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BUZZ BLOG

Going Deep with Nate Olson – June 29

A Letter to Carson Shaddy

Dear Carson,

I know we don’t know each other, but I felt compelled to write you after seeing the multitude of criticism you’ve taken after your Hogs lost Game 2 of the College World Series Finals series.

I admire you for two reasons. First, as a sports writer of 20 years and someone who has chronicled this team the past few years with opinion pieces, I like how you play the game. I’ve always enjoyed writing about “the grinders” as I call them. The guys who have to work a little extra hard to get in the lineup. Throughout its broadcast of the CWS, ESPN reminded viewers that you didn’t have a scholarship – that UA Coach Dave Van Horn saw you play in the state tournament with Fayetteville High School and remembered playing with your dad and gave you a shot. But, you weren’t just some role player utility guy, you were close to leading this mighty lineup in homes and your defense at second base was slick. You were the leader of this team. Secondly, as a father of two young boys, who adore Razorbacks baseball, I admire you because your story is a good model for them. They listened when ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge talked about how you mentored freshman Casey Martin, and how he calls you, “Dad.” You are in that group of their favorite players, and when that ball was dropped they weren’t blaming anyone, surely not you, and were convinced, the National Title celebration would happen Thursday. I’m glad they like players such as you and their fellow Bryant native, Blaine Knight.

Anyway, when I started seeing Hogs fans blaming you, I wanted to reach out. You are smart and level-headed and probably already know this, but I wanted to remind you what my dad as always told me when it comes to criticism, “Consider the source.” No one in that clubhouse, your family or friends or the die-hard fans such as Mike Cormack or Hognoxious are tweeting at you. No one that cares about you. They all understand that pop-up, the loss it wasn’t your fault.

Anyone who hides behind a computer and bashes a college kid is an idiot. Period. It horrified me to see some of the things people had posted. And while you probably shrug a lot of it off, you may worry about how your family and friends take it. That’s natural, and I am sorry about that.

I’d like to say it will get better, but after becoming friends with former Hogs quarterback Clint Stoerner over the years, I’m not sure. Fans still bring up the fumble play at Tennessee in innocent and not-so-innocent ways.  So, five years from now at Wal-Mart someone might ask “How did that feel?” or 20 years from now when you are out to eat with your family someone may ask, “How the hell did you not catch that ball?”

I hope it doesn’t happen, but both the audacity and stupidity of some people has struck Clint over the past 20 years. But, like I said consider the source. He’s had to remind himself of that repeatedly.

My hope for you is that you don’t focus on that one play or those two games and remember your entire career. There were plenty of highlights, and being a part of one of two teams in Hogs history to play for a CWS title is something to be proud of.  You’ve also done plenty to make your family, coaches and teammates proud. You’ve done everything you can for five years to represent your team and hometown in a positive way.

Just don’t forget those things as you begin the next chapter. I don’t know if you will play pro baseball or coach or embark on a career, but I wish you good luck. You will be remembered by real Hog fans for more than just one play.

 

Sincerely,

Nate Olson

Pet of the Week – June 26

Cost Plus Furniture presents Sally!

Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse presents Sally! Sally loves everyone she meets, and she’s great with kids. She loves to play and will catch a toy in the air and bring it back to you, all while smiling and wiggling, but she’s also extra gentle with her affection, and she loves to snuggle. She’s perfect on a leash, never pulling, even with the littlest girl at the other end of the leash, she’s a perfect pup, just happy to be out and about!

Sally’s only 30 lbs and at around 2 years old, she’s fully grown. She’ll make a great side kick, and since she’s just sporting a nub for a tail, you don’t have to worry about her happy tail knocking your beverages off the table!

Head out to the Little Rock Animal Village to meet Sally. She’s ready to have a home all her own!

Just $90 covers all of her fees, including her spay, shots and her city license.

To inquire about Sally call 376-3067 and ask about Pet ID # 47670.

The Little Rock Animal Village is at 4500 Kramer Street off South University, right behind Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse. The Village is full of wonderful dogs, puppies, cats, and OODLES of kittens, all waiting for homes today!

Thank you so much to Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Malvern for helping The Little Rock Animal Village save homeless pets like Sally!

Going Deep with Nate Olson – June 22

Former Razorback India Lewis Finding Strength from Friends, Fans During Cancer Battle

I learned early in my sports writing career that it’s smart to show up early. I never arrived at a game I covered later than two hours before the start. I don’t always get to 103.7 the Buzz High School Football Games of the Week early enough to suit R.J. Hawk, but I blame that on kids and my day job. But for years, I was always early.

One time, I covered a University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff basketball game at the University of Memphis at The Pyramid and was there early enough to see the initial warmups for both teams. An altercation broke out, and I was one of the few media members there, and the only one that wasn’t eating in the press room when the incident happened.

That fracas loomed large because it triggered a bench-clearing brawl in the first half. I won an award for that story partly because I was the only one that saw the initial incident. Then, I snuck into the UAPB locker room during the second half to get exclusive interviews with the ejected players and nearly got into an argument with then-Tigers Coach John Calipari when he fired back after I had the audacity to accuse his team of starting everything.

But I digress, and that’s a story for another time, but on a fall day in 1998, I showed up to the Siloam Springs High School Panther Arena well in front of a throng of expected media. I didn’t know it, but it was the beginning of a lasting friendship. I saw Lady Panthers guard India Lewis talking to family getting ready to sign with the University of Arkansas.

India was one of the top prep guards in the country, and when my editor was convincing me to take the job at the Benton County Daily Record, he told me, I would be covering one of the best girls basketball players in the country and one of the top tight ends in Rogers’ Nathan Ball, who went on to a solid four years with the Hogs.

I introduced myself to India, and we climbed the bleachers halfway up and found two seats and settled in for an exclusive interview before the signing. Although I had never seen her play, I had done some research and asked her question after question. She answered articulately, and I could tell she was also a good student.

Finally, she stopped. “Hey, you aren’t like the other reporters,” she said. “You really ask some great questions. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. I can tell you love your job.”

She was right, and I loved covering her. That winter she led Siloam Springs to the Class AAAA state title along with her sister, Brandi, who was a sophomore.

I think I did another feature story on her before the state tournament, and then a column for the Sunday edition, the day after they won the title. The column centered on how great players find ways to win championships and how her legacy as one of the all-time greats in Arkansas girls prep history was firmly cemented with that win.

Over the next four years, I covered her at Arkansas and Brandi’s final two years in high school. Our friendship grew, and the girls’ parents, Porky and Carmen Lewis, invited myself and then-Siloam Springs Herald-Leader sports editor Buck Ringgold, my good friend and colleague, to their home and to eat at restaurants before Lady ‘Back games. When I got married in Little Rock in 2001, I invited the entire family.

I’ve watched from Facebook as India moved into life after college and coached Brandi’s son, Makobi, in baseball. Not many people know India, was one of the top 12-year-old baseball players in Siloam Springs growing up. She was also a varsity letter winner in volleyball track and softball. Anyway, the entire family is still involved in sports, and I have no doubt if we lived in Northwest Arkansas, our boys would run into them on the baseball field or hardwood which would be great fun.

Sadly, though, India isn’t coaching any more this summer. She found out a few weeks ago she has Stage IV breast cancer. It was a crushing blow to her loved ones, but in true Lewis family fashion they have pledged to cheer her on as she takes on the toughest opponent in her life. That competitive spirit that made her one of the greatest female athletes I’ve covered will help her fight this dreaded disease.

“The doctors said the cancer has spread to her brain and her spine and is treatable but not curable,” Carmen said. “We told them, they don’t know about miracles or the Lewis family.”

As of Thursday night, India was still hospitalized as doctors try to get her oxygen levels up so she can begin treatment. Carmen is not sure if India will receive treatment at Tulsa where she is hospitalized or in Northwest Arkansas, but she could be released from the hospital soon.

The family has received an outpouring of support from the Siloam Springs community, and Razorback Nation. India can use it. She was laid off at her job at Ozark Electronics in Siloam Springs in March, and was going back to work for the Siloam Springs Parks and Recreation Department when she began feeling ill.

“[India] has received support from all over,” Carmen said. “It’s tremendous support. That means a lot to her and us.”

There are several ways you can help. There is a GoFundMe Me page that has been set up and you can go to any Arvest Bank branch and donate to the India Lewis Support fund. You can also purchase a T-Shirt from Pig Trail Clothing. The shirt is similar the ones Carmen designed for family and friends to wear to Hogs games when India played. It says “#21HogPen Pray for India.” All of the $20 goes to India’s care and travel. Shirts can be ordered at www. Pigtrailclothing.com.

I’m proud to call her a friend, and I am glad I showed up early that day during her senior year. I pray for her during this battle and know find strength from the support of her many friends and fans.