Why We Watch

It’s because we don’t know the outcome that we watch competitive sports.

If we know in advance who will win, we are much less inclined to watch.

This explains why television viewer ratings for live sports events are many times greater than for tape-delayed broadcasts and reruns of the same event.

It helps explain why onsite attendance for the Quarterfinals of the MHSAA Team Wrestling Tournament declined after seeding began. Pairing the No. 1 seed against the No. 8 seed, and No. 2 vs. No. 7, had predictable results and didn’t draw as much interest as in previous years, before seeding.

It is not automatic that seeding MHSAA tournaments will increase tournament attendance. Random pairings is a fair system, and random results an exciting experience.

Loss of random results is what worries US professional sports leagues and united them against legalized sports betting. It is why sports organizations have tried to restrain the use of performance enhancing drugs – we don’t want PEDs to predict results.

The lure of participation for adolescents is that competitive school sports is difficult fun. The attraction for spectators is that the results aren’t known in advance. It’s what puts us on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, biting our nails.


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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.