Bob Allen always stood out as a rare original voice amid the repetitive blubbering and outright cheerleading that passes for sports journalism in Houston TV news. Allen is a storyteller and a willing analyst who isn’t afraid to criticize the local teams.
That makes him as unusual as a sound-minded Dallas Cowboys fan.
A definite void has been felt in the local Houston TV news landscape since June, when Allen took a leave of absence to battle the aggressive form of T-cell lymphoma threatening his life. But there’s beyond encouraging news in Allen’s cancer fight. The 40-plus-year veteran of the Houston airwaves says he is cancer-free.
The 68-year-old Allen is now embarking on a Rocky-worthy comeback program to return to the air for KHOU. “I am now in the rehab facility at MD Anderson trying to regain the stamina, strength & coordination I lost during the months of the stem cell transplant process,” Allen wrote on his Facebook page. “Everyone including myself is very optimistic. Feel like I’m on the downhill run.”
Even when writing about cancer, Bob Allen couldn’t help but sneak one of his pointed sports opinions in. In talking about his pleasures during the long grueling chemotherapy and radiation regiment, Allen noted, “Seeing (former Texans coaches Gary) Kubiak & Wade (Phillips) send a message to a certain Houston owner & GM that… you know maybe the coaching wasn’t so bad here during those 8 years… just might have been the Texans didn’t know how to build a team. (Rick)”
Of course, that’s a direct jab at longtime Texans general manager — and McNair family ownership favorite — Rick Smith. Even months of energy-draining cancer treatments cannot cool Bob Allen’s fire.
There is much too little of that on the Houston TV scene. Pablo Alsina — a new hire trying to help fill the void left by Allen’s absence at KHOU — breaks out the pom poms for every local team and even gleefully makes himself part of a Houston Astros’ champagne celebration. Alsina may be the extreme, but he’s hardly an outlier.
Some of these guys come across like they’re unwittingly auditioning for the next Anchorman movie.
Even Fox 26’s Mark Berman — another longtime Houston sports TV fixture like Allen and the best pure reporter in the city, period — never takes on teams the way Allen willingly does. Allen’s storytelling is also largely unmatched in Houston TV news.
This, more than even the nearly unparalleled relationship he’s built with Houston viewers over 40 years, through station change and several eras, is why the Allen void is so large. It’s not only that Allen has been around for so long and built such a connection with viewers — one shown by all the good wishes and prayers sent his way during this cancer battle. It’s that he’s still one of the best sports anchors in the business.
Bob Allen could have walked away from TV sports. He has nothing else to prove. Instead, he’s not only battling to get healthy, he’s fighting to get back on the air.
That’s a double win for the Houston sports scene and local TV news.