In An Instant

August 4, 2015

The icebergs that enter the harbors along Newfoundland’s north shore started to form thousands of years ago. They broke from ice flows 10 times their size and then got caught in a current that carried them on a 1,000-mile, two-year journey to “Iceberg Alley.” Some of them drift into harbors and, with seven-eighths of their mass below the surface, they get grounded. Eventually they break apart and disappear.

My wife and I “discovered” one of these grounded ‘bergs near the shore of cozy little Coffee Cove. After a 15-minute hike, we got closer to this sparkling monster than third base is to home plate. We each snapped dozens of pictures.

Just as we were turning to begin our hike back to “civilization,” we heard what we thought was a loud gunshot. But what actually occurred was a portion of the iceberg breaking off and falling into the water.

What we had taken pictures of moments earlier no longer existed as it had at that time. In an instant, the iceberg had changed, without respect for the thousands of years in the making and the hundreds of miles of traveling.

A few days after we returned to Michigan, Rich Tompkins died, apparently healthy, just after waterskiing. Death came without respect for the miles Rich had traveled to serve student-athletes and coaches, and without regard to all the victories his teams had earned and MHSAA championships they had won.

I last saw Rich on Valentine’s Day at the first-ever Fremont High School Hall of Fame induction banquet where Rich and many of his athletes were honored. The pictures taken that night are of people and circumstances that can never be reassembled.

We need to more fully appreciate the miracle of such moments. They can be gone in an instant.

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.