Guarding Secrets

February 8, 2013

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January was a bad month for some sports heroes, but it was an instructional time for those who paused to connect some dots.

  • Two of Major League Baseball’s most prolific performers became eligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame, but we learned in January that neither came close to earning enough votes for election to that prestigious shrine.  Each has seen his star-power descend in a cloud of legal problems surrounding his suspected use of performance enhancing drugs.
  • After seven Tour de France titles and seven times seven denials of using performance enhancing drugs and various blood doping techniques, Lance Armstrong “came clean.” Sort of.
  • A Heisman Trophy candidate went from a broken-hearted soul mate to the victim of a cruel hoax to a contributor to the weirdest story college sports has witnessed.  From duped to duplicitous.
  • And all this with Penn State’s scandal still fresh in our minds.

How fatiguing it must be and, ultimately, how futile it is to try to keep secrets. That’s always been true; it’s just more obvious in a world where everyone’s access to social media renders investigative journalism too little and too late in uncovering the secrets that heroes harbor.

How any of these people ever thought they could guard their secrets beyond the grave would be beyond belief if it just didn’t keep happening so often.  There must be something we’re doing wrong in the upbringing of prominent athletes (like too many politicians) that makes them think they can get away with sordid secrets . . . that they’re too big to fail. 

The truth is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  No secret is beyond discovery.

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.