The Problem with Exceptions

November 22, 2011

Picking up where my last blog left off, this posting presents two more of six lessons that experience has taught me during my enriching years with the MHSAA.

Lesson No. 2:  Beware of bad precedent.

An exception today that doesn’t seem to matter much is almost certain to be recalled and used against you tomorrow when it really does matter. People have poor memories for most things, but they have long memories for exceptional things, like making an exception to a rule.

A corollary to this lesson is that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Lesson No. 2 is closely related to Lesson No. 3:  The path of least resistance usually is not.

Making an exception for a squeaky wheel will likely lead to more noise, not less.

One corollary to this lesson is that there will be more fallout when people believe you have ignored rules than when people believe you have been heartless in applying the rules as stated.

A second corollary to this is that following the rules is the safest harbor during stormy seas.

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.