This is “Opening Day” weekend, so named because the Major League Baseball (MLB) season begins. Opening Day is the most important day on the national calendar because it is all about optimism.


I speak from experience. I was there when my old team, the Seattle Mariners, came from being 13 games behind the Los Angeles Angels late in the 1995 season to win the division title. They went on to defeat the New York Yankees in five game post season play in a series that still can raise the hair on the back of your neck if you watch it on ESPN’s classic games.

I was also there when my new team, the Colorado Rockies, in 2007 won 21 of 22 games in a late season performance not matched in 100 years. They won the National League championship, going undefeated until the World Series when they fell to the Reds.

This year, the Rockies are better than they were four years ago.

Opening Day optimism comes from those sorts of experiences and from knowing that every season contains surprises and events that cannot be predicted.  Besides, what’s better than sitting in the sun again, watching the big American flag spread across the field and watching Air Force jets as they buzz over?

God knows we could use more optimism in this country. Natural disasters like the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, our dysfunctional Congress, and wrecked housing and employment economies do make it difficult to feel light about it.

That’s why I was glad to see someone as prominent in the food safety community as Mark Bittman recently penning  “Six Things to Feel Good About” for his New York Times blog.  Everyone should read it.

I found myself agreeing with all six, and found it especially instructive that he put up some useful numbers.  Thinking about 6,000 farmer’s markets, or 550 schools in the “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative, makes it clear there are changes occurring on a large enough scale to make an impact.

This time of year, I find myself listening mostly to sports talk radio. It’s a place to go hide, and keep one’s optimism up. But I found it is impossible to escape politics there this week.

It seems that President Obama was one of 5.9 million people filling out brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament, trying to predict the “final four.”   

Obama made his picks in a live television appearance on ESPN, and  we now know he failed to predict even one of the final four correctly.  

 “What does he know about college basketball?”  Well, ESPN reports the President’s bracket scored better than about 5.6 million of those 5.9 million participants.  That means he did better than 94.9 percent.

The hardest pick this year was the surprise semi-final contest between VCA and Butler. Only 192 people out of 5.9 million got that one right. Exactly 112,489, or 1.9 percent, predicted the Connecticut and Kentucky game.

Personally, I would not want to fill my head with enough college basketball knowledge to be half as good with those brackets as the President.  That’s because I have to save what little brain space I have remaining for baseball.