by Max Brantley
The Hogosphere has been buzzing with the news, first reported in the UA newspaper, that searches will be conducted on all bags and coolers taken to baseball games at the Baum Stadium on the UA campus in Fayetteville.
UA officials are quoted as saying this is not about unruly fans who've been known to pack some alcoholic beverages into the Hog Pen area at the stadium. No, it is to follow guidance of the Homeland Security Administration.
The stadium will now conduct searches on all bags and coolers that are entering the stadium, using the same procedure that is used at Bud Walton Arena and the football stadium, Trainor said.
This policy reflects the UA’s ongoing commitment to recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security. Bags are not permitted except those bags required for child care or medical conditions, and purses no larger than 14 inches long, 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep. All purses allowed into the stadium will be searched.
I've asked just out of curiosity for copies of HSA guidance on such matters. I had no idea efforts to protect the homeland had moved beyond nekkid airport images to ice chest searches. But, sure, I guess you could pack a cooler with plastic explosives or a small nuclear device to cart into a sporting event. Indeed, you can envision limitless nightmare scenarios for just about any setting with just about any object. I think it might be time, for example, for churches to put some limits on ladies' handbag size. Or at least search the biggest totes in the narthex. You need only attend a committee meeting of the God, Guns and Fetuses Arkansas General Assembly to understand all of the things we have to fear and how many laws and extra precautions are needed to combat the imagined assaults lurking in every church, school and barroom.
Still, I think I'm with Sporting Life Arkansas in citing a past warning by Chris Bahn after some heckling of opposing players by fans. An opposing player flipped a bird in return. Wrote Bahn for Arkansas Business in 2011:
Consider a March 18 item from KFSM 5NEWS Sports in which Mike Irwin writes that a Delaware State outfielder endured racial slurs from Razorback fans. It got so bad that the player complained and got an apology the next day from Arkansas officials, including Coach Dave Van Horn.
Isolated, abhorrent incident? Perhaps.
But the more apologies and suspensions given out stemming from actions inside the Hog Pen, the harder it is for the folks in charge to look away. Suddenly, it becomes a lot easier to get restrictive. Would it be unreasonable for the school to begin restricting alcohol consumption and beef up security in the outfield after two public incidents?
Or check coolers.
UPDATE: Kevin Trainor at the UA has given me the complete rundown on the background on cooler checks. It follows:
FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
The policy that is being implemented at Baum Stadium for this season is a bag policy that has been implemented previously at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and Bud Walton Arena. Our policy cites Homeland Security recommendations rather than “regulations” and specifically based on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) recommendation on the size of bags that may be used to transport potentially harmful devices (included in the bag policy rationale below).
Bag Policy Rationale
There are two justifications for restricting large bags from a stadium or other densely populated venue. First and foremost, large bags impede crowd movement. During the event, backpacks in particular, because they are often worn on the back, cause problems because they impact other guests and often spill food and beverages in the process. The most dangerous situation however, is during an emergency. If the stadium had to be evacuated or people had to be moved to shelter on short notice, large bags block aisles and pathways and slow movement thereby increasing risks to public safety.
The second reason large bags are frequently prohibited is because they provide a means for terrorists or other criminal elements to introduce weapons or other hazardous materials into the venue. Although bag searches are a deterrent, their effectiveness, especially with large bags is questionable — especially if an individual is determined to carry out some type of attack and willing to die in the process. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a bag larger than 14 x 10 x 10 is capable of carrying in excess of 20 pounds of high explosive material and various types of fragmentation material (nails, screws, wing-nuts, washers, bbs, marbles, etc.). An improvised explosive device (IED) of this size would kill nearly everyone within 15 meters (50 feet) and would injure many more. The effects of this type of explosive blast within a densely populated area like a stadium would be characterized by the following:
· Blast over pressure causes blunt force trauma (a crushing action on ears and vital organs) and translates or “throws” people away with the blast;
* Death within 15 meters of the device,
* Significant injury within 30 meters,
· Falling structural material;
· Flying debris (especially glass and fragmentation);
· Asphyxiation within confined spaces (blast depletes oxygen);
· Burns from blast, incendiary devices or fires resulting from blast damage;
· Inhalation of toxic fumes resulting from fires;
· Injuries from disorganized crowd movement as people flee the blast site.
In addition, I have listed the actual Baum Stadium bag policy as well.
“Bags are not permitted except those bags required for child care or medical conditions, and purses no larger than 14” long (side-to-side) x 10” wide (front to back) x 10” deep (top to bottom). All purses allowed into the stadium will be searched. Containers measuring 14” long x 10” wide x 10” deep will be placed at entries of Baum Stadium. Purses that do not fit into the container will not be permitted inside the stadium.”
Hog Pen Only (Left Field Picnic Area): Outside food and beverages are allowed into the Hog Pen and may be transported with traditional food/drink receptacles into the Hog Pen area of Baum Stadium. Any receptacle containing outside food and beverages must enter via the Hog Pen gate (located on Razorback Road) and will be searched for security purposes upon entry. At no time will the food receptacles or their contents be allowed into the main seating area of Baum Stadium. Food receptacles may not be left unattended in the Hog Pen at any time.