Peddling Influence

February 28, 2012

The Sports Business Journal published in December its annual list of the 50 most influential persons in sports business. No person from the ranks of high school sports is included, causing some to criticize the oversight. I don’t.

If ever a person from the high school level were to make this listing, it likely would be for behaving like those at the college, professional and international levels. No one will make the list for doing the job he or she is supposed to do, which is to assure that the business excesses of those other levels do not visit school sports, and to actively oppose those initiatives that would undermine educational athletics.

I understand fully that there are important business aspects to the administration of interscholastic athletics. But I also understand that these business tasks must be managed within the cozy confines of the educational mission of the sponsoring institutions – schools.

We know how to make a lot more money for school sports from networks, sponsors and promoters. But we also know why that wouldn’t be right for educational athletics. Contests on any day at any hour for broadcast purposes, at any location no matter how far. Highlighting big schools, highly ranked teams and highly rated/recruited players, to improve broadcast ratings and advertiser demands. Brilliant minds and bullying personalities couldn’t avoid this happening in college athletics. Once started, we could not fare better in controlling things on the high school level.

We have the potential to aggregate school sports content very attractively for producers, distributors and sponsors. But it’s best that we don’t. And just fine that we continue to be overlooked by business trade journals.

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.