Optimism! Credit: Sun-Times Media

A couple things I just read puzzle me.

The New York Times chose as the lead story of its Sunday Review section this week a dumbfoundingly vapid thumb sucker headlined “We Need Optimists.” Said the essayist, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, “We need more optimism in America,” though optimism, mind you, “is not without cost.” Yet “sunny optimism” is the reason Ronald Reagan was “so phenomenally effective”—and if you don’t remember the Reagan presidency as phenomenally effective Brooks loses you right there.

But the chances are he lost you earlier. Brooks began his piece as Reagan liked to begin his speeches, by telling a story. So he told the one about coming home from a parent-teacher conference with his wife. Their kid’s grades were in the toilet and the ride was tense. His wife finally broke the silence. “Think of it this way,” she said. “At least we know he’s not cheating.”

Commented Brooks, “That’s an optimist.”

No it isn’t. It’s a sarcastic Mom with a sense of humor.

What was the Times thinking when it bought this piece and gave it a big display? It puzzles me.

And I’m puzzled by an opinion expressed by Teddy Greenstein Tuesday in the Tribune sports pages. Greenstein gave us a preview of the Big Ten’s kickoff luncheon later this week in Chicago, and he expressed some distress at the teams’ failure to bring in the players the media most want to see.

For instance, Christian Hackenberg, the Penn State quarterback and a top NFL prospect. Greenstein explained that Penn State is leaving Hackenberg behind because he’s a junior and coach James Franklin “views the trip to Chicago as a reward for seniors.”

Greenstein was disgusted:

“That is exactly why coaches should coach, and media/marketing people should handle media and marketing. The decision should be taken out of the coaches’ hands, just as a 5-year-old should not get the option of eating chicken nuggets at every meal.”

I’m puzzled by why Greenstein thinks a coach who puts the feelings of his players ahead of the marketing interests of his conference is not merely mistaken but is behaving like a five-year-old.