January 27, 2015

When I was in high school and college I worked a different job each summer, usually looking for hard labor that would help prepare my body for the next football season, and each time confirming that it would not be my choice for lifetime employment. One summer I worked at a lumber yard and paper mill complex along the banks of the Wisconsin River.
Every day I ate lunch with the men who had made this their life’s work; and I grew in ways both positive and negative as I listened to their conversations and tales. We all brought our own lunch pails.
One day, one of the more veteran employees opened his lunchbox and flew into a rage. “I can’t believe it,” he exclaimed. “Baloney again! I hate baloney.”
Trying to calm him down, another worker said, “If you hate baloney so much, just ask your wife to make you something else.”
To which the complainer replied, “That won’t work. I make my own lunches,” which resulted in an uproar of laughter from the rest of us.
I thought of this incident recently as I was preparing to meet with constituents about the rules they most love to hate: policies relating to coach and player contact out of season. Those are our most criticized rules.
But it occurs to me, if we don’t like the sandwich we’re eating – out-of-season coaching rules – we should remember: we made them ourselves, and we can change them. In fact, no one is in a better position to do so than we are. And no one has a greater duty to do so than we have, if we really are in need of a new recipe.

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.