Security at major sporting events: Where do we go from here?

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  April 16, 2013 02:00 PM

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Stadiums are no place for stragglers. At TD Garden, every bag is checked prior to entry. A reporter wearing his credential the wrong way at a Celtics game is kindly asked to flip it over. In the bowels and press box of Gillette Stadium, there are security guards stationed what seems every 15 feet.

Security is a high priority at sporting events across the country, but following Monday's deadly Boston Marathon bombings, the natural question is whether or not enough is being done. How will attending, covering, and participating in sporting events change going forward?

It's both devastating and poignant that one of the most notable photographs of deceased 8-year-old Martin Richard shows the young fan at a Bruins game, donning a B's cap. Just as they are for many of us, sports were an escape for Richard. In addition to rooting on the Bruins, he played hockey and baseball. One of his coaches for both sports told me Richard had attended his first two Little League practices in the last couple of weeks. Sports were something that gave him joy.

Balancing joy with player, fan, and staff safety at sporting events is going to be a challenge going forward. It's a situation local teams are grappling with in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. The Celtics canceled their game Tuesday night but said it was not for security reasons. The Bruins postponed their game Monday night but will go on as scheduled against the Sabres Wednesday. The atmosphere is bound to be electric, particularly during the national anthem. If there's one town who knows how to come together in the face of adversity it's Boston. Security will be beefed up Wednesday night, but how long will it last? How long should it?

The Red Sox' most recent home game ended hours before the tragedy, and the team is already trying to alleviate fans' fears before the next game at Fenway Park vs. the Royals Friday night.

“Fan safety has been and will continue to be of paramount importance," said Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino. "The club's security personnel will continue to work vigorously with Major League Baseball security, and federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities to maintain and reinforce the high level of security already in place at Fenway Park.”

Large gatherings of people are bound to be scary. The only time I felt I was in any kind of personal danger in seven years of covering the Celtics was after the team lost to the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010. With cars being lit on fire outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, police locked reporters in. We were allowed to leave several hours later, escorted to a media bus after the chaos settled down. Friends who covered the Bruins' victory over the Canucks in Vancouver in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and the ensuing riots report feeling a similar unease.

The Boston Athletic Association released a statement Tuesday that it is already looking ahead to the 118th running of the race next year. On next year's marathon security, Boston police commissioner Ed Davis said, "It requires we don't turn these events into a police state." But just how that race will look for runners and spectators is unclear. There's no way to fully secure a 26.2-mile course. We'll gain clues from the London Marathon this weekend, and from the Knicks-Celtics series starting Saturday at Madison Square Garden. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little nervous covering a game involving a Boston team so soon after the bombings at the world's most famous arena.

There's a security guard who works the same hallway at every Celtics game, and each time I've passed him for the last seven years, he asks me to show him my credential. Each time you enter Miami's American Airlines Arena to cover a Heat game, you must put your bag on the floor for inspection by bomb-sniffing dogs. These are annoyances many of us have gotten used to. Now, we have to ask ourselves whether they're nearly enough.

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