November 10, 2015

This is the time of year when postseason banquets are occurring at many schools to mark the end of the fall season. In many cases, a “Most Valuable Player” will be announced and honored.

The qualities of the MVP are usually apparent ... often the player who scored the most points, gained the most yards, or won the most races or matches. But that’s not always the case; and it shouldn’t be.

Sometimes the MVP is the playmaker, the blocker for the scorer, or the team’s most inspiring player who energizes others or improves a team’s chemistry or performance in ways that statistics can’t measure.

I think about Major League Baseball’s American League MVP in 1942. It was Joe Gordon. That season, he led the major leagues in errors, strikeouts and most times hitting in double plays. But still he was the league’s MVP.

Sometimes referred to as “Flash Gordon,” this second baseman, who played for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, was renowned for his defense. And he should serve as a reminder that sometimes the MVP is not such an obvious choice.

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.