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Day 3 in Omaha: A long run, weird 80s music and a game to cover

Day 3 in Omaha was game day. Oklahoma State played Oregon at 5:50 p.m., so that meant we didn’t have to hurry to the arena.

My day started with a run. A long run. Actually, my long run of the week.

As you might have read in my blog before, I am training for the half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The training has been going great, but this week was the first time I’ve been on the road for work while training. I was insistent on keeping up my training — but it meant a little adjustment.

With OSU playing Friday, there was no way to know what John Helsley, our OSU beat writer, and I were going to be doing Saturday, the day I usually do my long run. If the Cowboys won, we’d be staying in Omaha. If they lost, we’d be driving all day to get back to Oklahoma City. And if the latter happened, I really didn’t want to have to get up before we left to run, nor did I want to run eight miles after sitting in a car for eight hours.

So, I adjusted my schedule.

Instead of resting on Wednesday, I did the five miles that I was supposed on Thursday. Then, Thursday became a rest day. And Friday, I would get in my long run that was supposed to be on Saturday.

I went back to the same running trail that I ran Wednesday, but I went the opposite direction when I hooked up with the trail about a mile from our hotel. It was basically a trail that went southeast, and unlike the part that went northwest that I took Wednesday, this stretch wasn’t nearly as developed with businesses. That northwest stretch had office buildings and the backs of strip malls. This southeast jaunt was more residential. There were a couple golf courses along the way, a couple parks, even an elementary school.

It was great.

And the weather was spectacular. Sunny. Cool. Very slight breeze.

Even with all that, I don’t particularly like running eight miles. I still struggle sometimes to wrap my head around just how far I’m running. I know that for some people eight miles isn’t anything. But for me? I never thought I’d be regularly running for more than an hour.

But that’s what I did.

Distance: 8.02 miles.

Duration: 1:19:07.

Pace: 9:52 per mile.

Once that madness was over, I needed some food, but Hels and I had decided not to have lunch until 2:30 or so. Basically, eat on our way to the arena.

So, I had brunch. I went to a place about a mile from the hotel called Wheatfields, a local establishment with a couple locations in Omaha. It was solid fare. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and a muffin.

Hey, I’d just run eight miles. I needed food!

And this picture shows you what I could’ve eaten at Wheatfields.

I went back to the hotel and returned to quite a sight. The Indiana basketball team, which was staying at our hotel, was getting ready to leave for the arena, and the sendoff was about to begin. The pep band was in the parking lot. The lobby probably wasn’t big enough, though they probably would’ve sounded great in such a small space. Inside, there was a human tunnel of cheerleaders and fans.

A few folks gave me some weird looks as I walked up through the tunnel.

(Hey, you put a human tunnel from the only front door of the hotel to the only bank of elevators, and you get what you get.)

But a couple folks standing near the check-in desk had smiles on their face, so I thanked them for giving me such a warm welcome back.

Back in my room, I watched the end of the early games. There wasn’t nearly as much excitement as Thursday’s early games. One of the better games turned out to be Wichita State and the team staying at our hotel.

Hels and I headed toward downtown and the arena about the time that game tipped off. We decided to eat in the Old Market area, a cool entertainment district less than half a mile from the arena. It has all manner of restaurants and bars, but coolest of all, it still has its original brick streets.

When we arrived, a few folks were milling around, but we had our choice of where to eat. We picked a place called Stokes, which promised southwestern fare. It also had TVs on the Wichita State-Indiana game, so that was a winning combination for us.

And the food ended up being great. We had chips, guac and salsa, then Hels had fish tacos and I had a steak salad.

And the game on the TV ended up being great. Lots of big plays made at important times, including a few made by Shaq Morris, the big man who played his high school ball in Edmond.

But Hels and I may be laughing about our meal at Stokes for a long time because of the music. Lots of times, you don’t really notice the music playing in the background when you’re at a restaurant. Noise from people talking and eating tends to drowned it out. But in the middle of the afternoon in a nearly empty restaurant, the music wasn’t in the background.

And it was hilarious. I’ve since termed it “C-list 80s music.”

I’m a child of the 80s, so I love 80s music. But the 80s music playing at Stokes was the stuff that isn’t exactly considered quintessential. “Amanda” by Boston. “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson. “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by Gap Band.

When we first sat down and I heard what was playing, I thought it might actually be a joke. But it wasn’t, though just about every time a new song started, Hels and I laughed.

This will forever be known as the “Amanda” trip.

Hels and I headed for the arena as soon as Wichita State secured victory. We wanted to get going before the arena emptied and fans flooded the Old Market, and it’s a good thing we went when we did. We were still three or four blocks from the arena when the waves of fans on foot made the going tough. But we had plenty of time, so we slowly made our way those last few blocks.

We had interesting seats for the game. Along with Mark Cooper, who covers OSU for the Tulsa World, we were sitting directly across from the Cowboy bench — but directly in front of the Cowboy cheering section. And I do mean directly. There was a bar separating our seats from theirs, but that was about it. They could look over our shoulders and see what we were writing without any problem.

Which was particularly interesting because it was Travis Ford’s family who was sitting there. His wife was over my left shoulder. His daughter and youngest son were behind me. And over to the right were his parents.

We heard lots of, um, interesting things, and late in the game, I thought Hels might get hit on the head when Ford’s youngest son took offense over an official’s call. He pointed onto the court, and his arm was inches from Hels’ head.

Even though those folks behind us were disappointed, the Cowboys really played a heck of a game. It wasn’t like they played badly, not like they have the last two years in the NCAA Tournament. They just didn’t play as well as the Ducks.

Hels wrote about that very fact while I wrote about Anthony Hickey, who would’ve been the best player on the court if not for Joe Young’s first half explosion.

After we finished up at the arena, we struck out to find a late bite to eat. We were joined by Mark Cooper and Nate Feken, one of the sports guys from KFOR. We landed at Blatt’s, a pub over near the baseball stadium, but after sitting at a table for about 15 minutes and seeing absolutely no one waiting tables, we walked out.

It was the first not-so-good experience we’d had in Omaha.

So, we headed toward the Old Market area again, figuring there were multiple options there. Even though it was nearing midnight, someone had to be serving food.

After we parked, Hels crossed the street to a place that looked like it might be serving Italian fare to see if its kitchen was still open while the rest of us went into Upstream Brewery to ask the same. The hostess told us that, yes, the kitchen was still open, so we got a table.

Much like Thursday night, the food was good. Jambalaya for me. Veggie burger for Hels. But the company was better. I’ve covered a good number of games with Mark and Nate, but I’d never sat and chatted much. We talked about tennis. Soccer. The Thunder. The tournament. We would’ve stayed longer, but all of us were driving home Saturday, so we didn’t want to close the place down.

I really enjoyed my time in Omaha. I’d been years ago. Oh, it’s been more than a decade for sure, and I frankly don’t remember that much about it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the city impressed me.

Earlier this week, I got an email from a sports media cohort. When I told her that was I was in Omaha, she said it was a city that she liked. Actually reminded her a lot of Oklahoma City.

After this trip, I absolutely agree.


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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›