Swimming Lessons

January 19, 2016

I found a place between Christmas and New Year’s Day that was out of Internet reach. For four days and three nights I spent most of the days in the water looking downward into an ocean of coral canyons surrounded by swarms of colorful fish, and much of the nights on the open deck of a catamaran looking up at a nearly full moon moving between stars and swirling clouds. Here is some of what I learned from experiences, rather than from Google, on those days.

First, flying fish really do fly, on average, about the length of a football field.

Second, sea urchins have an edible element, if the spiny critters are smoked in a fire of coconuts and palm fronds and then soaked in saltwater, and if you are either desperately marooned on some remote island or just trying to be nice to the local residents you just met who believe the urchin's slimy, salty core is a delicacy that hospitality requires be shared and graciousness demands be appreciated.

And, more relevant to the work we share that I tried unsuccessfully to tune out for these four days, I learned ...

What you see in the ocean is distorted until you put on your goggles and get beneath the surface of the water. Getting beneath the surface of things is necessary for clear vision.

What you see first is likely to be the flashy fish, while the greater significance is observed more slowly in what appears to be their inanimate habitats, which turn out to be alive with movement if you wait and watch for it. Patience is necessary for clear vision.

The wavy six-inch line of purple coral was really the lips of a large clam that actually separate a fraction of an inch every minute or so to take in the nourishment of the sea. The brown stump below it was really a sea cucumber that actually moves an inch or two a day to vacuum the ocean floor. I saw none of this until I got beneath the surface, and waited.

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.