6. Violence and the Sports Business
Isn't it time we focused on making outdoor events safe from violence?
I collided into the the morning of October 2, 2017 with shock and sadness as I opened my news app to see the headlines of carnage from the mass shooting into the crowd of an outdoor music concert in Las Vegas.
I wish I could say I was surprised to learn about this tragic event, but unfortunately I'm not. Horrified, yes. Surprised, no. From Boston to Orlando, San Bernardino to Charlottesville, Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, the only thing consistent is that the slaughtering keeps getting worse.
If you do a Google search for “violence tipping point” you’ll see that since at least 2009,
the media has been saying that we are at a tipping point of violence in the US.
There were ~10,000 Google results in all of 2009 for "violence tipping point". So far in 2017 there are 168,000 results from Google for the same term (soon to be 168,001 after this gets sent). It makes sense. As the frequency of these violent attacks increase, so the horror around it does.
But I will tell you affirmatively that we are not yet at a tipping point for such senseless violence in our country.
The very definition of being at a tipping point is that enough incidences happen that spark large, widespread change. There is sadness, there is shock, there are a lot of people who see the problem. What there isn’t, is meaningful change.
Problem Solvers vs Problem Admirers
In our offices at imATHLETE we talk about the difference between “problem solvers” and “problem admirers”. People who are problem admirers are quick to point out that there is a problem, but are not interested to proactively be part of the solution.
We will know when we’re at a tipping point for violence when we see problem solvers at the highest level of our country making big changes to stop this violence. And I mean *big* changes.
Whether it’s gun control, military-like security, removal of violence in entertainment or any other combination of things, big change means that people who have the power and authority to set laws that impact millions, do so. And truthfully, that’s not happening as I write this, and I am not clear what is going to change in the short term to make it happen.
So, barring me being wrong, that means more violence. I can tell you, with little doubt but great sadness, there will be blood. More people will probably die from senseless violence in the US before our politicians and business leaders do anything about it.
Which brings us right to the sports business.
Violence and the Sports Business
In 2013, the horrendous bombing at the Boston Marathon rattled our industry. That mass violence directed towards a seemingly random crowd of innocent victims was mirrored in Las Vegas. Same idea, different venue, different weapon.
I am fearful, and rightly so, that it's just a matter of time before another horrendous incident directly impacts our endurance business.
As members of the event industry, we bring masses of people together hundreds of times per year. It is no mystery to anybody that it is virtually impossible to completely secure a 13.1 or 26.2 mile course as it winds through a city.
Yes, a small handful of the biggest races can put trash trucks or larger water barriers at intersections to stop a car barreling into the crowd. But can we do that for every single intersection? No. If nothing else, it's cost prohibitive. And there simply aren't that many trash trucks available. So we have risk.
We can't stop people from coming to spectate. To the contrary, we want to make it easy for people to spectate. So we have risk.
We can't scan all the cars and trucks that are parked a few blocks from the course. We can't check every apartment window in every building from every vantage point of every inch of the course. And we can't quickly tell the difference between some kid playing with his toy drone, and a drone that does much much worse. We just can't. We definitely have risk.
Maybe it will be another bombing, a vehicle plowing through the course, maybe a shooter or chemical weapons, maybe that truck sitting randomly unnoticed halfway through the course, where all the spectators are cheering will suddenly - Ka-POW!!!
And what are we going to do then?
Will *that* be the tipping point?
We aren't going to stop putting on events, that's for sure. We aren't going to change our courses to indoor, invite-only laps around a track. So what are we going to do to ensure mass violence doesn't hit our industry again. And again. And again.
And whatever we are going to do, why the heck aren't we doing it now?
I remember the fear after 9/11. We were scared to fly. Scared to look at our neighbors. Scared that it would happen again. This country has long ago lost its innocence. There is too much violence for us to turn a blind eye and pretend it's ok.
Our participants and spectators alike need to be aware. They need to know what to look for and how to react. We need to instruct our participants how to respond in case of emergency.
We need to know that we can't stop the risk of violence at an endurance event - but we absolutely can't turn a blind eye and think we are safe.
It's a new world.
There's too much risk.
Perhaps we lobby our politicians or leverage our masses to force companies to make change.
Maybe we create an outdoor event safety coalition with other large events (music festivals, county fairs, etc.) We work together to create a standard of behavior that extends far beyond sports.
At the very least we need to understand that it takes a village to inspire change. We are not going to solve problems in a vaccuum. Let's talk, communicate, create more standards and solve the problems together. Because the violence has to stop.
We're not at a tipping point yet, but the tipping point is coming.
It has to.