Let’s Play Two: Optimism Makes All Things Possible
Larry A. Nielsen and Gretchen L. Stokes
Ernie Banks always has a smile on his face. Many pessimists would say he has no reason to smile, but Ernie knows better. Ernie Banks played shortstop and later first base for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971. The Cubs were a perennially losing team during Ernie’s career, but that never dampened his enthusiasm—or his success. He hit 512 home runs, played on 11 all-star teams, was twice named the National League’s Most Valuable Player, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was a perennial optimist. Throughout Ernie’s career, baseball teams often played two games, one right after the other, on Sundays or to make up for a rain-out. Most players groaned at the exhaustion brought on by an 18-inning day, but not Ernie Banks. When asked how he felt about any upcoming game, he would flash his mile-wide smile and say, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two!”
Uncle Joel could rival Ernie Banks in optimism. A natural athlete, he plays basketball, swims, and skis with the best of them. He has been a beloved Scout leader for decades. He carried the Olympic torch for a leg of its journey across the United States in 1996. But another quality elevates his optimism above that of other athletes and leaders—he is also a paraplegic. Despite his paralysis, Uncle Joel has taken on and conquered every obstacle in his way, obstacles that would have discouraged most of us. He does it all with never a complaint or a negative word. He used his condition as the basis for a new career path, and he now teaches others in similar situations about how to return to the activities they love most.