“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
When it comes to the Cleveland Indians fans have had many reasons to be pessimistic. From their collapses over the past few seasons, injuries, their record versus the rival Tigers, bullpen failures, prolonged slumps at the plate or the overwhelming discussion about attendance that won’t go away; fans have been pretty negative. Yet here we sit on the 10th of September with their Tribe sitting only 4.5 games back of Detroit in the division, 2.5 games back of the first Wild Card and 1.5 games back of the second. The team is still in it with 19 games to go. Their opponents winning percentage is .437 lowest in the entire league and their current series with the Royals is their last against a winning record. The Tigers have 18 games remaining so while the team is within striking distance the Tigers must lose 5 more games then the Indians. If the Tigers go 13-5 the Indians must go undefeated, you can do the math. While not out of the realm of possibilities, it will be tough. The Wild Card is a different story, but with so many teams within so few games the most important thing to know is the Tribe’s finishing schedule is the easiest in the league.
So it begs the question: How is this possible? How did the Indians stay within striking distance of the Tigers and within touching distance of the Wild Card? How with a limited rotation, injuries, strikeout prone lineup and dwindling fan support are the Tribe not just alive but alive and kicking? As a professional counselor I see 1 major thing that has kept the team afloat: Optimism. And while some of the veteran players could be playing a key role in that, they would not be in Cleveland except for one man: Terry Francona.
Psychologically if a person is able to see possibilities instead of problems they use different parts of their brains to engage in situations. Possibilities engages a creative, positive outlook into any situation. The optimistic view point not only impacts emotional functioning, which is important, but also the cognitive functioning. I once conducted an experiment where participants watched a sad movie, Sophie’s Choice, and then worked on math problems, basic and word. The other test group watched a comedy then completed the same math problems. Those who watched the comedy scored much higher on accuracy, they also self evaluated the process as much better for them. Do you see the Cleveland Indians this year? With Francona’s influence they have created an optimistic environment where injuries create opportunities for next man up. Where slumps are just opportunities to break out. Where a blown save just means someone can be the walk off hero.
We have all been in a work or family situation where pessimism is the driving force. We shut down our creative cognitive ability and focus only on the black and white most likely outcomes. We settle for this as a probable outcome and either allow it to happen or make it happen. Some of us have been blessed to experience a Francona like experience, where optimism and opportunities rule the air, the discussion and the cognitive processes. The Indians may still fail to make the playoffs, but my guess is they will see this as a stepping stone to something much greater next year. Francona will drive that opportunity.
The Chinese word for crisis is made up of two characters: Danger and Opportunity.
Which do you see when you watch the Indians?