Oyster Stew

November 13, 2015

Jonathan Swift, an 18th Century writer I was introduced to as an English major in college, grabbed my attention and loyalty with the statement, “He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.”

I’ve hated oysters for their look, their texture and their taste; and also because, as a child, oyster stew was the Christmas Eve fare that stood between me and the time when we could begin opening presents under the Christmas tree.

But I have loved Swift’s metaphor.

Imagine the courage – or the desperation – of the first person to eat an oyster … or any other ugly, slimy critter ... raw!

But it is often this person, bold or desperate enough, who looks past appearances to tackle something of such unpleasant prospects, who actually makes the discovery or connects the dots or makes the breakthrough necessary for real progress.

What are the most unappetizing issues before us? Transfers? Football scheduling? Specialization? What unappealing solutions might we be avoiding because they look so awful? Are we bold enough to take a bite out of them?

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.