November 8, 2011

I still have in my files and in my mind Joe Klein’s Newsweek editorial of Sept. 21, 1992, that took Bill Clinton to task for his “small themes” during the closing months of his campaign for the U.S. presidency.

Never one to be shy in his bully pulpit at Newsweek (or in his then anonymously published novel Primary Colors based on the 1992 Democratic presidential primary), Klein wrote that Clinton’s late campaign efforts were “rhetorically flaccid, intellectually unadventurous, morally undemanding.”

In response, Clinton’s campaign strategist, James Carville, resorted to a sports metaphor:  “The way to the goal line is to keep running off tackle.  Four yards and a cloud of dust.”

This “take no chances, do no harm, run out the clock” spirit and strategy that so infuriated Klein will not be seen at the MHSAA.  Expectations and efforts will be in continuous crescendo no matter how close the goal line gets.  In fact, as it is with any good football team in the “red zone,” the closer the goal line looms, the greater the sense of urgency there will be.

There is no greater proof at this moment to our most inner circle of constituents – high school athletics directors – than the MHSAA’s work with ArbiterSports to become the first state high school association in America to develop, and to deliver at least initially at no cost to all member high schools, a comprehensive suite of electronic tools for athletic department administration.  This is a responsibility, and risk, that could have been left to others; but we’re being motivated by undertaking the task here and now – first in the nation – so that the product is tailor-made for high school sports, Michigan’s way.

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.