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November 16, 2009

My Turn: Being a local fan is hard in times like these

This week's "My turn" column is by Joseph C. Stillman, an Oneonta-based producer and director and founder of La Paloma Films. He is also a local sports and arts fan.

I have to be honest, I've never been much of a baseball fan. For me, the game was always too slow. But what do I know? I like soccer and I play golf.

This summer, when I attended an Oneonta Tigers game with my friend Ben, it occurred to me that being a local fan in Oneonta was something more than just watching a sporting event. It was an experience, a responsibility even.

Damaschke Field is a great place to be on a summer evening. The new owners were doing a great job of promoting the game and making it a wonderful experience for all who attended. Their staff couldn't be friendlier or more accommodating. But where were all the other local fans?

Did the attendance drop because the cost to get in was raised? Do people expect to go to every game for free without regard for a fair admission price to make it financially viable for the team?

The five games I attended were hardly capacity crowds. I had a sinking feeling at the last game that unless things changed next year, we may not have a team to watch the following season.

When I was at the induction ceremony at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in August, I had that same gut instinct, and look what's happened since? Where were all the local supporters in our community? It was a wonderful ceremony that should have had a better turnout.

Last month, I went to several very creative events at the Foothills Performing Arts Center that were sparsely attended, as well. These were quality programs that didn't cost much to see. Where was everyone? Their events were well promoted and were great entertainment. Why the no-shows?

Maybe I've attended events on off-days or my timing is bad, but I don't really think so. In our community, we sometimes take for granted what we have in our very midst. There are many things happening all around us, especially in the summer.

Some folks have said that it's not our responsibility to help local arts organizations or businesses prosper. Let the market dictate who does well and who doesn't. Capitalism will dictate what is best for the masses, they say.

But I'm not so sure. I'd like to think we should feel a sense of commitment to what we have within our area. In a way, it is our responsibility to be supportive of everything local because when we help each other, we ultimately help ourselves in the process.

It's sustainability at its best. Personally, I like buying tires or expendables from local merchants. They put themselves out there and take the risks and, more times than not, hang in there for us, their customers.

In the last 10 years particularly, special-interest groups on a national front have created a series of agendas that are trickling down to a local level. They distort and skew the facts for nothing more than political gain.

Even though I didn't agree with the policies of the Bush administration, I certainly didn't wish our then-president ill. I didn't want him to fail, just to prove a point.

That kind of rationale to me is simply wrong and it shortchanges us as citizens in the long run because it isn't an honest dialogue.

It's a disingenuous attempt to sway the public for motives that are usually driven by profits for corporations rather than what's best for the average hard-working American. We, as citizens in a great country and particularly in a wonderful area of our state, need to analyze what is actually happening nationally because it can affect us locally.

I, for one, have come to the realization that we're all in this big regional boat together. I thought our recent election was a great example of the best-qualified candidates who won the job rather than being elected through a party affiliation.

I was proud that people voted with the good of our community in mind. In my opinion, that's what local politics should be. The decisions that elected leaders in our community will make ultimately will have an effect on all of us.

Fortunately, we have quality organizations, churches, businesses and great citizens within our midst. They do incredible work and perform unbelievable deeds for the good of our area.

The health clinic is one good example among many. I believe we need to be better "fans," more active, supportive participants to these cherished institutions and businesses or we simply won't have them anymore "¦ plain and simple.

I don't care if the Oneonta Stallions set the record for the most points scored against them every single season. I'm going to be there to cheer them on next year because they deserve our support.

I'm going to go to more Tigers games next year, attend more Foothills Performing Arts events and help the Oneonta Theatre return to its former glory.

I'll be attending more OHS games, SUNY and Hartwick contests and buying more from local businesses on Main Street this year, because it's something I feel compelled to do.

In times like these, my meager contributions may not seem like much, but if we all contribute collectively, we can and will make a difference in our community. It's the least a local fan can do.

Stillman can be reached at

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at or 432-1000, ext. 214.