NFL Ramps Up Security Theatre

from the don't-fumble-my-junk dept

Security theatre has been the goal of the TSA these past few years. Whether they’re valiantly inserting their fingers into our orifices , standing bravely to defend travelers from insulin and icepacks, or simply lying to people in telling them they can’t be taped during their most nefarious actions, The TSA does fake security like no other group can. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has worked harder at not producing any results than these people.

But that won’t keep the NFL from trying, damn it.

Dementia writes in about a Yahoo Sports post describing the new breakthrough security technique at NFL games this year: pat-downs. That’s right, the NFL is going to solve security at their games by somehow patting down seventy thousand people as they enter stadiums within roughly an hour’s length of time. No, the pat-downs won’t be done by federal employees, just low-paid yellow jacket-wearing folks (seriously, click the article and look at the picture, it’s awesome). No there aren’t any metal detectors or machine screeners a la the airport. Basically, no, these security measurements won’t make anyone more…you know…secure. As Chris Chase notes:

“As far as I can tell, the only purpose gate security has is to create a mass of humanity at the entrances and comb through women’s purses. The pat downs are jokes. Security personnel only checked from the waist up. If they felt anything in your pocket, their most likely recourse was to ask, “what’s that?” A halfway-decent answer got you a pass.”

And, as Chris also notes, if you think these measures are stupid now, just wait until the weather turns. I can just picture myself walking up to Soldier Field on a January morning in Chicago, seven layers deep between regular undergarments, long-underwear, longsleeve t-shirt, t-shirt, hoodie sweatshirt, down-insulated winter jacket, and my lovely Where’s Waldo-esque scarf to tie it all together, and giving these security types a sideways glance as they attempt to pat me down. I could carry a 1967 Buick Skylark in my pants and they’d never feel it.

Why can’t we stop this? Who are the NFL playing to with this nonsense? I’d like to think my fellow citizens and football consumers aren’t so totally devoid of intelligence that they can’t see how pointless and annoying this all is.

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Comments on “NFL Ramps Up Security Theatre”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Mike, is all security theater in your mind?”

Yeah, Mike. This article is utter dogshit. Whoever wrote it is the kind of monkey-ass idiot that should be locked up and forced to eat speghetti-O’s until their intestines explode with over-processed excellence.

Come on, Mike, writer of this article. Answer the damned question!


Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re:

According to the article, they are patting you waist up, which means that you could attach a weapon to your leg. Are they checking each and every employee that enters the stadium? Probably not.

You do realize that they sell alcohol inside the stadium. So much for preventing fan drunkenness.

Security theatre. Period.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yet because it is hard to prove something that didn’t happen, there is no simple way to show what the “theater” did stop, because… they never happened.

Proving something that didn’t happen as a result of something else is pretty damn hard, don’t you think? I think that it is one of those wonderful logical traps that is often used on Techdirt to justify all sorts of shit.

CommonSense (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Right, so think of it this way:

If you have security, and it doesn’t stop something, so you ramp up security and it still doesn’t stop that something, then the ramped up security is all theater.

That’s the point here, a certain level does scare away some would-be criminals, but there is almost no stopping someone who’s really got their heart set on causing problems.

hobo says:

They, purportedly, want to keep weapons and other harmful objects out of the stadium so you can’t hurt a lot of people in the stadium.. by keeping crowds lined up outside the stadium. That way if this hypothetical super-villian strikes it will be outside of the stadium and therefore not the NFL’s problem.

Oakland is the exception here, they need metal detectors..

Anonymous Coward says:

The security theater is already at the NFL games. They were doing pat-downs of everyone that entered my local stadium last year. This year it got even more ridiculous…it took us three hours to go four miles and get into the stadium because they had dogs checking every car that went in to the stadium. I know many will argue…but I don’t feel any safer because of that. I just feel annoyed. So much so that we only stayed at the game until half-time and left because we didn’t feel like sitting in traffic on the way out as well.

Beta (profile) says:

My name is Beta, and I'm prejudiced...

“I’d like to think my fellow citizens and football consumers aren’t so totally devoid of intelligence that they can’t see how pointless and annoying this all is.”

Well, your fellow citizens have (mostly) already made their position clear at the airports, and…

Is it wrong for me to feel baffled and humiliated if football fans turn out to be the most intelligent segment of the American public?

John Doe says:

Security theater has to stop

I rode my bike to Canada last week with a coworker. We entered at Buffalo and circled the lakes and came back in at Sault St. Marie. I was asked about 2 questions by the Canadian guard and about 25 by the US guard. One of my answers did not pass muster so I was escorted to a garage bay. I am guessing when I answered yes to the question if I met anyone in Canada. We met my coworkers friend. Apparently it is unheard of for an American to be friends with a Canadian since they are such a distant, hostile nation.

I was told to empty my pockets. I told them I had a pocket knife where the guard turned sideways with is gun away from me and rested his hand on his gun while I pulled down my riding pants to dig my knife out of my jeans pocket.

They were all courteous and the search of the bikes didn’t take but about 15 minutes, but still, what did they hope to find? WMDs or were they looking for an undeclared bottle of Canadian whiskey? Either way, if I am the type of person they are searching then I don’t feel any safer.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Security theater has to stop

One reason they ask so many question on the US side is that the computer system is slow. They swipe everyone’s passport or card at the border but didn’t realize that they would need to upgrade the system. CBP agents have given me shopping tips while they wait for the computer system to respond.

Plus it’s form of job security. Asking more questions means longer queues. Longer queues means you need to hire more CBP agents. It’s incredible how much money Homeland Security is spending along the Canada-US border when the overwhelming majority of people just want to shop, dine or enjoy some entertainment.

DOlz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Security theater has to stop

That’s kind of the point. If a terrorist has a clean identity the checkpoint is not going to stop them. If they don’t or they want to bring in contraband they can cross the border somewhere along the 99% the checkpoints don’t cover.

All this is doing is interfering with trade and tourism between the US and Canada without making us one bit safer.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Do the math...

The scary part is that they think they can keep the times the same (gates open 2 hours before the game). If you’ve got 75,000 fans entering through 8 gates with 5 security folks providing pat downs at each entrance, that’s still a max of 3.8 seconds per fan to get everyone in before the game starts.

75,000 / 8 gates = 9375 fans per gate
9375 fans / 5 lines = 1875 fans per line
7200 seconds / 1875 fans = 3.8 seconds per fan

Yup, you can totally find hidden weapons when patted down by an untrained yellow shirted lackey in 3.8 seconds in the middle of Winter at Soldier Field…

I suspect there may end up being a few ticket refund fiascos before gate open times are adjusted to 4 hours before game time and we’re expected to show up a minimum of 3 hours before kickoff.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Do the math...

“I suspect there may end up being a few ticket refund fiascos before gate open times are adjusted to 4 hours before game time and we’re expected to show up a minimum of 3 hours before kickoff.”

Actually, this is becoming LESS likely, and that trend will continue in the future. The NFL, in a weird kind of dichtomy, is the most consumed sport in America while simultaneously seeing their attendance numbers drop. The fact is that most fans are realizing that going to a football game sucks, but watching it on your TV is AWESOME.

The only thing that’s going to save this is stadiums like Dallas, where the ginormous scoreboard will update fantasy players and gamblers of the stuff they really care about. If you look at plans for new football stadiums, you’ll notice one glaring concept: they are trying to mimic home-viewing AT THE STADUM.

Really crazy, but I understand it….

J. S. says:

Re: Do the math...

I work for the company that provides the security for these NFL events. We are not ‘untrained’. It just doesn’t take a whole lot to stand at a gate and use the back of your hands to rub the sleeves, the back and around the waist of a person. They are just checking for concealed weapons, there have been incidents. It;s not all because of 9/11. ( Granted during the games that were held this year on 9/11 they added a below the knee pat down, just for that one game. ) As for the math, believe it or not, most fans that show up early do get in before the game starts, but there are quite a bunch that show up ( or finish their tailgating ) after the game begins. It all works out, and most people are willing to work with us.

On a side note, we do have the authority to ask a person to empty their pockets if we suspect something, and if there is an issue, the fan does not get into the stadium until the issue is resolved.

It’s an inconvenience for sure, but it does not seem to be a huge deal.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do the math...

“It’s an inconvenience for sure, but it does not seem to be a huge deal.”

Perhaps not a huge deal, but what’s the point? Who are you trying to protect (not you personally, the security strategists I mean)? It can’t be terrorism, because you’re massing people together as a target. The patdowns aren’t going to actually catch someone who wants to sneak something into the game (my flask can vouch for me on this one).

So, big deal or not, what’s the point?

hobo says:

Re: Re: Re: Do the math...

It is all about appearances. IF something were to happen, they can say, look, we were doing something!! If nothing happens, they can say, look, we stopped everything!!

And since all expenses will be covered by passing them to consumers (plus a little extra), it’s really a win-win for everyone who matters (i.e. not us).

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Do the math...

“The patdowns aren’t going to actually catch someone who wants to sneak something into the game (my flask can vouch for me on this one).”

Kind of reminds me of the difference between a law-abiding licensed weapon carrier and a scoff-law gun-toting thug. Those who want to smuggle something into the stadium are going to be really crafty about it. Some over-compensating thug who thinks they need to bring their 9mm penis with them everywhere they go is going to just tuck it in a bit further or strap it to their ankle.

Those who would be discouraged by a half-assed surface search probably wouldn’t be bringing in anything ‘illegal’ in the first place… just something like a flask that they won’t mind parting with if they do get caught.

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Do the math...

“It just doesn’t take a whole lot to stand at a gate and use the back of your hands to rub the sleeves, the back and around the waist of a person.””On a side note, we do have the authority to ask a person to empty their pockets if we suspect something, and if there is an issue, the fan does not get into the stadium until the issue is resolved.”

So DH was correct, any kind of weapon that can be strapped or holstered to the leg is A-OK? Ill have to slide a pipebomb down there next to my joints, flask and 6 pack for the next game Vs the packers.

Ben (profile) says:

Re: The X factor

Thankfully the demographic at your average football game consists mostly of middle aged couch heroes. It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to pat down the “true” fans. My concern is what happens on ladies night. I would imagine the amount of time spent patting down the average patron will be increased by a factor of X where X is directly related to to a sliding scale (1-10?) varying on the “patters” own standards. I used to collect comic books as a kid, back when they used to put ads in the back selling various products. One “fix-all” solution inspired by a popular item in that catalogue comes to mind. X-Ray goggles! The only issue I can think of would be if NFL fans started wearing lead lined clothing, but that would obviously send off a red flag, in which case, a pat down would be justified. You say that they have tried similar techniques at airports only to offend the sensibilities of frequent flyers? There is a solution to that as well! I propose “spirit carts.” Spirit carts would be mobile bars that traverse the line offering a variety of alcoholic beverages (spirits 😉 )to impatient spectators. The powers that be could institute a 3 drink minimum for uptight or generally suspicious looking people. Since profiling isn’t discussed as much as the invasion of privacy imposed by your favorite airline, I think this would pass. The alcohol would massage the inhibitions of those who might otherwise complain, and, with a little luck, several of the would be stadium occupants will be incapacitated, allowing the most impatient among the line to cut ahead a few spots. They could reinforce that effect by offering a couple free drinks to the first couple hundred people in line – disguising it as a reward. Otherwise, my only idea is to put up huge televisions outside the stadium. They could hold a raffle outside to see who gets to come in while everyone else watches the game just outside the stadium. With the advancements in technology I am sure they could make it almost as good as actually being there. When you think about it a raffle is not much different than fans paying to be on a waiting list for season tickets. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. Maybe I am just being silly?

Wow, you're clueless. says:

Re: Do the math...

Wow, you have absolutely no idea what the true numbers are in this equation. I do, and you’re an idiot. When is the last time you went to a game and people were lined up at the gates 2 hours prior to kickoff? It doesn’t take that long to get everyone in. The problem is that everyone waits in the parking lot cuddling their booze until 20 minutes before the game. You think stadiums don’t run these numbers and try to find the best possible way to operate?

And by the way, there’s a reason you all this this is security theater. If you knew the stuff that gets discovered, you wouldn’t go.

AJ says:

I guess I can understand there may be a threat. But if they are going to put security into place, at least make it effective. Seems to me they are doing the exact same thing as DRM. They are just making it harder for the people that are following the law, which is the ultimate goal of the terrorists, fear…

Fear is the tool terrorists use to try and force a change. They don’t use it against the government, they use it against the people so that the people turn on the government. Security theater is how you piss off the people. We are doing exactly what they want us to do.
Ironically enough, the government and the terrorists have the same end goal in mind. They want ultimate control over the people. The have the same methods, fear and force. The only difference is, we “think” they are different than each other… but are they really that different?

TechnoMage (profile) says:

The Terrorist have won... :(

The sad truth is that if we as a nation/society have allowed people living without running water in villages that don’t have streetlights to scare us so much that we have stooped to this level of:

1) wasting time
2) wasting money
3) invasion of privacy
4) stupidity because this won’t even do what is suppose to do
5) training the populace to accept invasions of privacy

THEN… They have already won.

And the ONLY way to fight back against them and to not let them to continue to win is to fight against these stupid policies. Being for human rights, preventing invasion of privacy, etc… Is not “being weak on terrorism”, it is “being strong on American values”.

Michael says:


“Why can’t we stop this? Who are the NFL playing to with this nonsense? I’d like to think my fellow citizens and football consumers aren’t so totally devoid of intelligence that they can’t see how pointless and annoying this all is.”

Uh, Timothy, old man, they can do it because you keep buying tickets and letting them do it. If you feel that strongly, don’t buy the ticket. Otherwise, join the sheep, because you ARE one.

Scooters (profile) says:

NFL stands for...

“Not For Long” given how this measure will surely piss off fans as to not buy tickets, watch games on television, and spend billions on overpriced t-shirts.

I couldn’t keep a straight face as I typed this.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that the NFL can do whatever the hell it wants and NO ONE will care.

Enjoy the pat downs, fans. You certainly deserve them.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: NFL stands for...

“They have been patting down people at some stadiums for over a year and it hasn’t hurt ticket sales one bit.”

While this security nonsense may not be the impetus for it, you should note that NFL attendance IS falling, and this very article got a fair amount of play on WSCR, the biggest sports station in Chicago, which is a big market. It’s getting attention….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NFL stands for...

“Couldn’t the drop in attendance also be related to people not being able to afford to buy a ticket?”

Could be, but unlikely. I say that because all the other methods for measuring interest are up…WAY up. That includes measurements requiring payment, like DirectTV and other cable packages, streaming through, swag purchased, paid fantasy football services, and gambling wagers.

If people are not going to the game but spending even MORE money elsewhere, it’s not likely to be a function of the economy….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NFL stands for...

Sorry, but Bears attendance remains sold out for every game, with long waiting lists for season tickets, despite massive price increases. The high prices keep me away these days. Just can’t afford it. They’ve been doing patdowns at solder field for many years. Never stopped me from bringing in my flask, when I was still going to games.

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NFL stands for...

every Bears game is sold out, or close enough it makes no difference. And i know the waiting list for season tickets is about 49 million people long

I’m not sure where DH is getting this info, looks like the majority of teams had no problem selling out last year:

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NFL stands for...

A couple of things to consider. First, for factual sporting information, throw ESPN out of the window. They’re a marketing company, not a journalism company, and they have a vested interest in the NFL both doing well and being percieved to be doing well.

Second, ticket sales /= attendance. See the Cubs this year as an example. Most games were sold out, but attendance was WAAAAY down, killing in-stadium revenue.

Third, attendance IS down at NFL games and has been for the past few years:

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 NFL stands for...

Articles from this year show that 2010 had .5% less attendance than last year and only 4.5% less than their record year(2007)

I found a few articles saying this will be their rebound year:

they also say ticket prices have been going up and TV viewership is up a shit-ton. So yeah they have taken a slight dip in attendance since the start of the recession which would have been right around the end of the 2007 season. While 5% of 17 million(~total attendees a year) is a lot of people and in-stadium revenue I don’t think its enough to hurt the teams pocketbooks and it seems to be people saving a buck more than voting with their wallets (TV viewership has been rising in proportion[i think, i dont have a graph or anything] to attendance).

Maybe Cub fans should show up to games they buy tickets for, or maybe the Cubs should stop being so hopeless they arnt worth a ride on the metra for tickets I already bought :). Just being snarky i understand your point attendance=/=sales

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:


“I could carry a 1967 Buick Skylark in my pants and they’d never feel it.”

OK, that mental picture made me actually laugh out loud. Quite literally. I had to make an effort to keep from disturbing the class going on in the next room.

Thanks for the comic relief.

For anybody too young to remember… in 1967 cars were huge by today’s standards. I think my 2005 Focus could fit into the glove box of a ’67 Skylark, and there would still be room for a pair of gloves.,9801/1967-Buick-Skylark_photo.aspx

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