The Antidote

October 17, 2014

On average, according to the New York Times, the 32 National Football League teams have had 22 player arrests per team since 2000. And mounting.
This horrifying statistic doesn’t even include one team’s bounty-payment scheme to injure opposing players. It doesn’t include league-imposed suspensions for use of drugs.
So it doesn’t surprise me that the NFL’s corporate sponsors have begun to express concerns for their brand reputation. It’s only surprising that their concerns have been so slow in coming.
And it’s especially surprising that those who work at lower levels of sports don’t give up.
To the contrary, those who have devoted their lives to educational athletics demonstrate by their devotion to school-sponsored sports that they still believe – in spite of mounting evidence at major college and professional sports levels – that athletes can break records without having criminal records and that they can achieve championships without chemicals.
Coaches and administrators of school sports – my heroes – demonstrate daily by their continuing commitment of service to school sports that they still believe athletics can coexist with integrity and can nurture better character, not just crazy characters.
Under the radar, in communities across Michigan and the nation, school-based competitive athletic programs are doing good things for students, schools and society. This is the antidote for the cynicism creeping across the landscape of high-profile intercollegiate and professional sports.

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.