Lifelong Elmore resident Dave Robenstine is an easygoing, no-nonsense type of guy.
Perhaps his endearing qualities, such as his folksy demeanor and rich lineage in Woodmore High School sports that spans 44 years, that has afforded the former banker and longtime Harris Township fiscal officer the opportunity to stay ensconced high atop Woodmore Stadium.
Robenstine has been the voice of Wildcat football for the past 36 colorful years.
|Long time Woodmore public address announcer Dave Robenstine.
(Press photo by Dean Utendorf/WoodmorePhotos.com)
"All I try to do is report the action, and I try to do it as objectively as possible," offers Robenstine.
Robenstine’s lineage dates back to his WHS playing days. From 1968-70, he toiled as an undersized, 150 pound center for Woodmore's first football teams, which competed in the Lakeshore Conference.
"I've always believed the announcer isn't supposed to be the entertainer," he continues, "but that the entertainment is supposed to be the players, the band, the game itself, and just the whole atmosphere going on down on the football field.
"Now saying that, I do try to get all of the names of the players correct, because family members, and especially the mothers, can be very sensitive about it, so we work really hard up there to do that," adds Robenstine.
His game day routine for years has consisted of arriving at the stadium as early as 5:45 p.m., rounding up team rosters, necessary announcements, and other essentials for the entire Friday night press box crew. Finally, he makes a trip onto the field for starting lineups and pronunciations of names.
"But other than that, I pretty much do it straight up, with who ran the football, who made the tackle, how many yards were gained, and of course what the down-and-distance is," Robenstine said.
"Probably the best compliment that was ever paid to me, was when I asked one of my friends, 'Hey, what did you think of my announcing?'," he chuckles, "and well, my friend thought about it, and said 'You know, I didn't really notice it. If it was there, I could listen to it. And if I didn't need to listen to it, it didn't impede on my conversation with my friends.' I took that as a compliment, because it's kind of like being there, and being a part of the atmosphere, without being recognized. Being the public address announcer isn't supposed to be like being Brent Musburger."
He originally took over the Wildcat mic for then-incumbent PA announcer Jack Chalk, a local Methodist minister. Chalk had become something of a fixture around Woodmore football himself, until suddenly being transferred to a different church around the fall of 1976.
After being asked by then-athletic director Bob Eickel if he could stand in for a spell…Robenstine has since logged many miles walking up to the press box.
There was the time Robenstine and his game day crew. . .which includes local attorney Kent Weiss on stats, and the very same Eickel, who hired him years earlier to sit in as spotter, were working a showdown between the Wildcats and one-time rival Oak Harbor, and an eerie fog rolled in so thick that neither press box personnel nor fans could even see the field.
Laughs Robenstine, "I just kept right on announcing, and people kept looking back at us, and asking 'How in the world do you know?'”
There was another Friday when Elmore was lashed by a monsoon-like rain all day long before another Wildcats' home game. Robenstine splashed in for his pre-game preparations, only to discover that the old press box, which was already tough to work in due to space constraints, had been flooded with about a half-inch of water. He and his crew wondered if they were even going to survive going head-to-head with the potentially-lethal combination of electrical cables and sloshing water for two-plus hours.
Robenstine said, "It was always pretty much feast or famine up in that old press box. If you had an early season game, and it was 90 degrees out, you'd walk out of there ringing wet. Likewise, if it was really cold out, we were really cold. There was no heat.
“Some nights we'd walk up there, and someone obviously had sprayed bug spray. We'd have to get the broom out, and sweep all the dead flies into a big pile. There was hardly any ventilation.
"Everytime the door opened, somebody would have to shuffle around, or move out of the way to let whomever it was through. It was just really confined. Film crews often had to stand outside. I always had to go up early just to see where we were going to position any media. It was always ironic to me. . .we had a press box, but no room for press."
After three-and-a-half decades, Robenstine would like to see the Wildcats claw their way to the top of the league standings again. He looks back fondly at perennially-contending Wildcat teams in the late '80s and early '90s.
"As you know, if a team isn't always successful, towards the end of any given night, sometimes there aren't always going to be a whole lot of people left in the stands," he meditates, "and then when you have really good teams, those stands will just be packed, and the atmosphere will just simply be electric.
"But the fun part is," he starts, that boyhood twinkle still as alive in his now-wiser, older eyes as it was when he first stepped foot on the Wildcat gridiron some 44 odd years ago as an undersized, but eager center, "is that no matter what, you'll always have the game itself, and that whole high school football atmosphere. I mean, what's it cost, like six bucks? For that, you get to participate in the greatest entertainment value there is."
He’s also held down the Woodmore basketball announcer's gig for the past 23 years. He's been a softball umpire, officiating seven state finals.
Plus, he’s a proud father of three outstanding Wildcat athletes who have more than carried on the Robenstine tradition. One son also played center for Woodmore and one of his daughters earned the distinction of becoming the only female Woodmore athlete ever to start on three league championship teams.
From watching basketball and football, he’s seen athletes change, too.
"The kids are bigger, faster, and stronger. The (football) games are sometimes going three hours because of all the passing we have now. We used to play into early December, and the starts of league games have been moved up from 8 p.m. to 7," offers Robenstine. "Even the field is marked better now and beautifully taken care of with the Woodmore insignia, which is done by a paint crew.
"But it's always been an exciting atmosphere, and that's what I've enjoyed the most about it. I mean, to see the kids, and the players, and the cheerleaders and the band, and their parents and grandparents get excited…that’s what it's all about," he adds. "As a public address announcer, you don't want to talk over the band. Nor do you want to talk over the cheerleaders. That's their time. They're the atmosphere. You have to develop a feel for it. You get to be a part of it, without being a part of it."