Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

After 36 years, Brabec steps away from the mic


Al Rose

Tom Brabec waves from the announcers booth. After 36 years announcing Rebels football games, he is stepping down.

A wonderfully impartial and colorful football announcer stepped down from the booth after 36 years on Tuesday, October 25. Tom Brabec's last words into the microphone and over the public address system at Willow River were straight forward, "This is your announcer, Tom Brabec, saying bye-bye."

Brabec's commentary was fair, balanced and caring. His knowledge and love for the game were evident and his announcing was insightful and fun. He had enthusiasm, a word that has synonyms including zeal and passion. It was noticed by fans, players and coaches from both the home team and the opposition how Brabec would correctly pronounce players' names, give players from both sides equally excited recognition for good plays and if a player was injured, he would always say, "I hope you will be OK and be able to get right back into the game."

"I wanted to correctly pronounce players' names," related Brabec. "I'd often get on websites and study rosters before the game to prepare and do my homework. If I still had a question about how to pronounce a name, I'd ask coaches before the games. I was passionate about the game and I wanted to represent our communities by staying impartial. I wanted other teams, coaches and fans to come away saying we were fair. I really meant it when I said I wanted other teams' injured players to be able to get back in the game. I took pride in all of that."

Brabec recalled other teams and coaches through the years. "I was 25 years old and to make it 36 years, that takes it back to 1981," he began. "For my first three years Willow River-Askov was known as the North Pine Pioneers and the colors were dark green and gold. Pioneer coaches were Bob Paulson, Chuck Swanson and Dan Battaglia. Rebels coaches were Bob Youso, Lee Athey, Paulson, Swanson and Phil Jensen, and the current coach Dave Louzek and his assistants. I want to note now how great a job Coach Louzek has done. He has taken so many kids with no or very low self-esteem and has let them know there is always a place for them on the team. This opportunity has given them confidence and direction in their lives to grow."

Brabec continued with a history of spotters and how he became the announcer. "The original booth was on the opposite side of the field until we got the new booth with Frank Magdziarz's name on it where it is now," Brabec said. "Frank was a longtime scorekeeper and one of my very best friends. He was also an excellent groundskeeper. My wife, Sissy, has been with me in the booth for 20-some years. Paulson, Brian Hennen and Swanson were longtime spotters. It was another spotter, Willie Dagel, Frank and I were up in the old booth one night in 1981 and we will call him 'John Doe' didn't show up to announce. Frank was running the clock and he and Willie out-voted me two to one and I had the mic. I really don't remember much about that first announcing experience. I don't even remember if I did the starting line-ups. I would guess it was probably pretty rough. When we combined as Moose Lake/Willow River in 1984, Bill Zellman and I took turns switching between quarters. Curt Frohrip was a spotter for five or six years. Mark Luschen was three or four years. Mike Vogel was three years and Jeff Danelski was in the booth this year. The spotters gave me numbers and fed me some color along with off-microphone humor."

Brabec was asked about some of the most memorable experiences. "One was being able to announce while our son, Jason, played. He played quarterback, tight end and strong safety. He graduated in 1998. That's 18 years already," Brabec reflected. "It's hard to believe how it's been 36 years and a generation. Those who were players are now parents and those who were parents are now grandparents. There was being able to get to know the players all these years and watching them leave, with some going on to play college ball. I liked meeting opposing coaches and being able to share their outlook on the game that night and I also liked meeting the officials. I enjoyed seeing our football field become the best looking field in our whole area. There was coming down the street with the banners on the posts getting to the best manicured field I ever saw thanks to Bruce and Sandy Bohaty. It looks like a small college football field. There were those times being able to see the Rebels play at the Metrodome. There are so many great players that have come through that I'm not going to mention names, because after 36 years I'll forget someone. There was being up in the booth. We were one big family up there. We fed off each other. I had great spotters who made my job a lot easier."

"I still plan to get to many of the home games to be part of it without all the homework to do to prepare for games," stated Brabec. "One of things I'll miss most is having the best seat in the house. I got to know so many of the officials. I'll miss the whole game in general, but after 36 years, it's time to call it."


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