Political Fallout

April 22, 2016

It has been my long-held belief that there is a link between the quality of sportsmanship in our schools and the quality of citizenship in our society ... that if we made our games more respectful, society would tend to be more civil.

I’ve held this belief even though I’ve watched deteriorating standards of behavior in almost all aspects of society drag down the standards we’ve raised up for school sports. And frankly, I’ve admired that the standards of school sports have declined so little in comparison to the standards of society that have plummeted so far.

But now I read that the lack of decorum in this year’s presidential campaign has infected conduct at school sports events in at least three states, two of which border Michigan.

Student spectators would not shout chants about building walls to keep immigrants out of America if politicians had not created such slogans and campaigned on such themes.

Shallow, spiteful politics is doing deep damage to America, even to school sports. Of course, our coaches and administrators will attempt to use these ugly incidents as teachable moments.

But why should they have to? Why can’t those who claim they should lead the nation act like leaders? Why can’t they try to lead us to a higher level of humanity instead of inviting us to such hurtful or even hateful behavior?

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.