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Junior's father talks a good game

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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His name may not ring many bells, but his voice is a dead giveaway. Mark Lowe is the “Phantom” when he is talking sports on KHTK 1140-AM in Sacramento or cheering for his son in Lincoln. Lowe is rarely recognized by his professional identity. He blends into the bleacher crowd like any other parent of a Lincoln High School boys basketball player when the Zebras have a home game. Even when someone realizes Lowe is one of the “Rise Guys,” he is seldom asked to sign an autograph. “Some people make a big deal about who you are,” he said, “and then they tell you they don’t listen to (the show).” Lowe’s 12-year-old son, Zach, laughed when asked if he boasts about having a father in the radio business. “Not really,” Zach replied. “I don’t need to brag. He’s a celebrity.” Life as a celebrity is not all what Lowe imagined because he has never thought of himself as being special. “He doesn’t really like people knowing. It likes it to be a secret,” Kyle said. “He’s on radio. If he was on TV, that would be something different.” Kyle is among those who do not listen to the “Rise Guys” all that often. “I don’t need to hear him talk for four hours,” he said. “When I get home (from school), I hear him talk all the time.” After the Zebras’ 67-52 loss to Center last Thursday, Lowe waited outside the locker room for his oldest son. Once Kyle emerged, the two chatted for a moment before Lowe made his way to the exit. Lowe needed to get home and to bed. The “Rise Guys” go on the air at 6 a.m., and Lowe needed sleep. Fortunately for Lowe, the folks in charge at KHTK pushed back the start time from 5 a.m. to 6 in August. Arriving at the studio by 5 a.m. was not a problem for Lowe when Kyle was with the junior varsity team last season. With Kyle now on the varsity, the show’s 6 a.m. start allows him a few more winks. “I didn’t push for the time change, but it was a nice coincidence,” he said. “I wish I had that much power.” Lowe, 57, is joined in the studio by his half-brother, Kevin “Whitey” Gleason, and former Sacramento Bee sports columnist Mark Kreidler. The three might as well be sitting at a bar and chatting. Gleason is responsible – or to blame – for Lowe’s decision to venture into radio as a new profession. “I have considered that possibility and it’s still unspeakable,” Gleason joked. “I don’t want to ponder it. Gleason was working at a Sacramento rock station when Lowe bounced from one job to another in search of a career. Lowe’s degree in psychology was not worth the frame in which it was displayed. “Psychology was the catch-all (major),” said Lowe, who graduated from Sacramento State in 1976. “No one really knew what they wanted to do back then. That was before everybody got into computers.” In his free time, Lowe made a habit of visiting his brother at the station and hanging out around the studio. “I answered the phones just to make myself useful,” he recalled. “I was kind of doing the producer thing.” Listeners were disappointed when they called the station and got Lowe instead of one of the disc jockeys. “When people call a radio station, they always want to know who they’re talking to,” Lowe said. “When people asked me who I was, I told them I was nobody. I told them that I was just the phantom.” The name stuck. By the time Gleason lost his job in 1998, the “Phantom” had become a regular character. Gleason then took his “Rise Guys” show to KHTK and brought along his brother. Through all the “various incarnations” of the show in the past 13 years, Lowe said, “Whitey” and the “Phantom” survived. Kreidler climbed aboard in July 2009. Lowe said Kreidler has been a welcome addition to the four-hour show. “You have to develop a persona, a character, on radio,” Lowe explained. “I’m the old guy. Kreidler’s the academic guy. He still thinks like a writer. He’s like a professor. I don’t know what ‘Whitey’ is.” Kreidler thinks of Gleason as the moderator and admits he “basks” in Lowe’s vast sports knowledge. “(Gleason) moderates a lot of the debates he starts,” Kreidler said. “He’s definitely the pot stirrer.” There is no debate that the three do not take themselves or what they do too seriously. They compete in “text (message) tussles” and have tournament pools for “babes” instead of basketball. Staying on top of pop culture is essential for the three because they never know what is coming next. “So many people call and they’re firing from the hip,” Lowe said. “People respond to the weirdest things. Who knows what really rings their bells. I know who Snooki is, but I don’t watch the show. Chances are Snooki of “Jersey Shore” fame would be recognized if she ever attended a Lincoln basketball game. Lowe is fortunate in that he can come and go without attracting much attention. “When he says a lot of people don’t know who he is,” Gleason quipped, “he’s one of those people.” Kyle is not buying that. He may even follow in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a career in broadcasting. “I’m almost a senior, so I need to start thinking about what I want to do,” he said. “He’s influenced me a lot. When I look at my dad, it’s really cool what he does. I could be on TV. I have more of a face for it than he does.” Kyle did not inherit Lowe’s looks, but he certainly got his sense of humor from the “Phantom.”