Cooper: The substantive power of optimism in sports, life

Danny Cooper, Columnist

For once in my life, my beloved New York Mets enter the impending season as one of the favorites to win the World Series. This has not happened too often in my fandom, and the general mood of the fanbase is unnervingly, unusually positive. And though I know everything may and probably will go wrong, I will try to enjoy the ride.

It’s not as if the other teams I supported then and still root for now are much better: the butt-fumbling Jets, the melodramatic Knicks and the never-quite-good-enough Rangers. Even the team I most recently adopted, the Northwestern Wildcats, has historically been somewhat of a laughingstock, with the men’s basketball team never having appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

However, out of all of my favorite teams, the Mets have forever been the most ridiculed. Since their inaugural season in 1962, when the Mets finished with a historically terrible 120 losses, the on-field product has been consistently mortifying — until last year, when the Mets overcame offensive futility and the occasional sobbing player to win the National League pennant.

For me, a situation like this actually working out was incomprehensible. So accustomed to the disappointment of the past, I never expected the Mets to actually succeed. Instead, I had adjusted my expectations to include the possibility of soul-crushing defeat around every corner. Though I am not completely rid of that attitude by any means, the 2015 Mets season reintroduced me to the belief that my team could overcome the odds and actually compete.

It’s an attitude I hope to embody in my NU fandom and my NU life. Yes, as I mentioned before, the men’s basketball team has never made the NCAA Tournament. And the football team’s surprising season came to a disappointing end in the Outback Bowl loss. But looking at NU athletics through an optimistic lens enables one to enjoy individual accomplishments and games without stressing too much over the frequently underwhelming end-of-the-season standings.

Take the women’s basketball team. The season as a whole might be viewed as a disappointment, as the Cats were ranked as high as No. 12 for a time before struggling their way through conference play into a first round exit at the WNIT. However, such a pessimistic viewpoint negates the impact of the impressive run the team made through the Big Ten Tournament. Though they could not overcome Maryland, the Cats’ run through fierce competition was unlikely and inspiring, and one which could be enjoyed despite the end result. Allowing yourself to believe in the possibility of something spectacular occurring can make the sting of disappointment a little less sharp.

After a 10-win season, NU football will face higher expectations than perhaps ever before, but with a daunting schedule, it seems unlikely the Cats will match that mark. Some have already crossed out away dates at Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa as losses, and they may very well be blowouts at that. But believing NU has the ability to beat the powerhouse teams of the Big Ten will make those games that much more enjoyable, even if the Cats cannot pull off the upsets.

Applying this principle to the rest of life is perhaps more challenging, but also equally rewarding in some cases. Something being unlikely is not a reason to avoid supporting it; in fact, it means your support is that much more valuable. Believing in a cause and fighting for it helps it become more real.

Opening Day in the MLB is filled with hope, some of it misguided and most of it temporary. However, there is a chance my hope will be realized this year. Even if it’s not, though, I know this will be a season I enjoy because I’m going into it with optimism. After surviving through Winter Quarter, Northwestern students should try to approach the spring with the same mentality.

Danny Cooper is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.