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Ballad of Raljon Jail

Saturday, July 5, 1997; Page A18

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MANY A man at a Redskins game/(And a number of women as well)/Has behaved at one time or another in ways/That he'd rather forget, truth to tell,/Which is all the more reason to look out this season/Or risk ending up in a cell.

To put it another way: Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, in the Maryland enclave of Raljon, is going to have the very latest in security systems and detention facilities when it opens for business soon. It may make you feel a little safer, or it may just give you the creeps. The Redskins and the Prince George's County police department have, reports The Post's Thomas Heath, "put together a state-of-the-art camera system that can scan the crowd, zoom in on a perpetrator bothering a seat neighbor and -- with the help of a computer overlay -- direct security to the row where the disruptive fan is sitting." If the situation warrants, the offender can then be taken to one of the three special holding cells in the lower reaches of the stadium, there to await eventual transportation to a police station.

Cooke Stadium will have a bank of video monitors where security people can watch what's going on in concourses and on the parking lots as well as all across the huge crowd in the stands. A couple of highly placed cameras will supposedly be capable of covering the whole panoply, searching for troublemakers.

Of course, what they'll get in this dragnet is the really obvious malefactor -- the one who throws something dangerous into the crowd or onto the field, the falling-down drunk, the habitual brawler -- which is all to the good. But in fact, the number of Washington fans who do this sort of thing is tiny; only one person has been arrested at a Redskins' home game in the past six years. For most people, the problem is the bothersome neighbor who jumps up and blocks your view on every passing play, or uses language a little too salty within your kids' hearing or gets up 10 times a game for refreshments. They're annoying, but they're not hooligans, and they're not subject to the criminal code. Neither, fortunately, are bad imitations of Oscar Wilde:

For meanwhile, down deep in the stadium jail,/Far away from the jubilant roar,/A wretch in a cell has been given a phone/To make just one call, and no more,/Which he uses to reach his friend Harry and ask,/"Never mind about me, what's the score?"

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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