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BUZZ BLOG

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.

 

Pet of the Week – June 19

Cost Plus Furniture presents Sarah Lee!

Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse presents Sarah Lee, a beautiful full figured domestic short haired kitty! Sarah Lee is just around 4 years old and a lap full, weighing in at 12.9 pounds. That’s 12.9, y’all, not 13, so don’t call her fat! She’s a peach, and she was a purr ball during her whole photo shoot. With that shiny black coat and those striking green eyes, she’s like a wee house panther!

You could adopt your very own wee house panther today at the Little Rock Animal Village!

To inquire about Sarah Lee call 376-3067 and ask about Pet ID # 47159.

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 Sarah Lee!

Going Deep with Nate Olson – June 15

 

A Bar/Restaurant Guide From Locals for Hogs Fans in Omaha

I could write about how Arkansas is going to win the College World Series, but I’ve already covered that. I could write how it is poetic justice that junior pitcher Blaine Knight earned All-American honors this week after he wasn’t selected first-team All-SEC. I could brag on the nearly 90,000 Hogs fans that showed up for the Super Regional against South Carolina. Or I could write about how much I love that Arkansans hate Texas. It wasn’t a minute after it was announced the Hogs would play the Longhorns in the first game of the College World Series that the social media hate posts began.

But no, I ‘m not going to cover any of those. Instead, I am going to share a PSA for those loyal fans traveling to the great city of Omaha, Nebraska. Below you will see a list of restaurants and watering holes. This list comes from bona fide Omaha residents (I know many growing up two hours from there in Iowa). You’ll find some of the usual suspects you may see on Internet sites, but there will also be some hidden gems. So, enjoy the list and eat, drink and be merry as the Hogs settle in for a long tournament run.

Runza, multiple locations

Runza is a longstanding Nebraska fast-food franchise with locations dotted across the Midwest. It is a staple of Nebraskans and the trademark is the Runza sandwich. It is a mixture of seasoned beef, cabbage or sauerkraut stuffed in a bread pocket and served with fries. Sounds very tasty and Bavarian to me. Patrons can also order burgers and other sandwiches. Runza is definitely “a thing” with Nebraskans. Several of my friends who were polled mentioned it. I think it has to be a must-try for visitors.

Brew Burgers 4629 S. 108th St.

A classic Midwest burger joint with an array of huge burgers with a large beer list to wash it down. The Big Red Burger (an homage to the locals’ beloved University of Nebraska) is a pound of finest stockyards beef with a ¼ pound of cheese topped with pickles and onions on a fresh Italian Focaccia bun. Bring your appetite.

Brickway Brewery,  1116 Jackson Street

Located in the Old Market section downtown not far from T.D Ameritrade Park, it’s a perfect place to pregame or celebrate a Hogs’ win. Brickway boasts handcrafted beer and spirits and a menu which includes appetizers and some sandwiches. 

Spaghetti Works, 502 S 11th St

This is a place so classic I ate there growing up. Conveniently located in the Old Market, it’s a great place to bring the family to enjoy a big plate of pasta or some pizza.

Cascio’s Steakhouse 1620 S 10th St

Speaking of classic and Italian, Cascio’s has been serving the area with authentic Italian dishes as well as great corn-fed steaks for 65 years. The pictures on the website look like your grandpa’s steakhouse, a classy joint. Among those who have dined there, Mickey Mantle, Jerry Rice and Tina Turner. Looking for a romantic spot to impress your significant other, this may be the place.

The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill, 501 N. 13th St.

Referred to by the locals as “The Matt”, this popular sports bar established in 1983 is a hub of activity during the College World Series. Open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., you will be able to stop by almost any time and enjoy a party atmosphere with a comprehensive food menu (I’d go with the prime rib French dip sandwich or the brat burger) and as well as a full list of drinks. This will be a popular stop for all fans of CWS teams.

California Tacos and More 3235 California Street

The exterior of the building doesn’t look like much, but there is a reason it was highlighted on the popular Food Network program Diners Drive-inns and Dives. Since 1995, the locals have enjoyed simple tacos and a cold beer or margarita.

Anthony’ Steakhouse 7220 F St

My advice when in the Midwest, eat as much red meat as possible. It’s the best in the world, and you won’t be disappointed. Here’s another steakhouse, after all Omaha is kind of known for them. Anthony’s appears to be another good place to take a date with a classy atmosphere and a full menu of dry-aged beef. I know I would try the Waygu short ribs.

 Mama’s Pizza, multiple locations

Looking for a casual dinner with the kids? This may be your spot. Mama’s has become a local go-to for pizza over the past 25 years. It boasts a family atmosphere with a variety of pizza and burgers. The All Meat and Sausage Trio pizzas sound especially tempting.

Stella’s Bar & Grill, 106 Galvin Rd S, Bellevue, NE

Located in a nearby suburb, it’s not close to the ballpark, but it may be worth the drive. Stella’s has been serving up burgers since 1936 and touts its “World Famous Burgers.” They may not be world famous, but the joint won Nebraska’s Best Burger in 2014 as well as Omaha Magazine’s Best of Omaha for the best burger that same year. Apparently, they’ve won that award seven years running. You can make your own burger or choose from several specialty burgers. I know I’d be taking the trip to devour a pastrami burger.

Nettie’s Fine Mexican Food, 7110 Railroad Ave, Bellevue, NE

Speaking of Bellevue, one friend says Nettie’s is the best Mexican food in Omaha. The building looks classic, and the menu the same. Simple, but authentic. Looks like another place to take the entire family and enjoy a leisurely meal.