Seeing Opportunity in Every Difficulty

NLDS 2016

Ready for Opening Day

Today is opening day for the Washington Nationals.  If the president really wanted to make America great again, he would declare opening day of the baseball season a national holiday.  It could be a celebration of optimism and new beginnings.

I find that a clear-eyed optimism is an important element for a balanced outlook on life.  While former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson spoke for one approach when he said, “I’m an optimist, but an optimist who carries an umbrella,”  one of his predecessors as prime minister – Winston Churchill – probably did a better job of hitting the nail on the head. Churchill, who governed during some of the darkest days of civilization, said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Circling back to baseball, fans for every team in America are optimistic (clear-eyed and otherwise) on opening day.  They know that in years past teams have gone from “worst to first” in one year (see Atlanta Braves, 1991), so it could happen again.  Heck, even the Cubs won the World Series last year after a drought that may have seemed to their fans like a millennium (but was only a century) in length.  New players blend with familiar favorites – just like old and new buildings in a thriving, vibrant city – as we look expectantly to the future.  The fact that opening day takes place in the spring when the trees and flowers are coming back to life makes the symmetry that much better.

When I was at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design last month, I was struck by how many of the cities represented had minor league baseball stadiums.  A recent survey by the National Trust’s Forum Research Desk found 33 historic ballparks still in use in cities represented by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  All of this led me to think that perhaps the reports of the death of baseball as America’s game have been – to paraphrase Mark Twain – greatly exaggerated.  My favorite minor league park among the ones I saw at the Mayors’ Institute was Modern Woodman Park in Davenport, Iowa.  The city has made the conscious decision not to build a flood wall on the nine miles of the Mississippi River that boarders Davenport and to build in a sustainable, resilient way that respects nature instead of trying to tame it.  Yet the baseball stadium sits within sight of the river.  In the floodplain.  When the river floods (as many as several times per year), temporary walls go around the stadium, a floating walkway is set up to the parking lot on higher ground, and baseball is played on a field surrounded (literally) by the mighty Mississippi.  Who says American ingenuity is dead!

Modern Woodman Park

Modern Woodman Park on game day…during a flood. (photo credit: MiLB.com)

No matter your thoughts about baseball, enjoy this spring and the time of new beginnings.  And let’s look for opportunity in difficulties.

Have a great week.

More to come…

DJB

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