Bob Kottman has the kind of precision that would stop a clock.
And that’s exactly what he did for 49 years as timekeeper at West Platte High School games in Weston.
Kottman started running the clock at basketball games in 1965, at football games in 1966 and at wrestling matches a few years ago.
“He was very meticulous,’’ said Angela Layton, who worked alongside Kottman as basketball scorekeeper for 35 years. “At one time, he had a stopwatch in one hand and he would hit the stopwatch and the score clock at the same time — he had to be right.’’
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Over the years, Kottman, 85, stopped the clock hundreds of times during West Platte Bluejay basketball games. On Friday, as the clock was counting down halftime, Kottman was honored on the court.
Kottman was thanked for his dedication to the district by Mark Harpst, who knew Kottman when Harpst was an athlete and coach for the West Platte district.
During a reception before the game, friends and fans shook Kottman’s hand, hugged him, shared memories and posed with him for photos.
“He had a good reputation for doing the job fair and right,” said Buster Blakley, 77, a 1956 West Platte graduate.
Kottman, a 1947 graduate of West Platte High School, played basketball as a forward for four years and played football as an end for two years. Having played the games helped him understand the demands of timekeeping, and he accepted the part-time job as a way to stay connected to the school and the games.
When he wasn’t running the clock at games, Kottman worked for a construction company, then managed a lumberyard and later sold insurance and real estate. He retired from selling policies and property in 1995.
Kottman officially ended his timekeeping career at the Nov. 7 football game. Now, for the first season since 1965, Kottman is simply a fan at high school basketball games and not an official.
“There’s no pressure now,” Kottman said. “I can relax and enjoy what I’m seeing.”
The main duties in running a clock during a game are keeping track of the time played and time remaining to be played and the points scored. Timekeepers take their cue from referees’ signals and from the action of the players.
“You can’t make decisions,” Kottman said. “You keep an eye on the referees and the ball.”
If the basketball goes out of bounds or if a touchdown is scored in a football game, for example, the clock is stopped.
In all his 49 years of timekeeping, Kottman can recall only one instance when he “lost his cool.” He was questioned by a visiting coach during a basketball game about whether he knew when to start the clock.
“When the referee’s hand comes down, the clock starts,” Kottman said.
The coach was young enough that Kottman told him he’d probably run the clock at more games than the coach had ever seen.
Running the clock for 49 years, Kottman has seen some 50,000 minutes of play and at least three or four generations on the field, court or mat.
“I’ve known Bob since 1965,” said Larry Clemens, 73, who drives a school bus for the district.
Kottman was running the clock when Clemens’ daughter was a student in 1981 and when his grandson was a football and basketball player in 2010.
“Bob’s always done a fine job of running the clock but eventually modern technology caught up with him,” Clemens said.
Kottman explained that the newer clocks take two people to run them because extra information has been added to the scoreboard such as the names of the players, the number of fouls they’ve made and the number of points they’ve scored.
His passion for precision is so important to him that Kottman said it was time for him to retire “while I’m ahead.”
As for modern technology, when Kottman wants to know what time it is, he doesn’t check the screen of a cellphone. He doesn’t rely on a digital watch display.
Kottman pulls up the sleeve of the shirt on his left arm and looks at the hands on the face of his watch.