If Joe Arredondo and Wayne Svetanoff didn't already know how popular their prep sports programs on Lakeshore Public Television were, all the co-hosts of the Prep Football Report, Prep Football Scoreboard and Prep Sports Report had to do was go on vacation.
"I was coming back from Vegas, I was on the plane, and a man asks me, 'Aren't you the guy from Wayne's World?' Svetanoff said. "It's a good feeling to be stopped by people on the streets, in the mall, who watch the show."
Arredondo was in Fort Lauderdale when he was recognized by someone from Crown Point.
"It's nice," he said. "I see a lot of people in public, at restaurants. I met a guy who played high school football and he got a kick that I remembered what his number was. He said that made his month. That kind of stuff makes me laugh. That's what it's all about for me."
The duo will receive another form of recognition at the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association's spring clinic April 26, when they will be presented with the Virgil Sweet Award. The honor, named for the former Valparaiso boys basketball coach, recognizes 'meritorious service in the promotion of basketball across Indiana.'
"I'm happy for Wayne and our staff at the station," Arredondo said. "A lot of people have worked hard, so I want them to get some enjoyment out of that, too."
Lakeshore first aired in Nov. 1987 as WYIN. Arredondo joined the station shortly thereafter, initially as a volunteer. What began as a possible stepping stone to a broadcasting career evolved into more of a personal endeavor.
"It's become more about promoting Northwest Indiana sports," said Arredondo, who works by day for Ivy Tech Community College Northwest. "I always thought our athletes were under-represented. I still get a kick out of local guys doing well. Providing any positive recognition is something I really enjoy. It's still something I think about all the time, who can we get video of, how many can we get video of?"
Svetanoff, a former boys basketball coach at Lake Central who still teaches there, joined Arrendondo 11 years ago after having done radio with him at WJOB.
"I thank Joe for giving me the opportunity," he said. "It's been a joy. Joe's an unbelievably intelligent person on sports. It amazes me that he has no notes on the set. My role is looking at it from the coach's perspective. Sometimes, if you haven't been in that role, you don't really understand behind the scenes, the pressures on coaches."
PFR has become a pre-game tradition for many area teams, who watch the show on Thursdays during gatherings. Show clips are also posted to a Facebook page.
"It's difficult to determine how people are watching, but the response we get from that indicates there's a significance to what we're doing," Arrendondo said. "The interest is still there. That's the aspect of playing high school sports. It's very important. These are memories kids are going to have the rest of their lives."
While the prep sports media in the region has changed markedly over the years, Lakeshore has remained a constant as the only TV source.
"Everybody loves to watch their child on TV and obviously there are some very good, talented athletes," Svetanoff said. "We're not trying to be ESPN. We're just trying to show athletes as positive role models, as good citizens. It's good for Northwest Indiana."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.