Sounds of Silence

April 12, 2015

I write in the early morning hours for the same reason birds sing then – it’s quiet. Birds can hear their voices, and I can hear my thoughts.

It is during the uncontested moments of the day that I can try out ideas – test them on paper. Yes, on paper! My most creative and productive process still employs a legal pad, a pencil and an eraser. The physical process of writing the words, looking at them, and often erasing what doesn’t make sense to my mind or sound right to my ear as I read it aloud.

The task of written communication has become more difficult during the four decades I’ve been engaged in this enterprise. While the work has become more complex and requires more nuanced discussion, the space available for careful comment has been reduced. Pretending cleverness or profundity, texts and tweets often do more harm than good to promote creative and productive discourse.

I am rarely provided the luxury of long-form journalism in this modern age. Even a “feature” article in a prestigious national professional journal is expected to be less than 1,500 words.

Modern scribes must boil down complicated matters to brief blogs like this one, hoping in a few short paragraphs to share an insight worth reading and to suggest a response worth doing.

The insight here? Silence is golden.

The suggested response? Seek a solitary space to describe and defend what it is that you hear in that silence.

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.