What Is A Community? Is Nantucket Going To Be One Much Longer?

Meghan Blair •

To the editor: I find myself with time to write because my co-ed softball league game has been canceled again. While I’m never sad about having more time to write, I am a bit forlorn about the reason. This season, our local adult league is down a team (maybe more than one as things roll along), and two out of the three games have been canceled due to the other team not having enough players.

All that is required to play in our top-notch softball league is really: 1. Time; 2. Desire. If you come out and watch a game, you will see that skill and athleticism have little to do with things. Sure, some gifted athletes are whiling away their sunset years on the field, but you will also see some folks like me who miss as many as we make, are carrying a few extra pounds, and our knees gave out two seasons ago. This league is, of course, about a championship, but at its heart, it’s a reason to get out of the house, to get off the couch and our phones, to socialize outside of a bar, to get some exercise, and frankly, to make some friends. I haven’t been able to afford a gym membership in about a decade, but twice to three times a week, I run around some bases and chase down a few fly balls.

For folks without kids, adult recreational sports are one of the few places where connections and new friendships can still be formed outside of work. Let’s face it: If you aren’t a regular gym-goer, adult recreational sports are possibly all that stands between you and a variety of health conditions — of both the mental and physical sort.

There is something beautiful and relaxing about the crack of the bat with waves crashing in the distance. Yet, I fear, our local softball league will likely go the way of the demolition derby, waitress races, and other quaint community activities. Each year, participation declines. As people face higher and higher housing costs, increased fuel costs, sky-high grocery tabs, and price increases at every turn, their paycheck covers less. Their work day gets longer to cover the difference and MAYBE get ahead. Folks like teachers pick up second and even third jobs. The local firefighter moves to the Cape and commutes. These survival strategies leave less time to connect in the community. Less time for softball leagues. Less time to volunteer. Less time to make it to church or to plan a block party.

Now, softball is hardly the keystone of a healthy community, but I do feel that its decline is a symptom of something much bigger—like a small lump that is truly a festering cancer.

What does Nantucket look like when people don’t get to know their neighbors? What kind of a place do we become when we are all so exhausted from surviving that the best we can do is zoom through Instagram and like each other’s posts rather than share a meal together in real life? What does the mental health of middle-aged men (three out of four suicide casualties) begin to look like here when all anyone can do is work to get by?

As we look at policy and long-term planning, many data points must be considered and monitored. The weekly median sales price of homes and the average price of eggs should not be discounted. However, I would challenge the decision makers and my community to monitor how many adult recreational sports games happen in a given year and the total number of participants. How many fewer beach stickers do we sell to locals each year? How many fewer parents are volunteering for Friends of Nantucket Public Schools? What does the sports booster club participation look like? Those things may be the real indicators of community health - at least the ones that matter.

Meghan Blair

Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current Opinion