Sports venues not immune to tragedy

MANDEVILLE — The warmups were complete, the hamburgers were grilling, and nearby a toddler played under the watchful eye of her grandfather as the Fontainebleau and St. Scholastica high school softball teams lined up for the introductions and National Anthem before their Class 5A playoff game Tuesday.

But first, a reminder of the real world — a request for a moment of silence for those killed and injured in the terrorist bombing the day before near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

And for a moment, there’s the realization, “It could happen here, too.”

Cruelly, our safety cocoon of sports has been penetrated as never before. Three dead, nearly 200 injured.

Certainly 9/11 forever changed security at major events in America as the recent Super Bowl played in New Orleans demonstrated. The bag inspections and metal detectors have become as routine as what one experiences at an airport.

But beyond that, sports presents an array of “soft targets,” all of which are, to some degree, frighteningly vulnerable to those who wish to do us harm.

That includes not just the coward(s) behind Monday’s bombing, who may have misguided political or religious motivation, but also those who simply become unhinged and create mayhem in places like schools.

In fact, in the first four months of this year, there are have been 13 shootings on college campuses alone, including one Monday at Grambling where three students were injured.

Imagine the horror an armed lunatic could inflict at a high school football or softball game.

But remarkably, no sports-related attacks come to mind, or at least none since the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, even though certainly it would have been easy to infiltrate any number of them.

Until Monday.

In choosing the Boston Marathon, the perpetrator(s) hit perhaps the ideal soft athletic target — a large crowd, but unscreened and spread along a 26-mile race course where the primary security concern was keeping the streets clear for the runners.

Likely there was no thought of terrorism, and, in any event, it would have been near-impossible to guard against.

“In our pre-race meetings with the city, the Homeland Security folks remind our volunteers to report anything suspicious,” said Eric Stuart, race director for the Crescent City Classic. “But mainly we’re worried about some knucklehead jumping out in the street and trying to tackle one of the runners.

“I’m sure by next year we’ll be tightening up our plans in other areas.”

Meanwhile, we do well to remember Monday’s victims.

One of them, 8-year-old Martin Richard, has been described as a “vivacious little kid,” who played soccer, basketball and baseball.

He also had an awareness that the world is not always a peaceful place.

There’s a picture of Martin holding a sign he made that says, “No more hurting people.”

To which we’d like to add, “Please.”