders from attending games while not improving security.

    I have made sure the Astros are aware of this and they really don’t seem to care. Then again that matches the rest of the way that ballpark seems to be run these days.

  11. I should have also included that the number 1 injury at a ballpark is trips, slips and falls (see the Rangers for a bad fall example). Next is foul balls and thrown bats (see Richie Ashburn with the Phillies for a good example).

    There was a shooting at KC about 5 years ago that might have been organized but that was again from outside of the ballpark. So, it seems baseball is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

  12. There were three shootings at Kaufman. The first two (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1892601) were in 2000 and 2004, but the shots came from from I-70 in both cases.

    The third (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1892601) was in 2012 when an employee killed another one in the parking lot.

    This doesn’t even count the Jevon Belcher incident (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/chiefs/2012/12/18/jovan-belcher-kansas-city-chiefs-kasandra-perkins-murder-suicide/1777359/) which was in the parking lot nearer to Arrowhead than Kaufman.

    Now that I put all these together, I’ve realized the parking lot is a bit morbid at the Truman Sports Complex. And that metal detectors wouldn’t of helped in any of these incidents.

  13. ALK: Well done. The only thing sports franchises (or governments, local or otherwise) will ever understand is customers/clients voting with their feet.

  14. ALK:

    One question: What percentage of the fans injured in slips/trips/falls do you think had been heavily overserved by the beer/alcohol vendors?
    I’m not suggesting it is all the club/concession operator’s fault that fans drink too much at games, but they do contribute to the problem.

  15. I remember the last fatal fall I remember was in Atlanta but that was a suicide and not an accident. Strangely most falls with serious injuries that involve alcohol also seem to involve escalators. There was one Reliant / NRG Stadium that involved sliding down a ramp handrail. So alcohol and ramp/escalators don’t mix.

    My belief, although I don’t have the data to prove it, is that at baseball games most of the falls involve trying to reach thrown or foul balls or other types of give-aways, That was the cause of the fatal fall in Arlington, TX.

  16. John, thanks but I wish it hadn’t been necessary. Minute Maid has become such an poor place to attend since the new ownership took over, in my opinion. Then you add in the new “welcome” that you get when you get to the ballpark entrance. Why would we want to keep paying for that?

    The many many years of a losing record didn’t help but it certainly wasn’t anywhere close to the top reason we stopped our season tickets after 17 years. But, I doubt this ownership group will care that we aren’t going back.

  17. mp34: The MLB mandate just says “metal detectors,” not what kind, so there’s no one company getting rich. I think this is a rare sports league move that isn’t motivated by greed, just stupidity.

  18. Good job on PTS yesterday Neil. The show’s host, by his own admission, has issues…

    That said, I think ALK (same as the conclusions reached on the show) has it right… people will either stop going entirely or reduce the number of games they go to if it becomes even more inconvenient or time consuming to get to.

    As profitable as professional sports are today, I can see where they business model could go off the rails in 15-20 years. Watching at home is getting better and better (though it is not free either) and while the in stadium experience is better than ever (in most cases), the process of getting to/from and into/out of the stadium is vastly more time consuming and expensive than it used to be. At what point do we just say “enough”?

    Maybe the future will be built around 15-18,000 “all club” seat stadia for football and baseball as Neil has hinted. I don’t know. But I do know the average fan is getting far less value for his/her hard earned money these days from most clubs.

    When will people say “enough?

  19. It would make sense, but I remain skeptical that many fans will actually stay home because of this. Ever since people bought up those $200 tickets to watch the Super Bowl *on TV screens outside the Super Bowl*, I’ve realized that fans will buy pretty much anything under any conditions.

    Okay, anything but Marlins tickets…

  20. True. But those are “one off” events. Fans may pay to stand outside any team’s facility for a “win and you’re in” playoff date or a WS game, but I can’t see there ever being enough demand for Royals tickets that fans are standing in the parking lot watching a mid July game against the Rays on a (melting) tv.

    I would also suggest that fans don’t have to stop buying tickets en masse for clubs to notice. Baseball’s present renaissance appears to be built largely on wealthy middle aged fans who can and do pay more to see games today than anyone could have dreamed 30 years ago. What happens when those 40 and 50 somethings are gone? Is there a generation behind them that can and will pay even more inflated prices?

    I don’t know. But I do know that people under 30 consume sports in a much different way than those of us in our 40s and 50s do, and they aren’t as committed (in general) to attending as we were/are. I don’t wish to demean any of the younger generation of fans… I’m sure many are avid. But not in the same numbers as the young adults of 30 years ago. It’s something of a buyers market for entertainment options, though you’d never know it by watching the behaviour of any of the major sports leagues.

    We still haven’t hit the wall on RSN rights fees either. At some point, some of the rights holders will go under (or renege). The trend cannot and will not keep going up on rights fees. Then what?

  21. I see plenty of younger fans at sporting events. I can certainly foresee a time when teams are focused on selling fewer tickets for more money to less people (we’re pretty much there already), plus get money from some kind of subscription model via web viewing (it’ll be hard because of existing cable deals, but not impossible in the long run). But that will only change how people consume and pay for sports, it won’t change the basic business relationship.

    Or to put it more simply: The cheapest Knicks tickets are $85, and they still sell out. To watch the *Knicks*. The only thing the sports leagues need to worry about at this point is a shortfall in the supply of people with too much money to burn.

  22. Why is this discussion focused so much on terrorism? From what I read, concealed carry of guns is becoming more and more common in this country. But guns are banned at MLB parks, or at least some of them. Why is it so terrible if they have a way to actually enforce that policy, in a crowded environment where much alcohol is consumed? If you feel better knowing that the belligerent guy next to you pounding down his 7th beer might have a .38 in his fanny pack, then detectors are a bad thing. Or, likewise if you’re one of the pro-gun folks who thinks we’ll be safer from the bad guys if everybody carries guns everywhere. Otherwise, seems reasonable enough to me, or the ban on guns is toothless in the face of increasing concealed carry.