Saturday, May 25, 2013

thoughts on the Ogden Half-Marathon (Wheeling, WV - 2013)

This morning I ran the annual Ogden race (not the 20K, just the measly 5K).  Time was around 27 minutes.  About a minute slower than usual.  No big deal.

Of course I jogged the race "bandit" style.  For all you newbies out there, I suggest you read the FAQ.  Being a "race bandit" means you don't pay the entrance fee.  You just show up and run the damn thing.  Do not fret.  I don't engage in this behavior if the race is for a charitable cause, which most are.  But when the proceeds go to the Wheeling Jesuit University pedophile priest Catholic defense fund or something of that ilk... call me crazy, but I don't wish to contribute.

Sorry if this sounds as though I'm impugning the Nutting family (primary race sponsors with an estimated net worth exceeding 1 billion).  I just don't think they need my $30.  More on this later.

Anyway, I parked up near WVNCC and headed down to the starting point by the Intelligencia headquarters.  The first thing I noticed was the "safe zone."  Legions of Wheeling police, firefighters and the addition of ubiquitous McKeen Security guards.  Their collective duty was to protect the integrity of 14th Main and Market Streets no matter what the cost.  Safeguard that stank area (it always smells like a sewer), if necessary... with their lives.  Be on the lookout for baby strollers, knapsacks, purses and briefcases.  You don't see many briefcases on a Saturday morning.  But hey, I've got news for you.  Has anyone ever heard of a suitcase nuke?  Yep, all these precautionary measures are necessary because... Well... what if ???   

What if Moondog was to cast a suspicious, prolonged stare?
What if someone tampered with the Domino's Pizza portable heating units?
What if the Kenyan who won the race was related to a Nigerian leader of the anti-Chevron group MEND  (movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta)?  You see... he could be part of some Central African sleeper cell.  Those guys have especially deep cover because they run a lot and consequently don't get much sleep.

I could be admittedly naive when it comes to all this increased security.  These guys seem like they know what they're doing. 

Obviously, they have an unquestionable commitment to public safety.  And that commitment shalt not be challenged nor scrutinized.  To do so would demonstrate a marked lack of patriotism.

Like I was saying, maybe I'm not the keenest observer.  Maybe I don't know shit about the inner workings of the impenetrable safe-zone.  But it seemed to me like everyone was just standing around chit-chatting.  I began to contemplate the matter further... you can't have a "safe zone" without the word "safe."  And you cannot truly be "safe" without the word "saf."  At this precise moment I made a critical decision - that if I were to see a woman who "might" appear "supposedly" 7-8 months pregnant... that she was likely fetus-faking.  In reality, she was probably hiding some kind of homemade gunt-bomb.  If and when I saw a woman fitting this description, it would be necessary to tackle her to the asphalt and cry out for the nearest authorities (perhaps the FBI agent assigned to guarding the row of port-a-jons - the Wheeling field office bureau calls it "crapper-trapper death row").  Hey, we've all got to do our part.  Even though female gunt-bombers are the exception in the Ohio Valley, not the rule.  Still, better off safe than sorry.

A canine unit 4-legged police officer drug/bomb sniffing dog was the main attraction.  And boy, that German Shepherd was barking incessantly.  He almost seemed to steal the show from the master of ceremonies.  There's nothing wiser than bringing out the police dogs... because we all know that something horrible is bound to happen.  It could be at the Chili-cook off.  It might be the Italian Festival.  Whatever the occasion, just be sure to "release the hounds" ahead of time.

The safe zone had a problem - some of the orange plastic fencing was sagging.  It may have been stepped on.  And some of the barrels and barricades had been moved slightly so observers could get a better view of the race.  Suffice to say, all the bizarro, warped security procedures enacted for "the dangerous 48 hour looming threat period" had to suddenly take a back seat because Edna from Benwood wanted a hot cup of joe and Cassie from Beech Bottom felt the need to photobomb a group pic of the Iron-Men.* 

Need I remind you that EVIL is lurking.  And just who might commit these heinous acts?  Well, the evil-doers of course.  Makes sense I suppose (from the perspective of an 87 year old woman, knitting a blanket, watching reruns of Falcon Crest, who has lived her entire life in Triadelphia).

We all must do our part to stop the EVIL.  And how do you prevent this evil?  Well, the only way I can surmise is to be extra-hyper-super vigilant.  It's the main reason I yell at people who are smoking cigarettes when they fill up their gas tanks.  Their secret plan is to blow up the Elm Grove Citgo - they call themselves the NWTSB (nicotine white trash suicide bombers).  First they pump 5 bucks.  Then they eat the Slim Jim.  Then, it's time to martyr yourself and cry-out Honey Boo-Boo (allah-akbar style). 

After an unusually ear-piercing national anthem AND the traditional non-secular prayer for everyone's safety including a reference to the inevitable return of Jesus Christ, we heard a loud bang.  But twas no ordinary cap gun.  This thing went...


It sounded a little like a Daisycutter bomb being dropped in Afghanistan.  Kind of ironic if you take into consideration the entire line of reasoning behind all the heightened security (Boston tragedy).

After finishing the race, I sensed a rare opportunity - to speak with a professional sports owner about the outdated status of stadium emergency evacuation protocol.  I approached Bob Nutting (Pirates owner), introduced myself and gave him a 5 minute overview of my concerns regarding the artificially generated stampede.  He was incredibly receptive and offered some observations about the recent Associated Press Twitter hack as well as some all-encompassing thoughts from a recent owners meeting.

I must say - the guy was so pleasant and unbecoming... I began to feel a slight sense of guilt for past occasions when I've lambasted the Buccos organization.  Specifically this flier I constructed and handed out a couple years ago...

But hey, you gotta have thick skin if you're a pro sports owner.  I'm sure he realizes this.  It's all part of the game.  Fans have a right to "boo" now, don't they?

Regardless, I told him I'd be in touch.  So I sent him an email just before I wrote this blog entry.  But it bounced back as undeliverable.  So I printed it out and will drop it in an old-school mail box this afternoon.

Mr. Nutting,

I had difficulty sending you an email - it bounced back undeliverable.

Thanks for taking a moment to speak with me the morning of the Ogden race.  I hope I didn't take you aback.  The content of the conversation requires an extreme degree of forwardness and I often talk too fast and try to cram in excessive details. 

My concerns about the "artificially generated stampede" revolve mostly around NFL and NCAA division I stadiums, but I'm sure you'd agree that the essence of the issue is a very generic one.  It will inevitably apply to baseball stadiums, race tracks, arena events, really any large gatherings in confined spaces.  Simply stated, the solution needs to be PROACTIVE, not reactive.  And further complicating the matter, mitigation is not an effective strategy.

You asked me about my perspective "or angle" regarding stadium emergency evacuation protocol.  The answer to that question might surprise you but it requires a real explanation.  I've spent over 2 years delving into this issue and have acquired a great deal of information that lies "under the radar."  I'd be honored to share my findings.

I've generally come to the conclusion that the answers I seek will not be found in the Wheeling/Pittsburgh area.  But then again, I've been surprised a few times during this journey. 

If you wish, I'd enjoy the opportunity of taking you to lunch and discussing the matter further.  But I'll leave this entirely in your hands.  It's a challenging issue to resolve and I don't wish to be a nuisance.


Eric Saferstein
Wheeling, WV


PS - I also have an unorthodox promotional idea for the Pirates organization, something that could bolster the spirit of the city and coincide with a pennant run after the all-star break.

I'm curious to see if he responds. Will he contact me or will my concerns be disregarded?  Any predictions?

Well... I'm off to Weirton to meet up with Gigi and our Raleigh friends.  Remember, it's Memorial Day weekend.  Be safe out there.  Aside from the seat belt checkpoints, drug checkpoints and DUI checkpoints, I think it's finally time for the Wheeling PD to step up their game.  I would humbly suggest bomb and IED checkpoints.  You could stagger them once a week outside the Alpha and Tony and Cleo's.  With all that EVIL lurking, this seems like a reasonable course of action.

 * - The Iron-Men is a group of about 20 old guys that have run every Wheeling distance race. 


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