After 41 years, Wood's Bloom steps down as football announcer

bloomWINCHESTER — Anyone who’s been to a professional sporting event knows how much effort is made to create noise, whether it’s playing music during every break in the action or using video boards to ask fans to get loud.
John Bloom has always preferred generating crowd reaction by providing a straightforward description of what he sees from his perch in the press box.
“Put the emphasis on the kids and let them provide the entertainment,” Bloom said. “Putting the kids No. 1. The announcer does the information, and the kids provide the entertainment.”
After 41 years and more than 200 games as a fall Friday night staple for Colonel fans, the 70-year-old Bloom will no longer serve as James Wood’s public address announcer for varsity football games.
During the pre-game introductions for Friday night’s football game with Sherando at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium, Bloom introduced Brian Dick as the announcer and turned over the P.A. responsibilities to Dick for Friday’s game action. A 1985 James Wood graduate, Dick has handled announcing duties for just about every other James Wood sport except varsity football since 2007, including junior varsity football.
Bloom received a warm ovation when he announced his retirement to the crowd over the P.A. system before the game, then received another enthusiastic reception while being talked about by Dick in between the first and second quarters. At that point, Bloom was handed a plaque for his service as he stood on Walter Barr Field with James Wood principal Sam Gross and coordinator of student activities Brian Sullivan.
“He’s just such a recognizable voice,” said Dick in the press box prior to Friday’s game. “His cadence, and his emphasis, and clarity. All those things are really admirable. And he’s just such a nice guy.
“Forty-plus years of doing it is impressive. He’s been the voice of for so long, it’s been great.”
Before Bloom announced football, he played it. Bloom grew up in Coalport, Pa., and attended Glendale High School in nearby Flinton, graduating in 1970. In his senior year, he played defensive end on an Inter County Conference championship team.
Bloom, who currently lives in Frederick County, moved to Winchester in 1974 to work in the radio business for WINC. Bloom didn’t get his start calling high school football at James Wood, however. It was former Handley athletic director Jimmy Omps who first came calling. Bloom believes he called all of the Judges’ games in 1978 and a couple in 1979 when Ron Lindon was head coach.
Bloom said he actually doesn’t remember the circumstances of how he started calling games for James Wood, but he was hired by athletic director Jim Casey for the 1981 season after Bill Baker stepped down. That was the first year of operation for James Wood’s Ridge Campus, but the Colonels would continue to play their football games at the Amherst Campus until 1990.
Ever since, Bloom has enjoyed every moment he’s spent announcing football games. The last 41 years also includes calling Shenandoah University football games when the Hornets reinstituted football in 2000 and played a couple of contests at James Wood.
“I like the kids,” Bloom said. “I like the people. I like the crowds, the excitement. I’m a football fanatic, and I like to hear and maybe see the reaction of the plays. If I can enhance the kids’ performance, that’s what makes you feel good.”
Bloom said he strives to be as accurate as possible, but he doesn’t beat up himself if he’s not perfect. For a variety of reasons, it can be difficult figuring out the uniform number of certain players on certain plays.
“I watch the officials very closely, and I take the offensive player and my spotter takes the defensive part of it, and he just gives me the number for who made the tackle,” Bloom said. “If the players’ numbers are dirty, it’s very difficult.
“Someone asked me one time if I’ve ever had a perfect game. I said, ‘You’re lucky if you’re accurate for just a series, let alone getting through a whole quarter.’ You take it a play at a time, just like I’m sure the players do and the coaches do.”
Bloom remembers one foggy game against Loudoun Valley about 30 years ago where he had no choice but to essentially give up after one particular play.
“You couldn’t see the visitors’ bench,” Bloom said. “Loudoun Valley was moving from right to left, and I just [told the crowd], ‘the Loudoun Valley player rolled right and I have no idea where that boy went.’”
Bloom’s responsibilities were never just limited to the action, either, as he also had to make announcements about sponsors, promote activities at the school, introduce the cheerleaders and the band, and inform fans about the performances of James Wood’s other fall sports activities.
Bloom’s first year in 1981 was memorable because it was the last year the Colonels were coached by Kelican, who led the program to a 75-31-5 record in 11 seasons from 1971-81 and would have James Wood’s stadium named after him in 1999.
As the years went on, the 1981 season took on greater and greater significance. The Colonels went 5-4-1 that season, and they would not have another winning season until 2006, the second year of Barr’s second stint coaching James Wood.
Twenty-four years is a long time to go without watching a winning team, but Bloom gives the Colonels fans a lot of credit for the manner in which they’ve supported James Wood over the years. Since 2006, there’s been a lot more to cheer about, with the Colonels earning seven playoff berths out of 15 full seasons and finishing with eight winning records in 16 total seasons.
“The fans have been very supportive,” Bloom said. “We didn’t have screaming cheers with our fans. We didn’t try to put on a show. It was good ol’ fashioned football.
“Every once in a while, there’d be a tremendous collision, and I’d say, ‘That was a James Wood slobber-knocker.’ But 99 percent of the time, I’d just call it like it is. No showboating.”
That emphasis on a descriptive, straightforward style is why he’s glad Dick is taking over for him.
“My goodness, I can’t think of anyone more capable or more deserving to take over the reins there at James Wood then Brian Dick,” Bloom said. “He’s a pro.”
Bloom was inducted into James Wood’s P. Wendell Dick Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2009. Bloom served as president of the James Wood Athletic Association in 1989-90 and had also done some basketball announcing for the school at that point, but he knows the main reason why he was inducted was because of his football announcing. James Wood honoring him in that fashion made him want to give the school as many years as he could as an announcer.
“I was so appreciative,” Bloom said. “That was one reason why I continued on all these years. And because I enjoyed it.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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