I’d like to introduce you to Phil Kane, high school superstar.
In football season, the quarterback of the Western Steers was almost always good for two touchdowns a game. In basketball, Phil averaged 24 points per outing and guarded the other team’s best shooter. Come spring, the guy played a scintillating shortstop, rarely saw his batting average dip below .400 and won the big game when his cannon shot of a line drive ripped the glove off the opposing hurler, and Phil circled the bases while medical personnel performed emergency blood work on the mound.
And humble. He wrote anonymous stories for the school newspaper that praised his less gifted teammates for their ability to lace their shoes and locate the practice field without help, all the while ignoring his own achievements.
Still in his formative years, Phil appeared destined for spectacular success at any career he set his sights on from robber baron to faith healer.
But, alas, Phil Kane was too good to be true, existing only in the mind freak brain of a fourth-grader.
After making sure no one else was home, I lay in bed and babbled forth on the exploits of Phil The Great.
This was the late ’50s in a little town in the Bible Belt, so I couldn’t make Phil perfect. In Mrs. Brabson’s Sunday School class — which I was never allowed to miss — we learned there was only one such being like that and he didn’t live anywhere near Abingdon.
So Phil sometimes made an out (always on a deep drive to the warning track), and the Western Steers occasionally lost a grid contest when a hapless klutz of a wide receiver dropped a beautifully thrown pass in the end zone. But true to character, Phil never scolded his teammate, instead apologizing “for throwing the ball too darned hard.”
Each season had a beginning, a middle and a winning playoff finish. I kept Phil’s stats in a Blue Horse notebook and interviewed him after every victory. Following rare defeats, Phil asked the coach for permission to address his vanquished teammates. I wrote these speeches beforehand, not trusting my 9-year-old self to speak extemporaneously in front of the entire squad.
There’s one more thing. I tossed my bedroom slipper during these commentaries that sometimes lasted more than an hour, or until my parents got home from the grocery store.
The trick was to spin the slipper end over end, and make the thing come as close to the ceiling as possible without actually touching. While I became quite skilled at Flinging Phil , there were inevitable black marks — usually inflicted during the excitement of overtime and extra innings.
So I kept a bottle of Lysol handy and applied it rigorously after Phil exited the post-game locker room.
My younger brother sneaked down the hall and overheard me a time or two. But he never told Mom or Dad, knowing that I would fulfill my threat to put the (smelly) slipper over his nose and not remove it until he admitted he was a Communist. I’m sure Dan, who was 7 at the time, knew nothing about the Red Menace, but his gag reflex was plenty up to speed.
Phil Kane was out of my life before the end of fifth grade, but I still think of him every now and again. A mind freak is a terrible thing to waste.
Originally published on Medium.
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