Opening Day Optimism

1 Apr

An unexpected but well-fought victory brings hope. But first, let’s talk baseball.

Opening Day only comes once a year. Months of preparation, talk, buildup, excitement and strategizing – and then, it arrives.

Opening Day used to officially end the season of Sox optimism. You could fool yourself during spring training that this year they’d play well. They’d beat the Yankees in a game and we’d begin whispering our deepest Sox dreams to each other. And then they’d engineer a few epic defeats and crush our spirits. But because they are the Boston Red Sox and we are nothing if not loyal intense fans, we’d never wallow in bitterness…for too long.

And then 2004 and 2007 happened. And suddenly we began talking about our team like the rest of the baseball world. Instead of disasters and curses, we discussed rookies and postseason rotations. It was delightfully normal. It felt really good.

You forget how refreshing a victory can be after you become accustomed to defeat.

2010 wasn’t a great year for the Sox. The main culprit? Inglorious injuries. When a former equipment manager (Daniel Nava) started a game, well, you knew the season was hitting rock bottom. Dustin Pedroia broke his foot. Jacoby Ellsbury broke some ribs. (All the female fans deserted at about this point). Victor Martinez broke his thumb, Mike Cameron had a hernia, Youk had a nasty muscle tear. Ryan Westmoreland had a malformation removed from his brain that nearly caused blindness.

You get the picture.

But 2011, the 100th season for the Red Sox looks promising. Despite the fact that they are being touted as the team to watch (along with my beloved Phillies) and I prefer them to be in their typical wild card/underdog position, I’m excited. 2004 and 2007 weren’t that long ago. I can still taste the victory.

An unexpected but well-fought victory brings hope. And hope is powerful. Some people can cling to it longer than others. As leaders, we need to be hope-bringers and victory-reminders. Sell the vision again and again. Refresh the memories of victories (against all odds, maybe?). Do not let your team or your coworkers or your friends become accustomed to and expectant of defeat. Years of studying military strategy and battles have shown me one thing over and over again – there is a psychological and physical advantage to having hope. To thinking you have the upper hand. To acknowledging that you’re as low as you can go and it’s time to pick your head up, set your sights on something big, and begin climbing.

Bring hope. Remind your people of the victories. Expect injuries. Anticipate setbacks. Don’t view them as game-enders, just game-changers. Don’t think positive thoughts in your head. Spread the enthusiasm and determination and future you’re envisioning.

And celebrate Opening Day. It’s a new season.


One Response to “Opening Day Optimism”

  1. Susan Zelie April 1, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Your great-grandpa Joe, original rabid Sox fan, was born 110 years ago this month, in 1901, the same year the Red Sox were known as the Boston Americans. When he was 15 and 17, his team won the World Series. Though he lived to be an old man, he never saw them win again. But he never gave up hope of victory. And he passed that on to us.

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