I read last night that Century Link field (known in the Pacific Northwest as the CLink) will no longer allow purses into any Seattle Seahawks game. We're not being singled out: this is a new stadium policy across the National Football League and purses are out everywhere. According to the NFL, "Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size." NFL -- meet the TSA.
I had no idea what a "clutch" purse was when I read the story. A "clutch" in sports usually refers to a "clutch play" or a "clutch player," when someone pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in the final second or bottom of the ninth to win the game. A new "clutch" has been inserted into the sporting lexicon and it's now a purse no larger than a hand (with or without straps) because of the need, according to the NFL, for increased public safety and to speed up entry. The NFL didn't say it in their explanation, but I heard the echoes of the bomb blast at the Boston Marathon continuing to reverberate. Crowds are no longer just fans at games; we have become potential targets. I suppose we always were, but until Boston that fear went unanchored. Once the backpack in Boston was set down next to an eight-year-old, all bets were off. Nothing and no-one is considered off-limits or safe.
Over the years, we've griped and complained our way through airport scanners and body searches. We've silently cussed out Richard Reid while taking off our shoes and juggling carry-ons and computer bags. We've seen the signs at airports, on buses, trains and ferries, warning of the danger of unaccompanied bags. We've been told to stay alert and report anything that doesn't look right. We've been told to consider ourselves and our families in potential danger and act accordingly.
For years, bag searches have been part of Seahawk games but the contraband being looked for was more along the lines of alcohol, firearms, knives, and, more recently, laser pens -- items that could harm an individual or even several but not something specifically designed to cause wholesale carnage. Now, pressure cookers filled with nails has been added to the list. A backpack was used in Boston so backpacks are banned. No one suspected the Tsarnaevs, so everyone is suspect.
The reality of an unsafe world continues to encroach on my world. When I go to a Seahawks game, I'm trying to retreat from the world for a few hours. The conflict I watch on the field is intense and consuming, but it's a game. The people around me are fans. A home game is a home game, someplace I'm supposed to feel at home. Home has become no longer safe. It's been undermined by a decades-long threat of terror in general and by two disaffected brothers in particular.
Will I continue to attend Seahawks home games? Absolutely. They're my team and I look forward to the fall and all the potential the new season brings. I'm sure I'll gripe and complain, just as I do at the airport, about the clear ziplock bags and find out just how much stuff you can stuff into a clutch. But beneath all that annoyance will be an undercurrent of genuine anger. I am incensed at the thought of people in the world capable of callously harming myself, my family, and those I've gotten to know over the years in the seats around me.
When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, I naturally asked myself what I would have done, had I been there. On opening day for the Seahawks, in a small way, there will become here for me.