The sporting question to be answered Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII is whether the best defensive in the league can stop the best offense. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that the best defense in the Meadowlands this Sunday won’t come from the Seattle Seahawks sidelines, but from the federal government. SUPER SECURITY TAKES OVER SUPER BOWL...Hidden snipers deployed in stadium...Black Hawk Helicopters On Alert...F-16s prepared to scramble...
Yes, security at the Super Bowl has been ramped up to super-sized levels, and we know where it is headed next. With the bombings at last year’s Boston Marathon, and the government’s recent decision to seek the death penalty against surviving bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one can only imagine the security force that will encircle the 26.2 mile route come April 21.
While the Boston Marathon might be the large-eared, tufted-haired cousin of today’s sleek new Millenial sports — existing somewhere between street theater and a true sporting event — like the Super Bowl it is a world renown event, another major “soft target” in need of overwhelming security oversight. But while any contained venue like Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands can tighten the lug nuts on its security apparatus at a relative whim (if huge cost), the marathon’s 26.2 linear miles are far too ungainly to get one’s arms around in any fundamental way. As longtime Boston Marathon race director Will Cloney used to say, “You really can’t control people unless they want to be controlled.”
In order to offset that reality, you end up with what we saw last fall at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon where the finish line stands were only modestly filled due to the tightened security ring as the winners flashed over the line.
ONE HEART, TWO MINDS
The Boston Marathon has its feet planted in two centuries, the 19th, its founding, and now the 21st, where it continues blend in the modernizing trends. But it has always been the simplicity and quaintness of the marathon which has marked its distinctive nature. Not just proud of its humble heritage, Boston clings to it possessively, as if to change it too drastically would alter the DNA of the treasured old event.
Yet change is afoot, and not by choice. And there is no going back or fighting its coming. What took place at 2:49 pm EDT last April 15th has left an indelible mark. Two victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings were guests last Tuesday night at President Obama’s State of the Union address in the capital. And you can be sure the surviving victims will be featured prominently this Patriot’s Day weekend, as well. How could they not?
But what is also true is that human nature is a largely reactionary. So in the same way that the Pentagon wages the last war in its attempt to win the current one, what’s likely at Boston is a stifling blanket of law enforcement and security, all on hand to keep us safe, even as it alters the very nature of the event it attempts to protect in the process.
No longer the concern of just the traditional local and state agencies like Mass State Police and the constabularies of the cities and towns along the marathon route, you can bet that any and every national agency with a budget to validate will likely have a hand in this year’s Boston Marathon.
“We’ve caved in to them,” is how official marathon greeter and Falmouth Road Race founder Tommy Leonard sees it, speaking of the terrorists. “Maybe I’m becoming the cranky old curmudgeon, but look what they have us doing. It’s taking all the fun out of it.”
Which is the insidious object of terror, to turn us on one another searching for them. But no matter how much we might decry it or wish it away, the Boston Marathon has been dragged into the terror business, and these days business is good. Where once pre-race discussions focused on where to put aid stations and what to do about potential weather concerns, now they are probably wondering where to deploy the SWAT teams and how to hide the snipers. The joke used to go, “They can’t cure Muscular Dystrophy. Think what it would mean to Jerry Lewis’s career!” So, too, has anti-terror created its own industrial complex.
Terror, it’s the new jobs creator.