Controlled Fires

July 24, 2012

Forest fires have recently been scorching the United States with unusual reach and rage.  Infernos in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, have made news in our state.

Behind the headlines of the lightning-ignited 150-square-mile devastation near Fort Collins, Colorado is the analysis of forestry and conservation experts that it has been the absence of small fires that has helped to fuel the large fire.  Turns out that Smokey the Bear’s campaign to prevent forest fires may be partly at fault.

In most of life, little problems here and there help to avoid larger problems later.  The little fires consume the fuel that would feed a catastrophic conflagration exploding out of pent-up fears or frustrations or long-festering problems.

Even those who work in the “prevention business” – whether that’s the US Forest Service or a statewide athletic association – must tolerate a few fires.  They can have positive, productive effects, one of which is to keep small problems from growing large and more destructive.

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.