From the moment we arrived in Atlanta on Sunday, something was different. The lobby at the Marriott Marquis had more police officers than patrons, milling about and sending a clear message to anyone considering any type of chicanery: Don’t try it here.
For 10 prior Super Bowl weeks my family and I have attended, there never had been that kind of a presence so early in the week. Later in the week, sure. But not a full week removed from the game.
This time around, the security grew and grew and grew throughout the week. Bomb-sniffing dogs became the unofficial mascots of Super Bowl LIII, with dozens of them in and around the media center, repeatedly using their three-dimensional olfactory skills on packages, people, garbage cans, briefcases, everything — and carrying all-caps “DO NOT PET” advisories that continuously tempted me to drop to my knees and start rubbing backs and heads and bellies in an effort to secure an answer to the never-ending question of who’s a good girl or good boy?
Plenty of badass women and men also have been patrolling Atlanta, from various branches of law enforcement and military. And it’s arguably more unsettling than it is comforting to see troops in full fatigues and backpacks and assault rifles, a hand at all times on or near the trigger.
Ultimately, it’s a level of overall security far greater than any I’ve seen since I started coming to Super Bowls 10 years ago. Which is comforting. And unsettling.
And the fact that the responsible security professionals have decided that this level of security is needed makes it all more than a little disturbing.