It’s 8:00 a.m., Saturday, September 8, when Bob Robertson arrives at Martin Stadium. Four hours from now, kickoff between the Washington State Cougars and Eastern Washington University will occur in the first game at the newly renovated stadium.
And when kickoff does happen, Robertson’s signature voice will carry the action to Cougar football fans for the 510th time.
It’s a voice Cougars everywhere connect with Washington State football—even when at a rival school.
“I must say when it worked, and when I was in Portland and the Cougars were playing, I’d get Bob Robertson on the radio,” says Washington State Director of Athletics Bill Moos of what he did when he served in the same position at the University of Oregon.
“There is just something that is unique about Bob, whether it is his classic lines and approach,” Moos explains in his office at the Bohler Athletic Complex. “When you hear that voice, you think autumn leaves, crisp afternoons, the cracking of pads, and the Cougar Fight Song.”
And then to emphasize the point, Moos leans forward in his chair and does his best Bob Robertson impression of the classic lines: “Signals Called! Touchdown Washington State!”
And then the saying that Cougars everywhere revere: “Always be a good sport, be a good sport all ways.”
When he began his broadcast career in the late ’40s, Robertson, 83, believed he needed a catchphrase to call his own.
“I tried several things and either they didn’t work or found out someone on the networks was using it or something very close to it,” Robertson remembers.
Then one day Robertson hit on something.
And he spells it out, literally.
“Always, a-l-w-a-y-s, be a good sport. Be a good sport ALL ways.
“I don’t know if the message always gets through because a lot of people don’t often catch the play on the always, all ways,” he says. “It’s something that became part of my broadcast so I keep on using it.”
For nearly a half a century, players, coaches, and fans hear Robertson use the phrase on Cougar football broadcasts.
One being Moos.
“I listened to Bob Robertson when I was a teenage boy,” he remembers. “I dreamed that maybe one day Bob Robertson would call my name.”
That dream became fulfilled in 1972 for Moos, an all-conference offensive lineman for a Cougar football team that finished 7–4.
“It was a good year,” recalls Robertson of the 1972 season, the first of 41 continuous seasons in the broadcast booth for WSU. “We had some pretty good kids on the club.”
And on the Friday night before the season home opener, Robertson gets a chance to visit with those “kids” when he serves as master of ceremonies for the reunion banquet commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the 1972 season.
The following day he will call the names of the kids on the 2012 team.
After he arrives at the stadium on this Saturday morning, he first explores the new press level of the building and then makes his way to the radio booth named in his honor.
There he joins broadcast partners Bud Nameck, Shawn McWashington, a member of the 1998 Rose Bowl team, and Jessamyn McIntyre to make final preparations for the game ahead.
“I think Cougs when I hear Bob,” says Nameck, taking timeout from his pregame preparation to talk about an individual he describes as a legend.
“I have a framed lithograph in my family room that’s a 100 years of Cougar Football. It has coaches, players, and it has Bob Robertson,” Nameck says. “When you think about it, during my 30 plus years since I’ve been here, the one constant during that time is Bob Robertson.”
Constant to the point that Robertson has called Cougar football games in six decades, from 1964 to 1968 and since 1972.
And though he is in his 46th season of broadcasting Cougar football, Robertson still feels the excitement leading up to the game.
“When you lose the kickoff butterflies, perhaps it’s time to retire and go away,” he says. “I like the competition and being there to present it and give the audience something to listen to.
“It’s what I do. You might say it’s what I am.”
Once kickoff happens, the fans in the new premium seating areas listen to Robertson’s voice, broadcast throughout the building, as they watch the action below.
“Bob is truly a Cougar icon,” says Moos. “That building could not, in my mind, have the impact it’s going to have if it wasn’t inhabited by Bob Robertson in the Cougar radio booth.”
Robertson’s impact has been felt by generations of Cougar fans, who have fallen in love with his voice and catchphrases. And the feeling is returned in kind.
“They say thank you for broadcasting the games all these years and they don’t realize that I had as much fun broadcasting a game, or maybe more, than they did just watching it,” Robertson explains.
Robertson no doubt has fun broadcasting this game, a 24–20 victory for the Cougars. As he prepares to sign off for the 510th time, Robertson ends his broadcast just the way he ended the previous 509.
With that voice.
“This is Bob Robertson saying thanks for joining us and reminding you to always be a good sport, be a good sport all ways.”