Jerry Allen and Bob Johnston exemplify what sports announcers should be about. Their job isn’t about hearing the resounding boom of their own voices off a stadium or gymnasium’s inner shell. It’s about promoting and showcasing the youth in our neighborhood and beyond.
That’s the message they exude at Lake Highlands sporting events.
Between the two of them, Allen and Johnston cover baseball, basketball, track and field, cross country, and freshmen, junior varsity and varsity football – all on a volunteer basis.
“We also try to be fair to both sides,” Johnston says. “The visiting team and their players and parents deserve to have the same respect as your own does. We put a very even keel presentation on what we do. We’re not homers.”
Both men understand the importance of extracurricular activities for young minds. Allen was the captain of the 1968 Lake Highlands basketball team and made the last two free throws to seal the state championship for the Wildcats. Johnston played center and defensive tackle on the 1963 University of Texas national championship team.
This pair has a lot in common. They’re both bankers as well as members and past presidents of the Exchange Club. Allen jokes that his hair is cut short and Johnston’s bald. The stories of how they became the voices of Lake Highlands athletics are similar but distinct.
Johnston, the veteran of the duo, started announcing freshman football games in 1983.
“I started because I went to the freshman games, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, these kids deserve to have their names and their parents deserve to hear the names announced equally as well as the varsity guys,’” Johnston says.
So he asked coach Joe Bob Johnson if he could do it. Later, under coach Jerry Gayden’s reign, Johnston took over the mike for Friday night football. Johnston continues to be the dominating voice, but Allen became his trusty sidekick when he began announcing boys’ basketball three years ago. He even took on a new role this past season. Playing music became popular at track meets in the area, so Allen became the music man.
“Of course, in this particular case, this music for the most part is rap music,” Allen says. “So, here you are, you’ve got this 56-year-old, white male, I’m playing Laffy Taffy (by D4L), and I didn’t have a clue what it was.”
But that didn’t matter. Kids and fans started dancing in the stands, and Allen was having a good time himself.
Allen and Johnston see themselves as our neighborhood’s ambassadors to the outside world. Each time Allen announces, he focuses on two players from the opposing team who have accomplished something positive. For example: “Ladies and gentleman, coming off a 25-point game in his senior season…Joe Smith!”
“Those fans who just heard that I said something nice, nobody does that,” Allen says. “It sets the stage. These people are coming to our back yard. We want these visitors to think we’re a little bit classier.”
Classy is an accurate way to describe this team. Their goal is to keep patting kids on the back, letting them know they have no limits to what they can achieve.
“As we put them (the kids) up there on pedestals, you’re putting them up there so the kids will feel good about themselves, which is giving them self confidence,” Allen says. “And then you’re getting relatives, friends to take pride that they’re in the audience hearing those kids’ names.”
“We like working with youngsters, whatever the age, to make them feel good about themselves,” Johnston says. “That’s sort of what I’m all about.”