Sun-Times Media's Tony Baranek recently received the Illinois High School Association's (IHSA) “Distinguished Media Service Award”. Tony took a look back on his career and wrote on High School Cube News:
"I don’t know how many times — seems like a million — the question has been asked over the years by my friends, especially those who come from a different working life.
Tony, why do you always talk about how much you love what you do for a living? Why does covering high school sports mean so much to you?
Every time, it takes just a few seconds to answer, because immediately the images come to mind, starting with March 1974, when I sat on my living room floor and pecked away at the keys of a Royal typewriter, penning my first story for the Harvey Star-Tribune.
It was 1976, and Bremen was playing at Reavis in probably the most important football game in Bremen’s history. The Braves lost their chance to be in the state playoffs for the first time, and minutes afterward I remember walking up to a somber coach Eddie Novak. His head was in his hands as he sat on the bench and I was petrified to ask, “Coach, what happened?”
Before I spoke, Eddie looked up at me with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen and said, “Tony, you know what I’d say. Just go ahead and write it.” Needless to say we talked, but I remember thinking as I walked away, “Wow, you really capture raw emotions doing this.” Kind of chilling, but also very appealing.
It was 1985, and Mount Carmel was playing Springfield Lanphier for the Class AA boys basketball state title at Assembly Hall. What a rush watching that game go into double overtime, then writing about how a little-known sophomore named Derek Boyd hit a jumper as time expired to give the Caravan a 46-44 victory.
It was 1986, and what an experience it was covering the Class 4A playoff run by a Tinley Park football team that had just 25 players and provided story lines for the ages up to and including a 21-15 victory over Rock Island Alleman in the state title game."