May 1, 2012

A University of Wisconsin football player from my hometown years ago was hit from behind in the closing minutes of spring football practice.  It caused an injury that required surgery.  That caused him to miss the next fall’s football season; and to protect him from further injury, he was allowed to skip the following spring’s football practice and to work out with the Badgers baseball team.

He ended up leading the Big Ten Conference in hitting, and he eventually received the largest signing contract in the history of professional baseball, becoming the first “Bonus Baby” for Gene Autry’s Los Angeles Angels.

“If not for that injury in football,” he once told an audience, “caused by an unskilled walk-on in the last five minutes of the last spring football practice, I would never have played college baseball.  I would never have played Major League Baseball for 11 seasons.

“You never know,” he said, “when you are five minutes from your destiny.”

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.