Money, Money Everywhere, But ...

June 23, 2016

Weather-watchers will often complain that there is too little rain where it’s needed, and too much rain where it is not.

I feel the same way about money and sports – too little money where it’s needed, and too much money where it is not.

While physical education is being eliminated in elementary schools and interscholastic athletics are being gutted in junior high/middle schools and high schools, college sports are awash in extravagant new revenue from broadcasting and merchandising rights. For example ...

The athletic departments of UCLA, Ohio State, California, Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive more than $1 billion combined from Under Armour over the next 15 years. The University of Michigan has announced a 15-year, $169 million deal with Nike. Michigan State University has a multimedia rights deal pending with Fox Sports worth $150 million over 15 years. Both Michigan and MSU will benefit richly from what is likely to be a new $440 million per year package with the Big Ten Network.

Meanwhile, for lack of funds, schools reduce or eliminate physical activity from the school and after-school curricula. Inactivity rates soar, as do childhood obesity rates, as do medical expenses to treat obesity-related illnesses in adults.

In sports as in most other aspects of American society, ours is a free-market system that allows the rich to get richer, with little regard for the consequences. It’s a system that invites misplaced priorities. Of celebrity more than substance. Of immediate gratification over investing in the long-term health of a nation and its people.

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.