Monday, August 29, 2016

Big Deal About Little League

The town I grew up in is all over the news today. Endwell, New York, is the Little League World Series champions, after defeating South Korea 2-1 yesterday in the finals of the annual Williamsport tournament. I have rarely seen this many people in this area put aside their differences for any reason; everybody, it seems, has been quite vocal about their support for the intrepid grade-schoolers.
Including myself. I remember a few years ago filling these page week after week with the exploits of Sabrina's all-star team when she in this age group. And it's easy to root for a bunch of kids; it really is. Especially since they are using their time on stage in the right way--I didn't see any woofing, any egotistical displays, any questionable or objectionable behavior. They are doing us all proud.
There will be some kind of parade today (although I can't imagine where in the area they're going to hold it; it's not like there's a ton of candidates), and I imagine for a week or so there will be banners and signs in the window and all that. And good for them; let them enjoy their time in the sun. It was bittersweet to see on Facebook all the messages coming in from all over the country and the world from people that used to live here in support of their efforts.
Because the key words are "used to live here." I also have a class reunion coming up, and I would say at least half of the people invited don't live in this area any longer. I understand that part of this country's appeal and charm is the freedom to move within it, to pursue your dreams and your destiny rather easily (by contrast, my father had relatives in Italy whose generations have lived on the lower slopes of Vesuvius for at least 400 years). But it also is indicative of an exodus. This area, in the heyday of IBM, Link, and defense contracting, was actually a rather prosperous pocket of New York. That is long gone as a general rule. Endwell and its school district, Maine-Endwell, are about the last redoubts of prosperity in the area, and its prominence in sports on a state and national level is not an accident (its football team set a national record last fall for longest winning streak).
And it's even more bittersweet knowing that it's Maine-Endwell in the spotlight. Maine-Endwell used to be the runt brother in the three-school district Town of Union. As a matter of fact, I spent most of my childhood living within the borders of Endwell, but attending Union-Endicott schools because the district lines were drawn in such a way as to funnel most of the prosperous families, at that time, into the U-E district. The success being enjoyed by M-E sports teams now is an echo of the dominance U-E had when I was in school; we won a state football championship, a state baseball championship, and didn't lose a track meet during the time my siblings and I attended, and we came very close on several occasions to winning the state basketball championship. Those are the kind of accomplishments M-E is racking up now. I'm not jealous or complaining; I am just pointing out that the local world has shifted demographically, and that's why it is happening. After all, the actual M-E high school is on Farm to Market Road--and the other side of the road is part of the U-E school district, because at the time the area was populating, that's where the money was.
But the larger point should be, and I'm working my way to saying it, is that ultimately, what separates us should not be as important as what unites us. Housing patterns may change, and demographic shifts occur, but we are still still a part of this area, and it is times like this that show us that pulling together in support of each other is more than possible. If we could pull together like this on larger issues affecting the area--like the heroin epidemic, like the sales tax distribution, like school consolidation--think of what could be accomplished. Everybody in the area feels good when some of our locals make good. If we can hang onto that sentiment just a little while longer, maybe we can pull the entire area out of the tailspin we've been enduring for nearly four decades now.

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