05

Impaired Judgment

Twenty-five years ago, we were helping to address the problem of steroids in sports, as well as other performance or appearance enhancing substances. We segued to concern for creatine use and then to caffeine over-use. Today the emerging epidemic is opioids.

As we moved over the years from one drug-related concern to another, we were reminded, and did some reminding, that none of these concerns posed as great a health threat to students as either tobacco or alcohol.

Laws and public opinion have reduced tobacco use across much of daily life in America. It’s universally accepted that both smoking and smokeless tobacco are unhealthy, and smoking is explicitly prohibited in most public and private places where people gather. Smoking is no longer cool; smokers are sent out into the cold.

However, the same cannot be said about alcohol consumption. Public drinking has been accepted in an increasing number of unlikely places, including college sports venues. Never mind that alcohol is a frequent factor in college academic failures, campus damage and even student deaths; alcohol sales are showing up at college stadiums nationwide.

Booze and college football have been closely linked for years – the staple of the tailgating culture. But, college sports’ addiction to more and more money is now bringing booze inside some of the stadiums. About 50 universities are selling beer at games this season.

Some college administrators say their motivation is not money but an effort to match the spectator experience found at professional sporting events. But isn’t that really about money too?

I stopped taking my family to Major League Baseball games after my young son was bathed in a spectator’s beer; and I left a National Football League game early – never to return to another NFL game – after being exposed to too much “spectator experience” over-energized by alcohol.

I prefer the high school setting.

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.