Bob Robertson: the master and his broadcast art

Most artists would buy some oil and brushes if they wanted to paint a picture. But not <b>Bob Robertson.</b>

He goes to a thesaurus and his canvas is air.

For 35 seasons Robertson has been The Voice of the Cougar football team. In that time, many players and coaches have come and gone, but the Cougars' broadcasts still sound the same.

And that won't be changing anytime soon, as WSU announced last week the signing of the The Voice for five more years of Cougar football; an announcement that sounds like sweet music to the ears of Cougfans everywhere (although a lifetime contract would be preferable). Indeed, the one thing the entire populace of the Cougar Nation agrees on is this: Bob Robertson is simply the best.

Find a rabid Cougar follower who doesn't turn the sound down during televised games, opting instead for the splendor of The Voice. Or witness the envy of Martin Stadium dwellers as they spy their neighbors listening to Robertson with headphones. Oh, how they pine to hear his voice intensify with each Jason Gesser scramble.

"He's full of passion and professionalism," says Paul Sorensen, who worked as Robertson's color commentator for 13 seasons. "Hearing him call out 'Touchdown, Washington State!' is a spine-tingling anthem of Palouse pride. He's been with us through thick and thin, bad bounces and Rose Bowl glory. His spirit, integrity and loyalty make him a true Cougar for the ages. I really think WSU should erect a bronze statue of him in front of Martin Stadium."
,br> While a statue would seem a fitting tribute, Robertson was recently honored with the next best thing: an induction into the WSU Sports Hall of Fame.

Robertson doesn't need 1,000 words to match the picture he sees. He simply and succinctly brings listeners into the game.

"Early in my career when I was a redshirt, I always listened to him," says former Cougar running back Adam Hawkins. "He gives you a mental picture of the game and he gets you involved. Some announcers have that charismatic type of voice that gets you involved. You need to have that because there is nothing to look at."

Robertson honed his skills broadcasting high school football games many years ago. As fate would have it, a father brought his blind son to the games and sat him by Robertson to help him understand the game.

"I became very conscious of describing the game so he could see it," Robertson says. "In radio, talking to an audience which is sightless, the rule of thumb is to make a picture so the sightless can see what is going on."

Adds CF.C executive editor Greg Witter, who considers himself spoiled to have had Robertson bring him games since he was 8 years old, "His insights flow seamlessly. You are able to see the game in your mind's eye. That's what sets him apart. You can count on Bob for an All-American performance every Saturday."

ROBERTSON ISN'T a faceless voice among the Crimson faithful. Cougars past and present have come to know him as part of the program. Jerry Henderson, who played for WSU from 1965-68, first became impressed with Robertson when he spoke at his Puyallup High sports banquet the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated and "put sports in perspective."

"He is just synonymous with Cougar football," says Jerry, whose son Collin is now a standout Cougar receiver. "It is hard not to associate him with Washington State. He is an icon."

Young Collin also has a great deal of admiration for Robertson, but has seen his relationship with The Voice change. "Growing up a Cougar, if the game wasn't on television, I would listen on the radio," he says. "It is kind of funny when you are a little kid hearing that voice and now it is your name he is calling. It is an awesome feeling."

Hawkins says the players enjoy Robertson's visits to the locker room and the run-ins at the team hotel. It is bits of information from those meetings that make it on the air and let the players know he cares about them more than just the numbers they put up.

Robertson says the Rose Bowl and great Apple Cups, like the 1992 snow bowl game, stand out, but it is the people he remembers best.

"That is what the game is all about--the players," Robertson says. "Each generation gives something to the game. Then you see them years later and they are business people or military officers, but you'll always remember them as young players."

Robertson says he has covered several father-son duos like the Hendersons and even recollects the young Mike Price playing for the Cougars in the mid-60s during his first few years relaying the Cougar games on the radio.

Robertson and Price developed a special over the years. Price calls him "a true pro" and considers him the best in the business.

Those in the business are also fond of Robertson. When the Cougars hosted the Vandals, the 70-something Robertson found himself the young pup in the broadcast booth with Idaho's Bob Curtis, a 1947 WSC graduate, and his over 50 years of broadcasting UI in the other booth.

"We have a great deal of admiration for each other," says Curtis, who adds that it is not the number of years but the skill of the broadcast which makes the difference.

Robertson says he enjoys working with Jim Walden and is happy to have the help of the colorful coach. He remembers the old days when it was his wife Joanna and children Hugh, John, Janna, and Rebecca, who all served as unsung assistants helping him spot players and get the equipment to the booth.

Much has changed since he first spoke into a Cougar microphone back in 1964, but not Robertson's ability to relay the game to Cougfans. In fact, other than a three-year break early in his association with WSU broadcasts, he has been the one consistent of Cougar football, continually amazing generations with his sharp, flawless performance.

A sharp eye and a sharp tongue,with the delicate touch like a paintbrush. An artist with a palette of crimson and gray.

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