I never thought I would ever say this about a stadium I love, a stadium I have been going to since I was nine years old, but trying to get into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium recently made me feel like I was in a prison.
Unbeknownst to me, every person sitting in the bleachers is patted down before entering because no beer is sold in that section. This is not the policy in other parts of the stadium. At other entrances, fans are told to turn on their cellphone and bags are checks. Fine, no problem. But nobody is patted down.
I am bothered by the pat-downs for a number of reasons. While I am opposed to them in general, I can’t understand how the Yankees can justify having different policies in different parts of the stadium. It means fans sitting in the bleachers are treated differently than fans sitting in the expensive seats.
I am also bothered by having to deal with a mental midget at the bleacher gate, someone probably with an IQ of about 80. I was wearing shorts and a light golf shirt. It had to be fairly obvious I wasn’t trying to sneak in any alcohol. I even raised my shirt and offered to take off my clothes (which I wasn’t really going to do). The Yankee employee doesn’t listen to reason. Just doing his job, he said.
He told me that if I wouldn’t submit to the pat-down, I wasn’t going to get in. I wasn’t interested in causing a scene, so at that point, I turned around and walked out. It cost me $10 – the price of the ticket – but it was worth it because of the principle involved. I don’t want a stranger putting his hands on me. I believe it to be an invasion of my privacy, and it has nothing to do with any homophobia.
But more than that, I am bothered by the passive manner in which folks accept this policy. As far as I could tell, not another person objected. Not a big enough deal, I guess. I’m not asking anyone to walk out the way I did, but maybe raise a complaint or two. For me, this is another sign that as a society, we’re allowing our civil rights to be stripped away because we’ve let fear and paranoia take control of our lives since 9/11. It makes me wonder if the terrorists aren’t winning the war.
The policy certainly hasn’t affected attendance. The bleachers are filled virtually every game, just like the rest of the stadium. The Yankees are going to draw more than four million fans for the second straight season.
But what’s the next logical step from pat-downs? Strip searches?
If the bleacher pat-downs were for security reasons, I still wouldn’t agree with them but at least I would understand them a bit more. But that’s not what they are about. The guard told me the reason the Yankees do the pat-downs in the bleacher section only is because they are trying to prevent people from bringing in alcohol.
OK, so let me get this straight. I could have a switch blade in my sneakers or an explosive device strapped to the inside of my pants and the Yankees’ only concern – for people sitting in the bleachers – is if they might try to smuggle in a flask of Jack Daniels. Amazing. Simply amazing. If the Yankees feel the need to do pat-downs and least do them for the right reason.
A number of years ago, the Yankees stopped selling beer in the bleachers because they were worried about rowdy behavior. That’s what they said, and it was great for public consumption. In truth, it was nothing but a PR stunt. If the Yankees were truly interesting in curbing rowdy behavior and fans drinking and driving home drunk, then they’d ban beer in the entire stadium.
That’ll happen when hell freezes over. Why? Hmmm, let me ponder that one awhile. Methinks it’s because the Yankees charge $8.75 for a beer, which is, more often that not, warm. But that’s another story for another time.