Impaired Judgment

September 5, 2017

Twenty-five years ago, we were helping to address the problem of steroids in sports, as well as other performance or appearance enhancing substances. We segued to concern for creatine use and then to caffeine over-use. Today the emerging epidemic is opioids.

As we moved over the years from one drug-related concern to another, we were reminded, and did some reminding, that none of these concerns posed as great a health threat to students as either tobacco or alcohol.

Laws and public opinion have reduced tobacco use across much of daily life in America. It’s universally accepted that both smoking and smokeless tobacco are unhealthy, and smoking is explicitly prohibited in most public and private places where people gather. Smoking is no longer cool; smokers are sent out into the cold.

However, the same cannot be said about alcohol consumption. Public drinking has been accepted in an increasing number of unlikely places, including college sports venues. Never mind that alcohol is a frequent factor in college academic failures, campus damage and even student deaths; alcohol sales are showing up at college stadiums nationwide.

Booze and college football have been closely linked for years – the staple of the tailgating culture. But, college sports’ addiction to more and more money is now bringing booze inside some of the stadiums. About 50 universities are selling beer at games this season.

Some college administrators say their motivation is not money but an effort to match the spectator experience found at professional sporting events. But isn’t that really about money too?

I stopped taking my family to Major League Baseball games after my young son was bathed in a spectator’s beer; and I left a National Football League game early – never to return to another NFL game – after being exposed to too much “spectator experience” over-energized by alcohol.

I prefer the high school setting.

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.