Boston Marathon redefines 'in-game experience'

Boston Marathon redefines 'in-game experience'
April 15, 2013, 5:00 pm
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In the days and months to come, every event will carry with it reminders, of the carnage of Boylston Street.

With our institutional memories of the Boston Marathon in tatters for the foreseeable future, the word “in-game experience” has never carried more disturbing throw-weight.

While the details of the bombing at the finish line of the marathon continue to be compiled (and yes, this will take days, not hours), we must at least be aware that a new barrier had been breached in our collective security. A huge running race, in a large metropolitan area, on what amounts to a civic holiday . . . it’s a place terror has not yet visited.

The waves of security checkpoints and patdowns and bag checks had gone from necessary inconvenience in the days after the 9/11 assaults to tedious inconvenience. Until now. Now they will become more stringent, more exhaustive, and more laden with suspicion, because the proof that terror can go even to the sanctity of our fun and games is now no further than your television.

The Munich Olympics, after all, were 41 years ago, and 3838 miles away, and we are a nation with a defiantly short memory.

But today, and in the days and months to come, every event will carry with it reminders, both silent and overt, of the carnage of Boylston Street. And it forces us to accept a new reality – that our arenas and stadiums are not just palaces for the mighty, but also potential targets.

New stadia pop up almost yearly, and those that don’t become long-running arguments about how much of our citizens’ treasure we should devote to state-sponsored entertainment. See San Francisco and Oakland and Sacramento and Los Angeles and San Diego, just to name one state close to us all.

Now, though, we are stuck with a grisly new paradigm. Someone or some people decided that a running race was the perfect venue for the airing of grievances, even though the victims had caused no grief at all. An 8-year-old boy watching the race is dead. Find a political reality in that.

The point is, terror has come to our amusements in a new and terrible way, and that means that every event you now attend becomes a test of your patience and security’s efficiency. Lines will be longer. Checks will take more time. Tempers will be frayed. Watching at home will seem more and more like a preferable option, if only because going to an event to reminded of one’s vulnerabilities is not entertainment at all.

The Boston Marathon used to be a mild amusement for the rest of the country. Marathons aren’t our first thought when it comes to casual viewing, and provincialism in sport is as predominant as it ever was.

Now, the Boston Marathon means something else entirely. It is a new place our minds must go when we wonder how safe our daily lives truly are. It will factor into all our entertainment decisions, and its ripples will go beyond terror to more typical ballpark violence. The brawls at Wembley Stadium after Saturday’s Millwall-Wigan FA Cup semifinal seem even less amusing and more disturbing now because they show just how much less secure we are entitled to feel at a sporting event.

And now we must rethink it all, even if we come to the same conclusion we began with. The Boston Marathon may have been damaged by a lone disaffected person with a grudge against nothing and everything, or it might have been a wholly political act, but it leaves a long scar that goes through every event in every sport. And you’ll see it every time you have to wait in a longer line to see your favorite team, and you find out how many more things you will be prohibited from bringing into a park.

Complain if you must, and in time you surely will. But you will not take your trip to the ballpark so lightly again, for a very, very long time. For those directly affected, the 2013 Boston Marathon was a tragedy. For the rest of us all, it is a cold slap of a new and painful reality. From the stadia we wish to build, to the people we wish to fill them, there is a new paradigm, and it begins with “Are we sure we need this?”

In time, we may feel differently. In fact, we probably will. We are resilient to the point of stubbornness, at least when it comes to our amusements. But for the moment, the Boston Marathon will not be far from your mind. And it shouldn’t be.