I've been in metal fabricating shops where company managers are open with information and make it a point to communicate regularly with their employees. Boy, does that make a difference.
Even in the most trying of times—the first half of 2009, for example—this type of commitment kept everyone on the same page. As incoming revenues shrunk, the team knew that everyone, including those who sat in the front office, was going to share in the sacrifice. That meant a reduction in work hours for some and temporary furloughs for others. Those companies that did what they could to soften the blow for their workforces bounced back stronger in 2010 than their competitors, who were scrambling to replace laid-off employees that decided to search for greener pastures.
Of course, the leaders of those metal fabricating operations, which now are looking at revenues that closely match those earned in the record year 2007, had to maintain a positive disposition during the bleak first quarter of 2009. If they didn't believe in the steps their companies were taking, the employees would be able to read that on their faces. Panic would have ensued, and producing quality metal parts would not have been the top concern of the day.
I guess that's a first-class example of the power of positive thinking. I tend to believe I'm more of a "realist," one who hopes for the best but is very cognizant of the obstacles that must be overcome to achieve a desired result. As I've grown older, I've come to realize that a positive attitude helps us to take on those challenges; otherwise, we are defeated before we even begin our journey.
I write about this only because I experienced a moment recently that reminded me just how easy it is to slip into that negative mindset. This has to do with the Chicago Cubs, so please bear with me.
I had recently watched the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell," which looked at the events of the sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship Series game versus the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were only five outs away from advancing to the World Series to contend for the club's first World Series championship since 1908. Then Cub fan Steve Bartman reached out for a ball in foul territory that Cubs left fielder Moises Alou thought he could catch for a much-needed out. Bartman didn’t make the catch, and neither did Alou. Alou threw a fit, and the fans went back to paying attention to the game.
After the Marlins scored eight runs to make the score 8-3, the mood had shifted and Bartman was turned into the scapegoat. Needless to say, the Cubs didn't make it to the World Series that year or any year since.
What struck me about the documentary—besides the vicious attitude Cubs fans displayed toward one of their own—was how it captured the mood in the stadium after the botched Alou foul ball catch and the subsequent Marlins rally from a 3-0 deficit. The Cubs fandom assumed the worst right away. The stadium went silent as if everyone was waiting for the next bad thing to happen, which it did. The crowd didn't jump-start itself to help energize the Cubs for a rally; it turned its anger on Bartman, undeservedly considering how the Cubs collapsed on their own.
That attitude of self-defeatism carried over to game seven of the same series, and the Marlins went on to win that game and their second World Series in only 10 years of existence. Ouch.
That type of attitude is pretty prevalent among Cub fans. I found myself slipping into it just this past week. The Cubs have hired Theo Epstein, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, as its new head of baseball operations. Immediately, I start thinking of all the bad free-agent signings that Epstein has made in recent years: $82.5 million for John Lackey, who had a 6.41 ERA this year; $70 million for outfielder J.D. Drew, who can't stay healthy; and $142 million for Carl Crawford, who forgot how to bat this year.
Somehow those thoughts overshadow the fact that Epstein reinvigorated the Red Sox franchise with homegrown minor league talent and some key free-agent signings in the early 2000s, which ultimately led to two World Series victories in that decade. The 2004 championship ended an 86-year championship drought for the team that sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
Epstein knows how to defeat the ghosts of the past. I should recognize that fact. All Cubs fans should recognize that fact.
Better days are ahead. I'm positive about that. After a 71-91 record in 2011, the Cubs can't get any worse.