When Mike was in high school, he played basketball on the Wichita Falls High Coyote junior varsity team for a while. During one scrimmage the JV had with the varsity, Mike earned a nickname that lasted longer than his playing days.
From out of the crowd of players under the basket, Mike came up with the ball when everyone else had lost track of it. He went for a layup and got the two points. As everyone was asking where Mike had come from, a senior varsity player, who was impressed with Mike’s quickness, answered that he must be a phantom. A redheaded phantom. The Red Phantom.
His classmates began calling him Phantom. One even thought that was his real last name, because that’s all he had ever heard Mike called.
After graduation, “Phantom” floated into the background, the way nicknames do when you move into other phases of life. It was revived during the 70s when Mike got caught up in the CB craze and he used “Red Phantom” as his handle.
Other than that, the Red Phantom had pretty much been laid to rest.
Just a few years ago, Mike went into a jewelry store in Wichita Falls looking for a gift. It’s an old, family-owned jewelry store. The owners had kids in school around Mike’s age, and were big Coyote supporters. When Mike walked up to the counter, the elderly owner looked at him and said, “Well, if it isn’t the Red Phantom.”
It’s one thing to remember your “glory days” in your own mind, but when someone else remembers too, you know those days were for real and not just scenes that get fuzzy from the special memory gloss that age and time put on days gone by.
It was during a physical for basketball that Mike found out he had diabetes and that ended his playing days. But who knows when someone else will recognize the player that in one game, came from nowhere with the ball to score, the player called the Red Phantom.
From “Life with Mike,” July 10, 2003
by Kathy Floyd