Spitting in the Ocean

February 27, 2015

I laughed out loud when I read recently that the municipal government in Beijing, China was blaming outdoor grilling for the city’s increasingly dense smog and was banning cooking over outdoor fires.

Here is the earth’s most prolific polluter – China, and its state-run, Hell-bent-on-growth economy – telling the nice people of its capital city to stop spitting in the ocean of poison the Chinese government itself has created and still promotes.

The National Football League – whose GDP may be growing as rapidly as China’s – has acted in similar ways. Facing epidemic criticism for its handling of current and former players’ head injuries, the NFL pointed at youth football. Facing criticism for the brutality of its players toward women, the NFL prepared programs for adolescents and teens. It seems the fault is always someplace other than the NFL juggernaut. 

But most times that I laugh at or criticize the blind eyes or bad faith of others, I pause to consider if we might sometimes act in similar ways. Might we be asking others to stop doing harm where we ourselves are doing more harm?

An extreme example could be that we criticize people for losing their minds at events when it is the MHSAA itself that sponsors and conducts the events of highest profile and importance ... although I will always argue that the most important events of educational athletics are the first ones – the first practices and games that introduce 7th, 8th and 9th graders to school-sponsored sports and shape their attitudes for years to come.

In any event, when any of us sees others act in ways we think are ridiculous, it would be good for all of us to then think about the ways we look ridiculous to others. And then consider if there are ways to change those perceptions.

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.