Rare Occasions

On the rare occasions when a high school athletic event in Michigan is interrupted or ended prematurely because of a breakdown in proper sportsmanship, I remind myself that there were hundreds of other high school athletic contests that same day that were conducted with good sportsmanship and without problems. It is because bad incidents are so very rare that they make news.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association doesn't assign officials to administer any regular-season contests; but we do receive reports from officials, school administrators and many others when problems occur, some offering opinions that go viral with incomplete information and snap judgments.

In a recent case, three veteran and respected officials were assigned to a league crossover game between two talented basketball teams. The atmosphere was poisoned by a public address announcer who was subsequently removed from that role by the school district after he not only performed those duties in an inflammatory and biased way, but also pursued and provoked one of the officials who had halted the game after an object was hurled from the crowd. That official worsened the situation when he pushed this individual; and the subsequent behavior of host team members and spectators was deplorable and dangerous.

The official is not the villain here, but an individual human being who has enjoyed the avocation of sports officiating for many years with good success and support. I'm sure he wishes he could take back the split second of his fear or anger that has been shown on video worldwide.

The host school has not been blind to several things it could do, in addition to appointing a different PA announcer, to improve the atmosphere of its athletic events; and it has already demonstrated its intent to provide a better experience for all involved in the future. It is contributing to the many thousands of athletic contests that build character in school sports for every one contest that lets us down.

Posted in: Sportsmanship


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.