The great Yankee Stadium security problem

After keeping Boston in check, Washburn subject of Olney's rumors
Game 100: Rollin'

Jeremy Olshan and Rebecca Rosenberg, two of the New York Post’s more reliable reporters, penned an interesting story on Yankee Stadium security that showed up in Alexander Hamilton’s former newspaper this morning. The Yankees, in light of the recent heat wave and sun advisories, have taken to confiscating sunscreen containers from fans claiming these bottles pose a terrorist threat to Yankee Stadium.

Guards had advised patrons to apply sunscreen outside and then hand over the bottles. Inside the stadium, fans can get a one-ounce bottle of SPF 15 sunscreen for a whopping $5. With dermatologists calling out the Yankees and the Post noting the hypocrisy of the team in light of MLB’s Play Sun Smart anti-skin cancer initiative, the team has since caved to common sense and will now allow sunscreen into the stadium.

In light of the inherent absurdity of the situation — Sunscreen as a terrorist weapon? Really? — and the obvious commercial benefit that the Yankees enjoy by forcing their fans to buy sunscreen at a mark-up of nearly 100 percent, the Yankees come out of this dust-up looking pretty chintzy. They were confiscating sunblock at a time when people need the most and providing an inferior product at a higher price inside. While scientists made be debating the effectiveness of these sunblocks, we still the skin protection.

Never before had sunblock been an issue, and it just shouldn’t have happened at Yankee Stadium. We can take in water; we can take in sunblock. We’re baseball fans, not prisoners, and whichever official signed off on this decision should bear the brunt this bad publicity.

* * *

In a similar vein, today’s story reminded me of something that happened to me recently at Yankee Stadium. Last week at the Home Run Derby, I picked up a few clear plastic bags for my stuff. I always double-bag them at Yankee Stadium because the free bags they hand out are rather cheap and flimsy.

When I returned to the Stadium the next night for the All Star Game, the security guard looked at my bag — my supposedly clear plastic bags from the night before — and told me I had to take my stuff out of those bags and put it into clear plastic bags. These bags, sort of gray and not very transparent, weren’t clear enough for her. I told her, “These are your clear plastic bags I got here last night.” Her reply: “Oh. That’s not so good.”

I had a second bag with me that had some water in it. That bag was a perfectly transparent bag from the Fan Fest – the DHL All Star Fan Fest. The security guards made me take my stuff out of that bag and put it into some of the less clear plastic bags. Lesson: Plastic bags distributed by Yankee Stadium security are not clear enough for those very same security guards one night later.

Trust me: I understand that we live an age in which we have to be careful. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, and I, like everyone else, has felt the emotional impact of a terrorist attack. But at some point, we have to draw the line between absurd security measures and practical responses to real threats.

It’s bad enough that the Yanks don’t allow fans to bring in tote bags or small backpacks, but when security guards start questioning the validity of the clear plastic bags, perhaps it’s time to start rethinking the security measures. When tubes of sunblock on overwhelmingly sunny days become security threats (or is that a business threat?), perhaps a level head should step in and assess the situation. Are the Yankees really this absurd?

After keeping Boston in check, Washburn subject of Olney's rumors
Game 100: Rollin'
  • mko

    Are the Yankees really this absurd?

    The question you should ask is:
    Is America really this absurd?
    Is the western world really this absurd?

    And the answer, sadly, is yes…
    Crazy stuff like this happens all the time and all over the world (I am from Austria, Europe). Maybe not that extreme, but almost.

    Sometimes you have to think that the people making the rules are out of their minds and other times you have to think that they just want to take advantage of their customers and make even more money under the fake argument of security :(

    Sad times we live in, if you really think about it…

  • m

    It’s amazing how irrational we tend to be in our response to risk. Deaths in the US by terrorist attack: less than 4000 ever. Deaths in the US by melanoma: almost 8000 every year. Obviously, that’s not to say there’s no terrorist threat, but UV rays (not to mention the drive to the ballpark) are way more likely to kill us.

  • E-ROC

    I know the measures can be absurd, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Just imagine how absurd the security would be if New York was in a state of martial law. Yikes! My fam and I lived in Turkey for two years at Incirlik Air Base. The base is owned by the Turkish military so they run the point-of-entries onto the base. Anyway, we had two suspects in separate incidents who were able to get through the Turkish security and onto the base with weapons. No harm came out of either incident. Obviously security is very lax there and I was happy to leave. Security can be a pain, but they are just looking out for your best interest.

  • Joltin’ Joe

    Whether it’s annoying or not I’d still rather live here than anywhere else. Go America.

    • Relevant Response

      Right on. Love it or leave it.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos

        Love it or leave it… what the hell does that mean? If I complain about something that happens in America, that means I don’t love it?

        I think my wife eats popcorn and I don’t like kissing her popcorn-laden breath, ergo, I must then not love my wife.

        • Alan

          That’s what the man said. Better get a divorce lawyer and switch those credit cards over, you saw what happened to A-Rod.

  • Jake

    Measures like these, like so many of those are the airport, are all about giving people the appearance of security, instead of actual security. It’s about making people feel comfortable and safe, but risk is a part of life.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Living in the great city of Daytona Beach, Florida, I can tell you that we have had our own crackdowns for the sake of security. A few years ago Daytona International Speedway decided the racegoers could ONLY bring in individual coolers that could hold no more than a 12 pack of your favorite beverage. Can you imagine trying to watch a NASCAR race on only a 12 pack of beer? Insane! I need at least enough to pass out.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Wait a sec… you live in Daytona?

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        Sunny Daytona.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos

          I had no idea.

  • Zack

    Don’t kid yourself into thinking this has anything to do with actual security. As the above already says, its the “appearance” of security that matters. Were those bottles of sun block an actual threat, they would immediately be shipped off to DHS offices for analysis. Instead, they simply sit in big garbage bags and get thrown out.

    At the same time, someone could walk in with pounds and pounds of explosives strapped to their body and would be able to waltz right on in, that is, as long as their detonator was in a clear(ish) plastic bag.

    Its absurd. It has nothing to do with desire to live in the US, and it certainly has nothing to do with some notion of “freedom.”

    Tell me, what exactly are you going to have in a sunscreen bottle that you can’t simply wear on your person or stuff into a subway roll?

    • Zack

      And let me add, that as a Yankee fan, I don’t feel anymore safe in the stadium than I ever have. People still get really drunk and do really stupid and dangerously violent things. I have a lot more fear of the drunken SOB behind me crashing into me or picking a fight with me than I do something being snuck into the stadium in a sunscreen bottle

    • monkeypants

      In response to your question, and to the following from the original post: “In light of the inherent absurdity of the situation — Sunscreen as a terrorist weapon? Really?”

      The idea is, I believe, that cosmetic tubes (for toothpaste, sun screen, etc.) are particularly conducive for hiding plastic explosives. So, they are not concerned that sun screen is going to be used as a weapon, nor is the idea *inherently* absurd.

      That said, I do agree that this is a pretty silly measure. That is, of course, until someone actually clues in to just how insecure major sporting events are. It’s only a matter of time until someone does set off a small explosive or the like at a Yankees game or some similar venue–the type of concentrations of people that go one hundreds and hundreds of times a year.

      And it is also just a matter of time before all new stadiums are equipped with metal detectors and chemical sensors for explosives, etc, which will be far more effective at catching potential terrorists that the current praxis of hand searching and confiscating tubes of hair gel.

  • limonene

    The running joke that my friends have is that every day is “free fan massage day” in the bleachers, while things are much more lax in the main sections of the Stadium. Granted, I have the advantage of being allowed to bring a purse in with me, so stuff like sunscreen and my knitting project tends to go unnoticed more often (but not always). The variety in enforcement of the rules is an indication that it’s all an effort to make us feel safer, rather than honest-to-goodness security.

  • Pete

    >> Lesson: Plastic bags distributed by Yankee Stadium security are not clear enough for those very same security guards one night later. >>

    That’s hysterical – line o’ the day.

  • dan

    I think they make you change the bags more for them to see every item in the bag as its being moved from one to another. If you have a bag full of sandwiches, peanuts, chips, and whatever, it would be easier to hide something like a gun or knife. But if you have to move everything from one bag to another, it eliminates that.