Metal detectors at MLB games proving to be just as bad an idea as everyone feared

Lots of coverage today of the crazy-long lines at baseball stadiums on opening day, where fans ran into MLB’s new rules requiring metal detectors at all entrances. Here’s the massive lines at the New York Yankees game, and here’s fans griping about it at ballparks all over. And here’s my photo of the lines outside the Mets‘ home stadium:

image1-1That doesn’t look so bad, until you consider that the Mets weren’t actually playing at home yesterday — this was just the thousand or so people who turned up to watch the broadcast of the game for free on the center field video screen. Admittedly, for actual games there will be a few more entrances (and detectors) open, but I’m still not looking forward to the first time 40,000 people all arrive at the same time for a big game, say against the Yankees.

Meanwhile, what none of the coverage has touched on is that, as I reported for Vice last fall, security experts largely think that metal detectors are useless “security theater” measures that make sports leagues look like they’re doing something but don’t do squat to make anyone safer:

[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.” (His students, Enders notes, are constantly wondering aloud why no one ever simply flies an airplane over a stadium and drops an explosive device out the window.)

Besides, if we really cared about safety, Enders says, we’d do things like ensure that bag checks actually check bags, beyond a quick look to ensure that no one is smuggling in unauthorized foodstuffs. “I just went to see Alabama-West Virginia in Atlanta,” he notes. “My wife and I wanted to bring something in to drink. I said, ‘Put it in the bottom of the purse, and we’ll put the binoculars and the program on top, and that’s the end of that.'”

The problem with real bag checks, of course, is that they’re even more time-consuming and labor-intensive. Walk-through metal detectors offer the perfect blend of comforting concern and barely workable efficiency that have made them the go-to security devices at airports everywhere — even if there’s no evidence that they actually keep anyone safer.

7 comments on “Metal detectors at MLB games proving to be just as bad an idea as everyone feared

  1. Don’t worry, baseball teams will turn this into a money making opportunity by allowing CLEAR (the airport security people who charge you almost 200 bucks annually just to skip the wait line) to set up shop. I think the Padre’s let them set up shop for a couple games last year to demo it, and likely they will start rolling out to other teams and events as well.

  2. What did I say!

  3. MLB requires more security at a time the Wilpons reportedly cut the budget for security at Citi Field……good thing I already show up early…..

  4. Actually lines themselves make some people angry. So the whatever the effects on where and when hypothesized “terrorists” act, there will be more angry, unstable people around. This may lead to violence but it will for sure lead to less enjoyable experiences for everyone.

  5. I’d much rather have metal detectors if it means I don’t have to get frisked by someone looking for my airplane bottles.

  6. If you think this is bad – wait until you see the security measures they will have to implement to protect planes landing at LAX if the Inglewood Stadium happens….

  7. Just another reason to watch the game on TV, or take in a MiLB game instead.