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The Blessing, or Curse, of Optimism

My wife never lets me live it down.

I tend to think of myself as a relatively sane person. Someone grounded in reality. If I see a problem, my first response is to find a solution to the problem before I worry or get mad about its cause. I tend to see things flexibly, but invariably leading down a path to something good. Some call it a glass half full approach, but I've always considered it the only way to live. I mean if you're going to constantly focus on the negative, you're going to be an unhappy person. So why not chose to look at the events and tribulations of life as things that help guide you to a better tomorrow?

That's how I've always looked at things. I just called it being "realistic". So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when, at our pre-martial retreat in South Bend, the good people "volunteering" to "teach us about marriage" told me that I was idealistic and my wife was the realistic one. We'd completed a multiple choice "test" a couple weeks prior and sent it in to the people running the retreat for evaluation. Being my normal self, I read the questions, interpreted them my own way, and was done within 10 minutes. My wife, being a little more conscientious and cautious about her answers, took far longer. The result ended up being that she very cleverly determined what answer the test giver was looking for, and blacked it out. It is little wonder she did so much better than I did in school.

So there I was, watching my wife giggle her little head off as this pompous ass "politely" lectured me on the virtures of remaining "grounded" in a marriage. What I've come to realize since that time is that I am, really and truly, an optimist. I may have two feet firmly planted on planet Earth when it comes to matters of finance, politics, work, and other day to day matters of a normal productive life; but when it comes to matters of the heart I am a blindfold on, dyed in the wool, hopeless romantic, optimist.

There's really nothing I can do about. I just see certain things that way and (as I'm sure you've noticed) it tends to spill over into my writing about Michigan. Michigan is, after all, something near and dear to my heart and something that I very much love in a manner that defies any rational explanation. Because I feel this way about my alma mater, despite my normal cynicism toward the acts of man kind, I tend to be overly kind and generous to the people who guide her and her sports teams.

I'll be the fist to admit that this type of stance causes me trouble from time to time. Occasionally, it will lead me to pick the occasional blog fight with someone whom I perceive as disparaging my school. It will also lead me toward tense words with people on the same side as I am, who take an overtly negative tone towards what is going on in and around Ann Arbor. Finally, it can lead me to be blindingly naive about things.

I once wrote that the Spread was a perfect fit for Steven Threet because he played it in High School. I was on record as saying that Brandon Minor would be healthy this (pick any) season. I tried to convince myself that GERG Robinson was a good hire. I said repeatedly that the defense could only improve. As you can see, the line between optimism and insanity is very, very thin.

This isn't to say that I can't be critical of the school or her programs. I absolutely despised Tommy Amaker. I think the school should never, under any circumstances, welcome Chris Webber back to Crisler (I'll explain this later, so please don't flame me on this. It's just an example). I called for blood once the details of the Rodriguez practice time fiasco became known.

Even so, I tend to look at the decisions and consequences as opportunities for the school and its programs to grow and improve themselves. I look at transitions very hopefully and trust (sometimes too easily) that the people charged with implementing those changes will do them with the love and attention to detail that I would, were I in their shoes.

New DC? Great! We'll be better on defense! New head coach? Sounds good to me. This guy will be great. New schemes to implement? Hey, these kids are at Michigan, they'll get it done. Underdog status at the Frozen Four? No worries, we play better in that position.

While blind optimism may be part of my nature in this respect, it's also a conscious choice. I can look at Michigan's internal decision making, its players, its schemes, its everything, with a deeply cynical eye. I can just as easily find fault with the Wolverines as I can find fault with the federal budget, health care spending, or how my taxes are assessed (please note, I'm not expressing a view either way here, so no politics you freaks). It's so much easier to tear down that it is to build up. But it's no where near as pleasant in the long run.

Optimism and pessimism are equally contagious, but have opposite effects on people. Optimism makes us happy. It makes you giddy with anticipation and make you look forward to things. It can also make you look stupid. It's hard to be optimistic in the face of obvious strife. If you're negative about something and things go right, you can correctly point out obvious concerns that led you to your conclusion and how happy you are that you were wrong. When things turn out right, everyone ends up happy.

Certainly this is an over simplification, but it's intended to be a nutshell explanation. Being an optimist in college football is so much more fun than the alternative. It's just better. Who wants to spend their off-season depressed? No us. We've got too many things to be excited about. Denard as a pro style QB. An improved defense. A basketball program on the rise. Michigan Hockey. Michigan Softball. The first night game at Michigan Stadium. The new conference alignments.

There's so much out there to be excited about. Sure we can find reasons to temper our enthusiam, but there's no point. We can't do much about it here on the internets. So we'll keep on looking on the bright side, and dealing with the blessing, or the curse, of being an optimist.