Our Narrative

November 21, 2011

Thomas Friedman – author of The World is Flat, From Beruit to Jerusalem and Hot, Flat and Crowded, among other major works – has a gift for converting complicated topics into moving narratives.  So I took note, during President Obama’s second year in office when, in a New York Times column, Mr. Friedman took the President to task for a communication gap.

Friedman wrote that the President doesn’t have a communications problem per se (in fact, he’s been one of our nation’s more articulate chief executives), and he has a good grasp of facts on many subjects.

What he has, according to Friedman, is a narrative problem.  “He has not tied all his programs into a single narrative that shows the links between his health care, banking, economic, energy, education and foreign policies.”  Without this, wrote Friedman, people do not see these are all “building blocks of a great national project.”

Regardless of one’s opinion of Mr. Obama as President and Mr. Friedman as pundit, those responsible for school sports should pause over this observation or opinion; should stop to consider how all the projects and programs we contemplate either do or do not help us tell the story of educational athletics in Michigan. 

The narrative for school sports can be compelling.  When and where programs maximize participation and promote high standards of eligibility, conduct and care; when and where programs demonstrate quality coaching and officiating; and when and where it can be demonstrated that the programs are not merely compatible with the educational mission of the school but actually improve attendance, raise GPAs and increase graduation rates; then and there we have a coordinated and convincing narrative.

Projects and programs that produce and promote these results will be the kind of building blocks that tell our story and should generate popular support for many more years to come.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.