Conventional Wisdom

August 9, 2016

The conservative columnist George Will is a baseball junkie who recently hit a homerun in his commentary just prior to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He wrote that the show in Cleveland would focus on style and trivia more than the substantive trends of the world’s circumstances. 

Mr. Will speculated, and was proven correct, that the Cleveland circus would miss altogether serious developments in the South China Sea that are nearly as threatening as Hitler’s advance across Europe prior to the United States’ entering into what became World War II. He was referring to China’s aggression through the construction of islands and the conduct of military exercises in areas that the World Court has determined do not belong to China. This war on a pristine aquatic environment is upsetting the geopolitical order as well.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with sports except to point out the absurdities of our talking about trivia in one place while near tragedy goes unaddressed elsewhere ... which happens routinely in sports. For example:

  • In pro football, the talk is of “Deflategate” more than domestic violence. Or, as the most recent owners’ meeting reveals, on commerce more than concussions.

  • In college football, the talk is of billion dollar broadcast deals more than the broken bond between universities and the “students” they send far and wide to compete on television at any hour of any day.

  • And in school sports right here in Michigan, stakeholders perseverate about football playoff expansion more than football players’ health and safety. Or on end-of-season basketball tournament seeding more than out-of-season basketball insanity.

Our challenge is to listen to all concerns but to expend leadership capital only on the matters that really matter.

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.