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No more complaints, please. No more gripes when you're standing in line outside a game.

No more whining about having to wait 10 minutes for security frisking or wand-waving at a major sports event in the United States. No more grumbling about possibly missing a kickoff or tipoff.

The awfulness of Monday's event at the Boston Marathon finish line will take awhile to process, to sort out and analyze thoroughly. But we do know this much: If any sports entity in our country was deciding whether to decrease its security budget and save a few bucks, that choice has now become very easy.

Sports events, as some of our culture's most popular and visible events, are especially inviting targets for those seeking to create mayhem and horror. In 1996, I covered the Atlanta Olympics bombing -- arriving within an hour at the site of the explosion -- and remember the shocking confusion. But that tragedy occurred at an outdoor concert held in conjunction with the games, not at an Olympic event itself.

That's why Monday was even more frightening. I have also covered the Boston Marathon. I recall thinking that it must be a nightmare for crowd control officials as well as security forces. The Boston Marathon is a classic American spectacle, starting in a leafy suburb and proceeding through several neighborhoods before reaching downtown. The race occurs annually on Patriot's Day, a civic holiday that involves a day off work or school for many people, plus a Red Sox day game at Fenway Park.


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The baseball game is timed to end just about the time marathon runners are trotting by the stadium. The finish line is a mile and a half away from Fenway. Traditionally, baseball fans leave the ballpark and line up to cheer the marathoners. All of which is to say that while Monday was a terrible event, it could have been a lot worse. What if the bombs in Boston had been set off closer to Fenway instead of at the finish line?

My friend Ted Atlas is a sports security expert from San Jose who has worked multiple Super Bowls as well as at 49ers and Raiders games. He confirmed that a marathon is probably the hardest event for which to draw up a protective plan.

"How do you secure a 26-mile course that goes through an entire city?" asked Atlas, who was not in Boston on Monday and was watching the television coverage like the rest of us.

Atlas is certain that the marathon takes proper security precautions, with dog-sniffing sweeps before the event. But when there are so many access points along the course, there is no way to assure complete safety.

What's striking in video of the bombings is how a number of people in yellow jackets are lining the street, "protecting" the course. But the explosion occurred behind that yellow jacket lineup, seemingly in a building or on a sidewalk. Some of the yellow jackets were among those knocked down and injured.

It just demonstrates that 100 percent protection is impossible, no matter how many people are hired to provide such protection. But it means we must keep trying. The alternative is to cancel all large sports events that might draw attention from future bombers. And that can't happen.

The Boston Marathon and the World Series and the Rose Bowl and the Kentucky Derby are iconic American happenings, gatherings that allow us to celebrate and affirm the stuff that makes us unique. Those events also give us a chance to mix and revel with each other on common grounds that defy our occasional differences.

We don't know yet why someone wanted to wreck all of that with Monday's bombs. It must have been a sick soul or sick group of souls. The hardest thing to do in the immediate wake of such a tragedy is to step back and create perspective. Attention rightfully is placed on prayers for the victims and seeking justice for the perpetrators.

But in the ensuing days, after giving the proper respect to the dead and injured -- and after we have found the guilty people -- I would hope that we take a deep breath. We should feel fortunate that nothing like this had previously occurred at a significant sports event. We should consider the thousands of games that have taken place safely in America after the precautions that were put in place following 9/11 to make certain that we could enjoy those games.

And we should remember why that has happened. Security lines are a pain. And I won't lie: There have been moments when, delayed at an arena or stadium entrance, I have muttered and called the process a joke.

That was me being stupid. Because nothing went wrong at any of those arenas and stadiums. I wish nothing had gone wrong Monday in Boston. But to have the best chance of nothing wrong happening at another sports event, I know we all must adopt one policy: No complaining.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com.

On A1

Bombings transform Boston Marathon finish line to scene of carnage and death.


Online extra

For more coverage on the Boston Marathon bombings, go to www.mercurynews.com
For a live blog, go to http://live.mercurynews.com/Event/2013_Boston_Marathon
For a photo slideshow, visit http://photos.mercurynews.com/