The National Anthem

November 1, 2016

The National Anthem has been in the news this fall ... across the nation when players have demonstrated discontent during its playing at sporting events ... in Michigan over administrators' decisions about how frequently it was played when multiple sporting events were at the same venue on the same day or night.

Frankly, my biggest complaint is not about peaceful demonstrations of deeply felt feelings. And my complaint is not about game management determinations to have the National Anthem played or performed just once when there is a JV and varsity double-header at a site.

In fact, I welcome those debates, because at least it causes people to think. For my biggest complaint for many years has been the lack of thought that goes into most occasions when the National Anthem is a part of sporting events. How casual we often are. The National Anthem is so frequent and routine at most high school events that, sometimes, spectators barely notice.

I don't mind that most spectators don't sing the National Anthem – it's an almost un-singable song. And the words – glorifying war – are hardly what I'd like recited at sporting events, which too often are stupidly equated with war.

What I do mind is forgetfulness, both of the sacrifices that have secured this free country and of the toleration for freedom of expression that our secured freedom protects.

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.