Why We Watch

May 7, 2017

It’s because we don’t know the outcome that we watch competitive sports.

If we know in advance who will win, we are much less inclined to watch.

This explains why television viewer ratings for live sports events are many times greater than for tape-delayed broadcasts and reruns of the same event.

It helps explain why onsite attendance for the Quarterfinals of the MHSAA Team Wrestling Tournament declined after seeding began. Pairing the No. 1 seed against the No. 8 seed, and No. 2 vs. No. 7, had predictable results and didn’t draw as much interest as in previous years, before seeding.

It is not automatic that seeding MHSAA tournaments will increase tournament attendance. Random pairings is a fair system, and random results an exciting experience.

Loss of random results is what worries U.S. professional sports leagues and united them against legalized sports betting. It is why sports organizations have tried to restrain the use of performance enhancing drugs – we don’t want PEDs to predict results.

The lure of participation for adolescents is that competitive school sports is difficult fun. The attraction for spectators is that the results aren’t known in advance. It’s what puts us on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, biting our nails.

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.