Bet On It

May 22, 2018

In 1991, Michigan became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to prohibit a state-sponsored lottery from including games based on the results of sporting events. A bill introduced by Representative Keith Muxlow of Brown City passed both the Michigan House and Senate without a dissenting vote and was signed by Governor Engler Dec. 18, 1991.

The effort was assisted by the Michigan Coalition to Ban Legalized Sports Betting, a broad-based group of athletic, educational, religious and civic organizations which then turned its attention to helping pass federal legislation needed to fully protect Michigan’s professional and amateur sporting events from the influences of gambling in other states.

The federal legislation that resulted, on the books for 25 years, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018.

There are currently eight bills pending in the Michigan Legislature that would expand gambling in the state of Michigan, including several that would legalize sports betting or fantasy sports wagering and allow the Michigan Lottery to handle those bets.

It is impossible to know all the consequences – positive and negative – of expanding legalized gambling in our society generally and on sports particularly. However, we can imagine that as every decision and action of players, coaches and officials influences statistics and determines winners and losers of both contests and wagers, fans will become increasingly cynical of individual and team performances where sports betting is allowed.

And, more than ever, school-based sports will stand apart from the charade or corruption of sports on all other levels by all other sponsors. You can bet on it.

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.