Consider Communications

June 6, 2017

Like many of my generation, I have a love-hate relationship with advances in communications technology.

I love it when, during a single day, my wife and I can have important career conversations by text with one son in China, chuckle at dog photos from another son in Texas, message with a "daughter" in South Korea, and watch videos of a "granddaughter" in California. I need it for heart-to-heart emails with my sister in Oregon. I love it for talking with and seeing many of these people in real time, face to face through Skype.

I enjoy the freedom that this technology provides me to keep in touch with both work and family when I travel, or escape to the cottage on summer weekends. It makes me far more productive than I was able to be years ago.

And that's a good thing because, with all of the convenience has come the expectation that everybody is "on call" every minute of every day.

Which is but one of the many downsides of our technological progress. Another is that people can communicate so quickly that they are prone to do so without thinking. 

Another is the frequency of solicitations and the stupidity of most social media that tends to swamp my inbox. The "unsubscribe" feature cannot cope with the flood of foolishness.

I recall reading a biography of John Adams, masterfully created in large part from the letters written by his wife Abigail. It amazes me that when she wrote a letter to a person in Europe, she knew the letter would not be received for several months, and that she would not get a reply for half a year.

That was not necessarily a better time, but I imagine each word was given greater consideration as it was penned and posted.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.