Perspectives on Popularity

January 13, 2015

With the National Football League about to take center stage in this country’s sporting drama this month, some “Down Under” comparisons provide perspective to moderate how popular and venerable the NFL is.
The NFL’s longest waiting list to become a season ticket holder is found in the NFL’s smallest market, Green Bay, where the waiting list to become a Packer season ticket holder is now 30 years. It’s so crazy that my sister, who splits her time between Vermont and Florida, still controls the two season tickets her father first obtained 55 years ago; and the tickets never go unused. The Packers season ticket waiting list is more than 80,000 names long.
However, the waiting list to join the Melbourne Cricket Club in Australia is even more imposing. Currently, more than 236,000 people are waiting to join the more than 100,000 active members, 40 percent of whom have only “restricted” privileges. An average of 10,000 fans join the waiting list each year, and their projected waiting time has now reached more than 40 years.
The Melbourne Cricket Club is the oldest sporting club in Australia, founded in 1838; while the Green Bay Packers is a relative upstart, founded in 1919. Still, it is the oldest NFL franchise in continuous operation with the same name and city ... since 1921 ... 83 years after the Melbourne Cricket Club.
By the way, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has operated under that name since 1920 ... one year longer than the Packers.

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.