Photo by Pac
|No. 76 – Free Agent|
|Species||Bald Eagle ( Accipitridae )|
October 12, 1992|
|Listed height||6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)|
|Listed weight||260 lb (118 kg)|
|School||Western Michigan University|
|FBA draft||2014 / Round: 2 / Pick: 37th overall|
|Selected by the Tallahassee Typhoons|
|Pro playing career||2014–present|
|2016-2017||Texas Lone Stars|
|Career highlights and awards|
|2020 Salary||$9 million|
|(IC) Agent||Blake Toivonen|
|(OOC) Usage||Ask me before any use|
Being born a bald eagle in the United States makes certain assumptions about your patriotism. It's only buoyed more when you're raised with ideals that were popular in the 1950's. Bradley Jonathan Pullman is the son of a butcher and his wife in the perpetually 50's-retro tiny town of Tiffin, Ohio. It was like the city was stuck in time, with jukeboxes still in diners and a town where everybody knew everyone else and their dirty little secrets. Growing up, Brad was exposed to more McCarthy-era propaganda than anyone should have been, claiming that communists were still out there and willing to take our God-given freedoms away. Everyone had a gun, the wives were still somewhat submissive to their pipe-smoking husbands, and America was the best damn country in the world.
Brad's father wanted him to join the family business - a 'Proud American Tradition' inducted into all the 'Red meat' propaganda, and how America needed meat and to save it from liberal tofu-eating hippies. Of course, wanting to fit in, Brad internalized all of this, and though he had no interest in being a butcher, decided he would be a symbol his father would be proud of. Brad worked out hard and strong, became the 'jock' of high school, and started trying out for sports. Being a sports hero was a dream of his since childhood; much better than the military and being shot at. Being a bald eagle was a help for anything Americana - He was tall, broad shouldered, athletic, handsome - he could have BEEN the bald eagle photographed for any U.S.A. marketing material. His charisma was evident when he was elected three times as high school class president, despite his documented harassment of immigrants and 'third-generations'. He found his own lineage traced back to the Revolutionary War, which only fueled his uber-patriotism even more. Now, if he'd only realize that the only 'True Americans' were the ones who were on the land before the Revolutionary War...
Though he could have excelled at any of the offerings, he chose basketball as his focus, because he found too many players in the pro leauges there were 'not REALLY American' or 'not as American as they should be', and he wanted to re-establish the foothold of the 'Greatest Country in History' in the FBA. And, also, because he was good at everything. Except baseball, which was the obvious choice about being 'America's pasttime'. (Brad doesn't like to talk about his inability to play that sport). While he didn't really stand out as 'The Best (x) type player' in the world on the court, his abilities covered just about every offensive and defensive topic in an above-average manner. Nobody on his team could so easily transfer from a blocking and stealing master to a fast, offensive gunner and back like Brad Pullman. And he was the best performer on his college team, undoubtedly - but the way you'd hear him talk about it, it sounded like he was proudly carrying the team under his own wings. His above average performances around the board, nor his only above average academics, didn't get him into Kent State, but the University of Toledo offered a sports scholarship. Brad initially accepted the offer, but later refused when he discovered the name of the city was brought over by the Spanish. In a truly pigheaded manner, he announced he would only attend an 'American' university, with a name sounded more appropriate for someone who was considered a 'symbol of America'. The least expensive compromise was a partial scholarship from Western Michigan. He accepted, and continued his above-average across the board performance. When the draft came up, Brad's baby blue eyes lit up, as he found a way to infuse more loyalty from his country into the sport. So he put his name into the draft, hoping to once more bring the USA to the forefront of the national sports stage.
And make some serious cash, so he wouldn't have to hear his dad talk about him being a butcher.
Personality: Brad's mentality is very closed minded, aggressively patriotic, and thus somewhat bigoted. He is so right wing you'd think he'd flop over on one side. Beer, Barbecue and Ballersports are his mantra for relaxation. Being a bald eagle, he considers himself a symbol for his country, and has an antipathetic view of people who don't support his 'America First!' viewpoints. However, lately he's calmed down due largely in part to his reindeer agent, Blake Toivonen, and proven that there is ability and a cool head under crisis. His large wingspan reach, height, presence and keen court senses with good offense and defense over-average balance made him a contender for the 2014 draft. If only he'd shut his beak from time to time.
| Inferior Motives|
Written by Tazel and IlanaRouge
© Tazel and IlanaRouge
| A story written by Tazel Sixpaws and IlanaRouge, Copyright 2014.
Character of Brad Pullman copyright to Tazel Sixpaws Character of Hildegard Tetreault copyright to IlanaRouge The FBA is copyright to Buck Hopper
Her claws clacked against the desk. Maybe just one more email for the day. Her ancient computer booted up and took her to her inbox. Her phone was more powerful than this thing. A new message lit up in blue at the front of the queue. Upon clicking, she saw that it was from a James Tiller, coach at WMU. She mentally shrugged and read on. Blah blah blah, head coach, blah blah, would love to schedule a visit, blah, star player Brad Pullman, blah, AUGENBLICK!
The name rang a bell. She went to her computer and turned on the screen, pulling up the Tweeter account she had used many a time in the last few months. She searched history, and found the account she was looking for. @BradPullman.
Mein Gott in Himmel. This walking Americana wanted to come see her and have her evaluate his ability? He had gone on Twitter lockdown for a long while, so there was no more of his obviously bigoted tone spreading out. But she read with glee on the history of what he DID say.
A hideous smile spread across her muzzle. Oh yes. There would be fun. So much fun.
She reached for a pen and gripped the cap in her muzzle, pulling it off. She started scribbling on a scrap piece of paper. Yes, she needed the number for that restaurant and some festive decorations und die traditionelle deutsche Band und ein Fass Bier von ihrem Lieblings und ihre eigene Gastfreundschaft und...
The middle-aged raccoon had just finished typing proposals for the next semester's team needs. He laid back in his slightly comfortable office chair and looked at the very interesting ceiling tile, just defocusing his eyes for just a moment. His paws came up to rub at his face, as a quick crick of the neck reminded him he wasn't as young as he used to be.
James Tiller then stood up, and let his back join the cricking fun, letting the Western Michigan University's basketball coach give a slight 'MMf!' in discomfort. Nothing he couldn't handle. Truth said, there was not much he couldn't handle, with the diversity of his team and the challenges of budget cuts.
Well, there was one thing that was testing his mettle, for sure...
The door to his office opened quickly, and in walked a huge bald eagle, dressed in his usual 'USA' T-shirt and jeans. "You wanted to see me, Coach?" he asked, gruffly.
Tiller smirked. "Pullman." he mentioned, as if answering the lingering question others might have had about the one thing... "Take a seat." he offered, as he himself did so.
Brad strode to the nearby uncomfortable chair and whipped it around backwards, leaning forward on its backside. He never sat down 'correctly'. "What's up?" he asked, as jovially as he could muster. But he knew - being called in the coach's office usually meant bad news.
Tiller looked at Brad purposefully for a moment, his tail swaying in thought. Brad became a bit more agitated. He didn't like people giving him the eye unless he knew what was going on. "Come on, coach, spit it out! I've got finals coming up!" he complained, his wingarms folding against each other.
The raccoon sighed mentally. Just like the stereotype he fit. America needs it now, needs it fast, needs it quality, needs it cheap. Impatience is the word of the day. He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together. "How would you like a chance to impress one of the FBA coaches prior to draft?" he asked.
Brad's impertinence washed away, replaced with a huge grin on that beak. "YEAH! Hell yeah! Oh, MAN! You bet! I can't wait to show them what I'm capable of!" he crowed.
Tiller smirked. "Oh, I think they already have a good idea." the raccoon guessed.
The raccoon waved his hand dismissively. "Nevermind. So, you're in?"
"Yeah! Of course!" Brad's enthusiasm seemed boundless, the eagle almost dancing on the chair. He suddenly stopped. "Wait. It's an *American* team, right? I know they got some Canuck ones - I ... uh... don't have an updated passport." he said, his blue eyes shifting a bit.
Like the coach couldn't tell lies when he heard them. "Cool your jets, Patty." he murmured. Brad bristled at that, his feathers poking out over his body. He *hated* that nickname. He tried to call himself 'Patriot' around the team, but they were not having it. One guy suggested calling him 'Patty' for short, to the sound of uproarious laughter from everyone except Brad. Thus, his internal nickname was born. "It's PATRIOT, Coach... c'mon!" he complained.
"Sorry, sorry... 'Patriot'..." Tiller said, as only mildly condescendingly as he possibly could. "And no, it's not the Canada teams. It's in Florida. The Typhoons."
Brad perked up, the affront of the nickname falling off his shoulders like water off an eagle's back. That big grin was back on his beak. "FLORIDA? AWESOME! Beaches and girls and great weather and ... and girls! SPRING BREAK PARTIES!" He started fistpumping.
James just sat quietly, letting Brad's premature celebration continue. He idly wondered if Brad had the common wisdom to ask for details, or just accept it on face value. After about a minute of Brad listing off the places he'd go, things he'd do, and the fourteenth proclamation of 'girls', Tiller seemed to have his answer, much to his dismay. The coach cleared his throat. "I've told the coach that you do well in team performances, and the team has agreed to put you in some tests to gauge that. So hopefully there will be some scrimmages like you did with the other FBA scout."
"Oh yeah! I'm gonna wow them! Don't you worry, Coach!" Brad continued to sit with a gigantic grin on his beak. The beat passed, and Tiller cocked his head slightly. "Don't you want to know WHO you're going to see?"
"You just said, the Typhoons!"
"The head coach of the Typhoons."
"Yeah, so who is he?"
A mental faceslap struck Tiller's brain. He doesn't even know who the movers and shakers are in the FBA. He sighed and slowly said the name.
"MISS Hildegarde Tetreault."
Just as suddenly as the enthusiasm rose, it departed like a popped balloon. The smile vanished, replaced with astonishment and disapproval. "WHAT?!? You're sending me to that... that KRAUT?!" he exclaimed.
"Brad...." Tiller said, warningly, his muzzle slightly down and his eyes pulled forward under his brow - the universal 'I'm getting annoyed' look.
"She's the one who helped everyone start dissing the 'average American' on the Tweets! Oh no! No WAY am I working for Tittyfault or whatever her name is!"
"PULLMAN!" screamed the raccoon, slamming down his paws on the desk. "SHUT. THE HELL. UP!" He stood up and loomed over his desk, but was still short to the basketball player on his team.
Brad stopped in mid-tirade to shoot his coach an angry look. "Coach!," he yelled, petulantly, "SHE started the whole thing with..."
"STOP RIGHT THERE!" yelled Tiller. "Don't you DARE lie to me!!"
Brad's face showed confusion. Or feigned it. "WHAT LIE?!"
Tiller quickly walked around his desk to get in as much of Pullman's face as possible. "SHE didn't do a damn thing! *YOU* did! You were the fool idiot who started insulting everyone's language! ON TWITTER for the whole damn WORLD TO SEE!"
"So sue me if I don't WANT Spanish channels or billboards! I got as much right to voice my opinion as that Lemon Tamale guy!"
Tiller buried his head in his paws. "LEH. MOND. CON. KAH. LAY." he spelled out, frustration rising.
"Whatever!" Brad threw his wings up in the air and paced in agitation. "She's not gonna be any better! She'll probably start speaking German to me and make me wear lederhosen or something! If I want that, I'll go to Schnitzel Hut!"
"JESUS CHRIST ON A CRACKER, BRAD! Can you focus on your damn FUTURE for FIVE FRICKING SECONDS?!?"
That seemed to stop Brad's next words, as he closed his beak and peered at his coach. Tiller panted and ran his hands through his graying hair - hair he swore was graying more after every meeting he had with Brad.
"You will listen to me, and you will understand and follow my directions. You are going down there to prove that you have *ABILITY* worthy of the FBA!"
"I DO! You and the guys tell me I'm the one who keeps this team floating in the conference!"
"Yes, you do! But you know what the FBA thinks about you right now?" The raccoon angrily started striking fingers as he counted off the problems. "The Bikers blacklisted you. You've ticked off those making the top 24 - you'll not be in the highlights except for people to point out what an ass you are! If you're lucky, you'll get in the second round, but that's only if you SHUT YOUR HOLE AND MAKE YOUR GAME THE FOCUS!"
Brad's arms folded against each other as he regarded his coach. He did respect the raccoon - fought hard through WMU's sports teams to land this spot. Hard worker, didn't take guff. Brad always expected to be his favorite son on the team, even though there was no relation. But with the Twitter stir up that made Tiller have to come back from a miniature family reunion to a drama storm - well, that soured the relationship rather well.
James took the opportunity of the silence. "Now here is what you are going to do. You are going to fly down. You are going to meet with the coach. You are going to be polite." He started poking Brad in the chest with every sentence. "You are going to be polite. You are NOT GOING TO OFFER YOUR OPINIONS. You are going to play the hardest ball you ever played to impress someone who already has a negative view of you! And if you're as good as you and I believe, you might just have a snowball's chance in Hell of getting onto a professional team!"
Brad remained quiet as the ultimatum was given. Tiller pressed even closer, getting in the eagle's face. "And if you don't do this, then that tells me you're not taking this seriously. And I won't take YOU seriously anymore! You got that, Pullman? You will BE the joke everyone already believes you to be! You damn well better change minds and fast, or come this summer, it'll be back to remedial statistics class for you! Do you understand me?"
Brad pursed his beak - actually a hard thing to do with such a firm protuberance - and sighed in exasperation. "Fine. Okay. You made your point." he grumbled, pushing away from his coach.
"I hope it's enough of a match for the one on your head!" Tiller shot back, going back to his desk and getting a printout of an electronically-ticketed flight. He handed the paper to Brad, who was apparently still trying to process the verbal backhand his coach had given. "Here. You got two days. You leave tomorrow morning. Go home, pack, and rest up." he ordered.
Brad took the paper and let out a long grunt. "Yeah. Alright. Thanks." he muttered, turning around with the slump of someone who had gotten too much bad news. He got to the door and began to close it....
The eagle stopped and turned, his brows narrowed on his eyes as he stared back at his coach. "Yeah?"
Tiller looked at his star small forward. Despite his pigheadedness, Brad was a valued member of his team. As idiotic as he could be, Brad was still a life of the party, enthusiastic beyond all normal sense. When there came a time to rally, Brad was leading the cheer, waving the flag, and helping his team press on. If only he had learned tact in his upbringing... but he knew what his background was. If ever there was evidence of someone being a product of their environment, Brad Pullman would be it, having to live in the time-stunted backwards Ohio town that still believed there was a communist red scare out there, despite all the online evidence to the contrary.
Brad couldn't have helped who he became with his past, but Tiller hoped beyond all limits that he would wise up soon, and realize there was more to his world, than the world he had known, be it Tiffin, Ohio, or a college dorm.
"Brad," continued the raccoon, a softer visage on his muzzle. "Make me proud?" he pleaded.
This made Brad's face melt somewhat, the anger dissipating, replaced with the cocksure grin James Tiller had known him for. "You bet your striped ass I will, coach!" he said, and closed the door.
James winced. "It's my TAIL, not my AS...nevermind..." he muttered, slumping back into his chair and rubbing his temples. "I wonder if the Typhoons are ready for Hurricane Brad..." he murmured, as he focused back on his work...
"Next time, I'm picking my OWN damn car!"
Brad groused as the huge eagle was hunkered over the wheel of what had to be the tiniest car in existence. His foot just about dwarfed the pitiful accelerator, if one could call it that. Zero to Sixty in a good part of a calendar year.
And of course it was an import. No roar of an engine like a good old domestic V-8. It had a hum. The horn sounded like an asthmatic sheep on quaaludes. He had played with toy cars that had better handling than this box on wheels. However, it was free to him, set up by the generous Miss Tittyfault, or whatever her name was.
No, it was Tetris...something...dammit!
He figured he had better look at the page again before he goes to meet her. Speaking of paper, he glanced at the sheet next to him, which had the directions printed out. The coach had insisted that the Typhoons' practice facility was not easily reachable from GPS mapping systems like everyone else used, but rather these directions would get him exactly where he needed to be.
As he drove away from Tallahassee Regional, he enjoyed the brief ‘American-ness’ he was so inclined to appreciate: the paved roads with clean yellow lines, power lines at every corner, a FurBurger chain at every corner. Roads with familiar names passed by without pause, as he focused desperately on making heads or tails of the instructions he printed out. The main drag was easy enough to navigate, but he was soon turning down streets with very strange names. He began to wonder about these directions when he started turning down streets like, “Nguyen Way.”
The hell? He just assumed Florida was full of Cubans! What's this NGGGyen way thing? That didn't sound Cuban!
Again and again, he turned down streets with foreign names, some Hispanic, some Korean, a few with numbers, some without. As he tried to parse what streets were what, he began to notice the lack of English characters on signs. That was all that he knew about them - no way could he know that they were different combination of Korean and Chinese characters, most of them Hyangchal. Somewhere, Hildegard knew he would never know that. His veins beat in his temples as he grew more and more frustrated with the foreignness being presented to his eyes.
"How the hell am I supposed to know where I’m goin’?!" He was becoming desperate to find someone of whom he could ask directions. But where to stop? There were no FurBurgers. No Circle F convenience stores. Everything was in some goofy language that Brad had no chance of being able to decipher. Occasionally he would see English translations under the signs, but they were so small as to be easily missed, even with the eagle's eyes.
He found one place that had the English word 'Food' under essentially a completely Chinatown sign, or so it appeared. He pulled in, the clown car's brakes sounding like they were about to break, until he stopped and extruded himself from the mobile trunk space. Brushing himself off, he entered the edifice and looked around.
Completely foreign. Looked like every Chinese restaurant he'd ever been in. The furs there definitely were of the almond-eyed variety. A few red pandas, a deer, a tiger and a snow leopard - what the hell a SNOW leopard was doing in FLORIDA was beyond him. But all of them speaking with each other in language that sounded like someone ordering from Column A and Column B.
An old crane was sitting at the front, reading a completely incomprehensible newspaper - like someone took a whole bunch of small hairs and threw them on a paper to make symbols. Brad couldn't care less. "S'cuse me!" he bellowed out, in the way he usually did, "How do I get to Gardner Way to get to the Typhoons' practice gym?"
The crane looked up, and adjusted his glasses. He smirked and called back to one of the tables in Korean, but all Brad heard was 'WING TANG PONG POO' or something like that. The tiger at the table laughed and counterPONGPOOed back at the crane. They PONGed back and forth, seemingly ignoring the eagle. Who, of course, was getting rather angry that they weren't talking to him in a language he could understand.
"HEY! China guy! GARD. NER. WAY. Typhoons? Basketball? Shooty Ball-ey Place?" he offered, getting more agitated. The crane glared at him, and jerked a thumb from his wing to Brad's right.
The crane looked at him with narrowed eyes, then mumbled “Ssree blahks dahtwae," pointing down the street with said thumb.
Brad in no way registered the hand gesture, as he was too perplexed by the colloquial English, or whatever that was. “Huh?” he offered as a reply. "I didn't understand that at all!"
The crane was good-hearted enough to not be offended. He held up three fingers. “Ssreeeeee,” he sounded out, reminiscent of Brad’s own elongated syllables, “blaaaaaaahks,” to a still cockeyed eagle, “daaaatwaaaaaaaeee,” with a touch of emphasized gesturing.
Brad, completely unaware at how confused he appeared, would have been drooling, if he hadn’t sucked in a breath to continue his asinine attempt at understanding. “I dooooon’t understand you! Wha... I don’t want any wonton, if that's what you're asking!”
The crane threw up his wings in frustration, and made some more wing poo words towards the back. From the swinging door of the tiny kitchen area came a small crane, couldn't have been more than nine years old. He spoke back in the Chinese menu language to the old guy, who went back and forth with him, until the kid came up to Brad and pointed in the way the first guy had done.
"Three blocks that way, sir." he said, in a much more recognizable tone. Which was common for the children in the schools around here, to learn both English and their native tongue, and intersperse them as needed to maintain their cultural identity and integrate with the United States.
Not that Brad cared. He rolled his eyes and threw up his wings. "THANK you!" he said to the kid, exasperatedly, and laughed. "Someone who speaks right around here! You should work up front, kid!" he said as he exited the building and squeezed himself back in the car, started it up, and drove in the direction indicated, getting back on track.
The crane watched him drive away, and shook his head, returning to his newspaper. "What an asshole!" he muttered, in perfect English.
Hildegard leaned against one of the door posts at the entrance of the practice stadium, looking at her watch. Fifteen minutes late. She smiled those razor sharp teeth to herself. If she was lucky, maybe he got carjacked. That would be a fun story to entertain the troops with in the Typhoon locker room. Unfortunately, she would not be so lucky. She saw a shoebox on wheels put-putting into the parking lot, groaning to a stop. She continued the smile, so very happy the rental place had one of those terrible 'gas sipper' compacts that were all the rage so recently.
Brad wiggled the car back and forth as he unfolded himself from his ride. Hilda was thinking of offering the jaws of life to him, if he needed it. Though there was plenty of space; even the compact car spaces had ample room on either side. She made sure to park her own German car close enough so that he might see. Arms crossed in front of her chest, she pushed herself off and headed to meet him. His day would be hell, but why not start with a bit of propriety?
“Herr Pullman?” she asked as he finished pulling himself out of the cramped confines of the vehicle.
"Yeah. I mean, Yes Miss. Tit...Er... Yes Ma'am." Dammit. He forgot to look at the paper before he came up.
“Tetreault,” she said in an oddly un-German way, Brad thought. “I suppose ‘Ma’am’ vill vork,” she continued, in very much a German affectation of speech. She turned and waved for him to join her. “I assume joo found joor way just fine?”
Brad hoisted his duffel bag over his shoulder and tried to fake a smile. "Just fine." he said, not caring to relive his 'Goodbye Saigon' moment. He looked around the facility front. "I thought we'd be at the actual arena or something." he remarked.
Hildegard waved her hand dismissively. "Der Palast ist nicht für Sie." she replied. And as expected, Brad's beak twisted into a 'Huh?' look. She rolled her eyes. "Mein players play zhere,” she said simply, before continuing, “and joo are not mein yet.”
He had no idea whether or not to take offense to that. “Uh, sure, okay.” he replied. Boy, her accent was hard to hear. "So, um... where d'you want me?" he asked, shifting impatiently on his feet.
Oh, she had him right where she wanted him, alright. “In none of zhe vays joo vould like,” she muttered to herself. She led him down a few hallways, until she pointed out one of the locker rooms. “Change into joor uniform. Be on zhe floor in five minutes.”
Brad did a little off-hand (wing?) salute, and slipped into the uniform. Of course, being the 'Lazy American' that Hilde had expected from him, he was on the court in six and a half minutes, wearing his WMU jersey and special sneakers, as he did have somewhat taloned feet. As any good coach and GM might examine with new prospects, Hilde had seen footage of Brad play. Admittedly, she could have made her decision with such base information.
But then, she wouldn't have this kind of fun...
She was in her own jersey from her alma mater. Rather than test him like she did Trent St. Croix, this eagle was getting the special treatment. She leaned against a machine that appeared to be a small cannon, strangely just big enough to fit a basketball. “Ninety seconds late,” she informed him.
Brad looked exasperated. "I didn't know where the damn... where the court was!" he protested. Another hallmark of America. Whining.
Any joke she could think of would have been lost on Brad. “Vhatever, as joo might say.” She pointed to the other end of the court. “Stand under zhat basket.”
Brad made a slightly annoyed smirk at her reaction, and trotted down to the basket as instructed. "Okay!" he called out. "Now what?" And the trifecta of everything she found wrong with this country - the impatience. She'd seen it in some players, even her own, but that got struck down very quickly. With Mr. Pullman, she might stretch out the smack down a bit longer.
Okay, no 'might' about it. He was hers for the day. Like a kid with a new Christmas present that he was going to break.
She pushed the machine out onto the other side of the court, then patted it once it was in place. She further tested his patience by saying absolutely nothing as she took her sweet time retrieving what she needed, even going so far as to set some worry in him by walking down one of the hallways leading off of the court. After a minute, she rolled a large cage of basketballs onto the court and placed it behind the machine. “I vant to test joor agility und ball handlink first.” What sort of fresh American sass awaited her? Something to assert his skills through smack talk? A scoff? It was fun simply wondering how the bird would shoot himself in the foot...talon?
"Finally..." muttered Brad, presumably to himself. He didn't count on acute hyena/rabbit ears to pick it up, but they did. "Alright, gimme your best shot!" he shouted out, taking a generic posture on the court.
As he squatted and readied to catch the first ball, Hildegard chuckled. “Sure.” She loaded the first ball in, pressed a button, and it launched itself across the whole court, straight into the bird’s gut.
Those big blue eyes became bigger, but not any bluer, as the gut shot made the eagle stumble backwards a bit, with an unceremonious 'OOF!' uttered in protest. "What the hell IS that, a PITCHING machine?!" he shouted to a grinning coach, rubbing his sore abdomen and getting back to his position, his winghands in the area to block the next gut shot.
Only Hilde changed the aim slightly as Brad recovered. The next ball went at his head. He again, was not prepared. THUNK. It was a good thing bird beaks were so hard, just like his head. Immediately his hands went to his face and held it in slight pain. His beak may have been hard, but he just got a cannon shot there. There was some... mild discomfort, to put it lightly.
"GOD DA..." he started, making an eyebrow raise from the coach. He stopped himself just in time, and took a breath, once more pulling himself up to the spot. Now he was guarding both areas. And yet once again, Hilde changed the aim. This time towards his crotch, with sadistic glee in her smile as she punched the button.
This time, though, Brad caught the ball. "Oh NO you don't!" he yelled. Though if it was at Hilde or the ball, that part was unknown. Still, Hilde had to admit, he anticipated well enough, after being beaten down a couple times.
Luckily for her, she had so many things to beat down on him with. This was just the appetizer.
However, impressed as she was that he eventually caught the ball, that didn’t stop her from firing another quick volley of balls. He kept the one in his hand and knocked a few out of the way, before dribbling toward her, successfully sidestepping every subsequent shot. He got just beyond the range of the machine and sunk an impressive three-pointer. He landed and put his fists on his waist, puffing out his chest. “That all you got, hot stuff?” as he grinned a wide, closed-eyed grin.
Hildegard pulled one more ball from the cage and launched it for his stomach once more. He oofed again and doubled over. “Joo avoided a little more zhan half of mein shots.” To be fair, it wasn’t a particularly standardized test, but the machine did its work well. She flipped off the switch, the machine puttering down. “How about a few defense drills?” she faux-asked, smiling down ever so sweetly with her jagged grin.
Brad was suddenly put ill at ease. That grin. He'd seen it before. In horror movies, right when the crazed maniac was about to strike. Though she had pretty much already struck, if his bruised stomach - and ego - were any indication. He got up, a bit wobbingly, and nodded. "Yeah, sure. Just hold off on the cannonball run, would ya?" Cannonball Run. She knew the name, but not the significance. Purely American, though, so of course it would be in the uber-patriot's repertoire.
The next embarrassment Brad faced was by losing a one-on-one match of keep-away with the hyena-rabbit. She seemed to have mastered the classic nah-nah-nah-nah-nah sound she heard American children make on TV. Again, he managed to impress her by the end, but not before she put him on the defensive. She sunk shot after shot, frustrating him as she went, but eventually, he was able to keep her away from the basket. She saw that he was a slow starter, but his frustration oddly helped him to focus.
Timed drills were next. With Hilde holding a stopwatch in an iron paw, she had noted that Brad 'flew' up and down the court, in his own words. The watch, however, had suggested he had 'flocked up'. Not the greatest speed she'd seen. Odd for a predatory bird. But on a hunch, she had him run it again. The score improved by a few seconds. She was starting to see that the initial frustrations and bad performances became an instant baseline for him to compete against. It was all competition, even against himself. Once he got out of 'trying to show up' Hilde, which was impossible, he was actually becoming a decent player.
Unfortunately for Brad, Hilde already knew he was 'decent'. The research showed that. He wasn't here to show her that. He was her entertainment. He had even heard her cackle once or twice at a missed layup of his, building his frustration yet again. Fatigue might have been taking its toll on the bird. He had gone three straight hours, with nothing but a five minute break for water in between.
She tauntingly sipped at her own water. “Zhat’s enough!” He was crouched from how tired he was. “I’ve seen vhat I needed to see. Vash up. Ve are goink to dinner.”
He coughed trying to catch his breath. “What? Dinner? How the hell’d I do?”
She turned away and walked to the women’s locker room. “Vash, zhen ve talk.” She, of course, had no intention of sharing her thoughts on him, but then again, this night was all about keeping him on edge. Someone had to.
Brad stood there, beak open as Hilde closed the door to the practice facility with a loud *BANG*. "I don't believe this..." he muttered. Dinner? The coach never said anything about that. And though he was hungry, he'd rather have gotten something at FurBurger rather than eat with this... Frau Ballbuster! The plane ticket back was for the next morning, though, so... at least she was going to pay for the meal, right?
So how bad could it be?
Brad walked towards the doors Hilde had exited, and pushed against them, only to find they were locked. She had locked him in. "HEY!" he yelled, banging on the door. "YOU LOCKED ME IN! HEY!" he yelled out, giving a testing shove, to see if his bulk could move it.
No chance. He was stuck. He kept banging on the door, until five minutes later, Hilde came back, unlocked the door, and opened it, staring at him. "Joo haff not vashed yet, Herr Pullman! Joo vill NOT be allowed to make us late mit your inability to open zhis door! Now go zhower!" she barked, then turned around, and tried very hard to stifle a girlish giggle at the bird who stormed off, cranial smoke flying from his mussed white feathered skullcap into the locker room.
Oh, dinner shall be so sweet, Hilde thought to herself.
Refusing what she called the still smelling bird into her nice car, she made him put-put behind her Porsche as they raced to the restaurant. Every time he got close, she slammed on the gas and was soon hundreds of yards ahead. Close, far, close, far, close, far. He was white-knuckled against the wheel as she taunted him with her superior horsepower.
As her fun never seemed to last as long as she wanted it to, the intended restaurant appeared in the distance. As one more show of sport, she raced ahead and circled the block twice before Brad parked his car in one of the compact spaces. Hildegard made sure to park right next to him, effectively measuring car sizes.
He got out and slammed the door with as much gusto as he could. She carefully shut her door and tapped the roof. “I did not notice how...klein joor car vas.”
Brad's eyes narrowed a bit, but he tried his hardest to shrug it off. "Vatever." he said, making sure to mimic Hilde's accent from before. He finally got a good look at the eatery up close as he turned to face the gothic structure of what looked like a page from a Brothers Grimm village storefront, with a proud sign in the typical German font of "Der Alpenhorn".
Brad arched his eyebrow. "Um. Y'know what... I don't think I'm very hungry." In the perfect timing that seemed to punctuate his life, his stomach audibly growled. He closed his eyes and sighed, and cast a sideward glance to the still-grinning coach. "Alright, I *AM* hungry. How about just a burger?" he pleaded.
That grin never left. "Oh nein, nein, nein... I intend to show joo true German hospitality!" she said, gesturing in front of her that he should go first. She wanted to see his reaction to the foyer. Brad obediently went ahead, and opened the door.
It was like Oktoberfest in a Walla-Mart greeting sort of way, with loud polka music assaulting his ear-spots. "AGH!" he yelled, the volume a bit much to his tastes as he covered the sides of his head with his wings. As Hilde walked inside, she shrugged. "Sounds gut to me." she remarked as she went to the hostess. The two began talking, strictly in German. Brad tried to listen in, and they made no pretenses about being quiet or secretive. But Hilde did jerk a thumb back towards him, making the ocelot hostess peer back, and giggle, commenting to Hilde again in German.
Brad's frustration was growing again. Dammit, what was she saying? Soon enough, HIlde gestured to him. "Kommen sie, Herr Pullman. Our table is ready."
The music boomed in the background, while the laughter of the patrons provided the foreground. He searched desperately for a jukebox like he’d find in any of his favorite diners. Presley, Buddy Holly, anything to soften the blows of this increasingly tiresome accordion acoustic assault. The ocelot seated them and presented them with menus. He sighed, hoping there would be something appetizing listed.
Instead, he found a slew of German names for food, though thankfully, the descriptions were in English. Many different types of what he assumed were sausages, sauerkraut, and a myriad of other things he had never heard of.
“Is this all they have?” he asked Hilde. He longed even for a kids’ section, something fries and nuggets, anything but this Kraut food.
“Shut up and order somessink.” She muttered, then turned to the waitress. “Bier, bitte,” she requested. The waitress nodded and turned to Brad expectantly.
“Um, got any Bud?”
Both Germans snickered to each other, leaving the bird out of the equation. “Ja, if joo like zhat sort of thing,” commented the waitress, grinning as she went to get their drinks, while Brad looked questioningly at a still smirking Hilde. "What's wrong with Budweiser?" he asked.
"Eet is pissvasser," she replied unceremoniously. "Ve would not even feed zhat to our children, und ve start zem drinking early."
Brad clucked his tongue and took the time to rub his temples, sore all over, from his feet to his beautiful head-feathers. "So." he offered, trying to change the subject away from his favorite beer, "How did I do in your little test run today?" Right to the point. At least Hilde could respect the upfront attitude. No beating around the bush. Still, this bush needed a severe beating, and Hildegarde Tetreault was the one with the spiked mace.
"Not until ve haff food." she said, calmly, giving herself time to review in her mind how best to draw this bird over the coals. Roast eagle. Probably a delicacy.
The waitress, a sable, came back and took orders in fluent German with Hilde, of course. When Brad tried to speak up, Hilde cut him off. "He vill haff schnitzel." she said, looking back at the eagle, a slight grin on her face. "Do not vorry, kindervogel, eet es harmless. Eet vill be to your taste."
Brad pursed his beak-lips a bit. He had heard the term of 'schnitzel' before, mentally giggling at how close it was to 'shit-zel', but the other word was unfamiliar. If it was an insult, it was uncalled for. This whole trip, he was feeling, was uncalled for. But best to ride it out. Almost done, can see the light at the end of the gauntlet.
The decor was very much like he'd expect. Lots of pictures of Germany, of Germanic heritage. Some props, supposedly *from* Germany. Not like a Redbrest Robin or TGI Saturdays, where the props actually meant something to the people who frequented the place, but he guessed that you went with the frequency of people in the area in general. And not a lot of Deutschies, as his dad used to call them. And that was when he was being pleasant.
The food and the beer came, and the two ate in silence. Brad hated having to wait, always hated the times where he was called to be patient. Halfway through their meals, though, he could not wait any longer.
“Are we going to talk about the practice or not?” he challenged.
Hildegard, holding her beer, carefully set it down and folded her hands. “Joo vant to talk...let’s talk.” She locked eyes with him, and he did not shy away. “Joor playink is terrible. As a defender, joo vould cost me more points in five minutes zhan joor are vorth. Offensively, just as bad. Joo are hot-headed and can’t keep control of zhe ball. Joo have no avareness of joor surroundinks. Joor agility, shit. Speed, shit. Reaction, sheisse!” She picked up her fork and looked away from him. “Zhere, ve haff talked.”
For a moment, the eagle's eyes went wide. He was expecting a harshness, but this level was way beyond what would be expected. Even on Tiller's worst days, the coach would never be this devastating in his assessments. Not one encouragement. "Is that ALL?" he sarcastically intoned, folding his wingarms against each other and leaning away from her.
Hildegard stabbed a piece of food, but stopped at his challenge. She put it back down and haunched her shoulders. “Hardly.” She stood. “Joor American mouhss disgusts me. Joo talk again und again about how good joo are, but joo haff no skills to show for it. Just like most Americans like joo. So much talkink.”
She continued to glare, but the bird didn’t speak. “Joo vaive around joor red, vhite, und blue, and joo forget every ozher color zhere is. Joo spout off vhitout ssinkink. Joo ssink zhat zhere is only vone place in zhe vorld vorth livink, yet joo treat joor people just like joor playink. Shit!”
Scoffing, “Pff, land of zhe free indeed,” as she sat down.
Brad sat there, armwings against each other, as Hilde finished her tirade. "You done, Colonel Clink?" he asked, his eyes narrowed.
Hilde furrowed her brow in confusion. "Who ess Colonel Clink?"
Brad chuckled dryly. "Oh that's right, you don't know anything about our classic television. Well, Google it when you get back, if you care."
"Bah! Television ees zhe theatre of zhe shtupid."
Brad sneered lightly, his fists balling. "NOW are you done?"
"Ja. For now." came Hilde's clipped response.
"Good, 'cause I have words of my own to say. And since I didn't interrupt you, you don't interrupt me." He cracked his knuckles on his wing-hands, then his neck as he placed his hands firmly on the table as he leaned over. She too, didn't shy away. "Ever since I came down to this little hellhole you've made for me, I've been abused. You purposefully got me lost, nitpicked everything I did, and you've been mocking me with the people here, speaking in German."
"You haff kein proof of zhis paranoi..."
"NO INTERRUPTIONS!" yelled Brad, standing up slightly from his chair so he could raise above, looking down on Hilde. "It doesn't take a genius to know when someone's talking trash about you, and that's obviously all you think of me. But you started the moment I came down here. Hell, probably BEFORE I came down here, didn't you?"
Hilde sat motionless and emotionless, except for the glare at Brad's eyes. As terrible as Hilde thought he was, she had to admit he could be perceptive. Maybe it was that 'frustration-enhancement' that did benefit his performance that afternoon.
But the eagle continued on. "Every second I've been here, you've been tormenting and ridiculing me. Making me into a little fool for you to point and laugh at! And not once... not ONCE did you put me in a team to test me that way!"
Hilde could not keep silent. "I vould never vaste even my deep reserves on somevone mit keine ability." she shot back, acid dripping from her verbage.
"You never had any INTENTION! My coach told me the Typhoons wanted to see me in a team function, where I'm GOOD! But I didn't see ANY other player! It was never about gauging me for my ability, was it?"
Hilde stayed stoically quiet, glaring at the correct eagle.
"WAS IT?!" he yelled, demanding an answer.
The longest possible wait. Then... "Yes..." she hissed out, begrudgingly, not wanting to admit he was perceptive enough to sense the truth.
Brad sat back down, and slumped in his chair. He looked at the table. He looked back at her. Then he stroked his forehead with his hand. "I'm not hungry anymore. I'm going home. Dad was right. Should never have trusted a Kraut..." he muttered, as he started to rise.
This made whatever shame Hilde had felt in deceiving the eagle dissipate into righteous anger. "VHAT did you call me?" she hissed, trying to keep her voice down, but the anger was palpable in her question.
Brad realized he was thinking out loud again. But it's not like he could salvage any brownie points with her. He knew his chances were toast with the Typhoons. And now, he knew that was the case before his coach was lied to. Hell, she'd probably do everything possible to blacklist him from the whole southern division.
So who cares what she heard now?
As he had partially risen, he leaned over the table. "I called you a Kraut." he said, slowly, menacingly. "Do I have to spell it out for you, Miss Nazi, or do you know enough about our culture to know what it means?"
Hildegard rose up suddenly and reached across the table. She grabbed him by the shirt collar and drug him from the table. Those at other tables stood to better see the commotion, but they were already on their way out the door. In the parking lot, she thrust forward and let the bird tumble a bit. “What the hell!”
She straightened her pantsuit. “I like zhat restaurant. I don’t vant zhem hearink zhat filhss.” She glared. “Zhat American filhss,” she emphasized. “Now, call me zhat again.”
Brad stood up, his feathers severely ruffled. He was very muscular, to be sure, and had some height on the hyena-rabbit, but he was not going to let anyone speak badly of his country and not have consequences for it. He'd been getting consequences for everything bad he'd ever said about other cultures, and damned if he was going down alone on this. Plus, the shame of being shot down by a woman was inconceivable to him, just like his dad told him a long time ago - you put women in their place with your words.
"You. Are a lying. Untrustworthy. KRAUT." he growled out with a light 'skree' undertone of an angry bird of prey. "And you DON'T piss on America while I'm arou..."
“Peckervood,” she said plainly, with a voice that made him stop dead. “Sorry, but zhere aren’t many vords to describe joo. Vait, perhaps zhere is. Slow. Impatient. Lazy. Bigoted. Empty-headed. Peckervood.” She crossed her arms and stood her ground. He was pushing her buttons, but not in a way that she wasn’t used to. As his frustration rose, she knew it would push him farther, and that was what she was best at: instigating.
Brad could be seen with rose coloration on his white cheek-plummage. A sure fire indication that the eagle was getting very, very mad. Not just frustrated, but enraged. "Tell you what..." he started, slowly. "Why don't you take your sausages, your chewable beer, your Porsche, and your 'I don't give a fuck about America' attitude, and go BACK to the GOD DAMN FATHERLAND so you can read up on Mein Kampfy Chair, or whatever the hell books you BURN over there!" He was shaking with anger, visibly so. "We should have bombed your asses to smithereens just like Nagasaki!"
And there it was. The truth of both of them, laid bare. Their attitudes towards each other, and the countries they represent. A miniature World War III, with nuclear warheads deployed.
And no warhead was more destructive than Hildegard.
The hyena-rabbit, notorious for her temper, let said temper explode in the form of rushing the bird. She put her hand to his chest and pushed him back against the nearest car. His head cracked the window, but he was unfazed. “Zhat...vas uncalled for,” she said in an eerily calm voice. Then she uppercut him in the gut and stepped back. “Joo don’t know a goddamn ssink about joor own history, so how dare joo comment on mine!”
Brad OOFED and doubled over, as she had hit him right where the basketballs had done so earlier on, so the punch was doubly effective. But Brad had taken punches before. Wobbling, he got up, and advanced on Hilde. "UN...*cough* UNCALLED FOR?" he yelled. "EVERY FUCKING THING YOU SAID IN THAT RESTAURANT WAS UNCALLED FOR!" he yelled. "EVERY GOD DAMN THING YOU DID SINCE I CAME DOWN HERE WAS UNCALLED FOR! AND YOU THINK YOU'RE ABOVE IT ALL?"
He wanted to swing at her, so very very badly. But his father, the same one who instilled in him the negativitiy to any culture aside from the U.S, also gave him some bare bones rules. You don't. Hit. Women. No matter what they do. You don't do it. That didn't stop him from spouting his beak off, though. Hilde's hands were balled in fists, waiting to give another punch, either defensive or offensive. But all Brad did was talk.
"You never ONCE did ANYTHING in there that respected this country that gave you a coaching job, or the Americans that are ON YOUR TEAM! And you just decided to make me your trash bin for it all! YOU DON'T KNOW A GODDAMN THING ABOUT *ME*, EITHER!"
Brad braced for another tirade. Another set of insults. Possibly some other punches. The Typhoon coach was definitely waiting - maybe hoping - he'd physically assault her.
Hildegard was never so intimidating as she was when she was angry but didn’t seem to show it. She walked slowly, calculating each step. Her hands in her pockets, it just seemed like a leisurely stroll. He was taller, yet she seemed giant as she stopped in front of him. “Joo von’t punch me because I’m a voman, is zhat right?”
Brad stopped and coughed, the exhalation causing his stomach to throb in pain. "Believe me, I want to. But my dad taught me never to do that. And I don't. Do. That." he said, slowly. He braced as he expected her to say something along the lines of 'I don't care' and punch him again.
Instead, she did not move when she spoke again. “I don’t despise America or Americans, just zhe parts of America and SOME Americans in how zhey treat ozher people.”
She turned around and took a few steps. “I don’t owe anyssink to zhis country for a job. I had a job back in Germany. I took zhis job because it vhas a challenge. I joined zhe FBA because it vhas different.” She looked over her shoulder, her eyes finally that source of intimidation she was most known for. “Vhy, Herr Pullman, do joo vant to be a part of any team, most especially mein?”
Brad breathed slower through his beak-nostrils and exhaled from his open mouth, a couple of times to get more anger, more frustration safely out of his system. "I need to prove I'm better than what people think of me." he said, firmly. "I know I have the ability. Coach knows. The team knows. But all everyone sees is..." He looked back towards the restaurant. "The Bigoted, Empty-Headed Peckerwood." he muttered, using Hilde's words.
He looked back to the hyena-rabbit. "It was a chance to prove to someone, outside of all the name calling, that I had what it took to be a help to a team, just like Michigan! And I stupidly came here, expecting I could get a fair trial, someone objective to find what I could do.." He looked at the ground, the last of his anger released in a sigh.
"I guess that was too much to hope for."
He turned away, and looked at the car that his head had smacked against, the spidercracks on the window. He took out his wallet, and a piece of paper with a small pencil. He started writing down information. His own information. He then took the paper and put it on the windowsill.
Hilde narrowed her eyes in confusion. "Vhat are you doing?" she asked.
"My dad taught me to own up to things you did, too. I broke the glass. I'm telling him who to have his insurance contact."
Hildegard walked up behind the bird, put one hand on his shoulder, then smacked him hard with the other. Right where his head had hit the window.
Of course, the bird flinched in pain. "OWW! What the hell was THAT for?!!”
She swiped up the paper and tore it up. “Don’t be schtupid.” Brad was sorely tempted to forget his father's advice, but then she reached into her jacket and pulled out her business card, placing it where he had put his paper. “I broke zhe window mit joor head.” she reminded him. "I vill take care of zhis."
Brad rubbed the back of his head. He couldn't argue with that logic. Besides, he wasn't swimming in cash.
She turned him around with his shoulder again and stared at his face. His first reaction was to flinch, then he averted his gaze a bit, looking at the interesting parking lot instead. "Look at me, Herr Pullman." she commanded. His eyes flicked back up to her, and she locked eyes again.
“Joo are a bigot," she said, matter of factly. Brad's beak-nostrils flared lightly. "...but not as much as people ssink." she continued. Brad relaxed a bit. "Joo are empty-headed, but perhaps joo are smarter zhan zhey ssink, too. Joo are an American. Vell...I’ve never met somevone more American...but perhaps joo are in some gut vays.”
She started walking away again, but she waved him to join. “Ve haff dinner inside zhat ve need to finish and pay for.” And looked at him again. “Let’s talk more like professionals, ja?”
Brad looked at Hildegard Tetreault, the scourge of the coaching circuit, the 'Kraut' as his dad would have called her. And realized something.
She was giving him a chance. Was it a REAL chance, though?
"You're not going to punch me again, or start harping on my country again, are you? And we're going to have a serious talk about my performance?"
Hildegard stood up straight, and nodded. "Unless joo give me a gut reason to punch joor face, no, I vill not. Und I have said mein mind for zhis country. I do not care to shpeak again of it."
Brad stood up as well from the earlier smack. "Then yeah. Let's talk like professionals. And..." He looked left of her face to the ground. "...I'm sorry for calling you those things. I let my anger get the best of me." He looked back at her. Hildegard had a knack for noting sincerity, and especially the lack of it.
No lack of it here. He did realize he went over the line. Perhaps... he wasn't the only one.
“Es tut mir leid,” she said, but somehow Brad figured he knew what she said. “Joor anger is not zhe problem. If, instead of sayink racist ssinks, joo put zhat aggression into joor playink, joo might just haff a shot in zhis draft.”
For the first time in the last eight hours, Brad seemed hopeful. "You think so?"
"I just SAID zho, did I not? Now, jetzt, kommen sie. Back to zhe table. Mein sausages are cooling und my beer is varming. And I haff some calls to make." She started walking again back to the restaurant, with the eagle in tow. "I ssink you haff earned a team test, ja?"
"Ja! I mean, yeah!" echoed Brad, and followed the coach back into the restaurant, standing tall.
And thankful for the second chance.
Written by Tazel and PaulShep
© Tazel and PaulShep
| Story by Tazel Sixpaws and Paul Shep , Copyright 2014
Characters are copyright to their owners FBA is copyright to BuckHopper.
May 26th, 2014. 8:23 AM.
The FBA Combine was almost finished, with just one more event to go. Most would be attending it, to finish what they started. The hotel was beginning to empty out a bit, as people went home for Memorial Day services, or to get ready for the rest of the week's normal work week.
So, too, did the FBA's 2014 draft class' most patriotic member intend to be home celebrating the holiday with his folks. His plane left in a few hours, but his agent had cornered him and dragged him to a breakfast to have 'another talk'.
Brad Pullman looked down at his half-eaten plate of bacon and eggs. Yes, he ate eggs. There are cows that ate hamburger, so there wasn't a big deal about it. Yet people seemed to love giving him hell about it and other things in his life. Like the way he thought or acted. People like the other draft prospects. The media. And now, Blake Toivonen. His Finnish agent, who WAS able to 'finish' his oatmeal and fruit. The caribou seemed to have an appetite, while Brad did not.
It certainly wasn't due to inactivity. The last night with Tanya Feckle was... pretty damn hot, admittedly. She had tattoos just about everywhere. Including arrows as 'landing lights' for certain...
Brad shook his head. As much as he'd love to reminisce about the last twelve hours, that one FMZ post brought his morning down faster than anything else could have.
God damn the press, sometimes. What he does is his own business, right?
Brad looked up at the unblinking, narrowed eyes of his agent, sitting across the table from him, and sighed. "Go ahead." he muttered, knowing Blake would want to speak first.
The caribou took a slow sip of his coffee, then sat it down as he looked back at the eagle's eyes. A short breath to speak, and then the words. “Look, Brad, I know we have done this a few times before, but your tweeting has become a big issue." He waited to get his client's reaction.
Brad leaned back, his armwings folded against each other, a light scowl on his golden beak. It was apparent that he was already resisting the sage advice. However, he didn't interrupt, which prompted Blake to continue.
"I didn’t mind your barbeque tweets, but the things after were not ok.”
Brad sneered. "Why not? I've tweeted about that stuff before in college, and nobody gave me shit about it!" he challenged.
Blake shook his head lightly. “Brad, this is not college anymore. You are on the verge of becoming a professional athlete. All eyes are on you, from the media to your potential employers and future fans. The FBA is a completely different level, and you need to adjust yourself to that level.”
"So, you lied."
Blake cocked his head. "What do you mean, 'I lied'?"
"You said you weren't trying to change my personality. And here you are telling me I can't be doing the things I've done for the last four years of my life!" Brad's crossed arms became more... crossed, digging deeper into the foxhole he was building for himself. Starting to make a bunker.
“Your personality is one thing, Brad, but your behaviour is another.” Blake replied, in his very accented and clipped delivery. He leaned his arms on the table, fingers interlocked with each other. “As I've told you before, everyone can look at what you’re saying on Twitter, not just friends and family. There is a lot more at stake here. This is your future career we’re talking about.”
"So I gotta shut up," started Brad, grabbing his fork and poking at his nonmoving ham slice. "I have to not do all the things I've ever done." He sighed and shook his head. "You're just like Tiller." he muttered.
"My coach at WSU. Big raccoon, always was taking away my phone when I said something he thought was stupid. Which was all the damn time..." Brad growled.
Blake did seem to recall Brad's earlier tweets about his preference for languages, and the account being 'shut down' temporarily by someone. He thought it was Brad himself, but now with this revelation came the truth, that Brad was being micromanaged by his coach as well.
“I see. This Tiller might have been your coach, but he may not see what I see, and that is a basketball player with the potential to exceed expectations, but I can only do so much for your own good. Like I said yesterday, I don’t want to change who you are, but you need to do things differently.”
"...You want me to stop Tweeting."
"...no, Brad. Not ALL of your tweeting. Just the things that should be private."
"What if I *WANT* to share those things, huh?" challenged Brad, his feathers bristling. "I've always shared those with my friends before! Now you want me to clam up about the things that I do? Should I be wearing a suit and tie too? Drink tea in the afternoon like the British do, or some shit?"
A heavy sigh came from the caribou. "Brad..." he said, trying to interrupt, but the eagle was having none of it.
"I am *PROUD* of my ability to say those things! If FMZ or some other dung-beetle-crap-rolling newspaper wants to tout that, that's THEIR right to do that too! But it doesn't affect me, because *I* am captain of my own goddamn ship! Nobody else! Not Tiller, not you, not ANYONE!" His eyes turned from blue to a fiery red in his rage.
“Brad, do you know we have a dung beetle in the FBA right now?"
Brad's indignation turned on a dime to confusion at the sudden shift. "...what?"
"We have someone in the FBA who is a dung beetle. Do you think she would like being compared to an immoral tabloid news service?"
Brad stopped a moment. "I didn't say that at all!"
"No, Brad. But someone could have made the inference." Blake said, calmly trying to make Brad see the logic.
It wasn't working. "SO?!" came the frustrated reply.
Blake closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and continued, "You have no idea what your words, your tweets, your ideas mean to other people. You speak and type before thinking. Remember the 'American Balls' a few days ago? Had you actually read out what you said, you might have recognized how inappropriate it was."
Brad shut up at that point. The 'balls' tweet would be forever haunting him, especially as everyone in the combine continually reminded him about it. He honestly wished he could have undone that.
The agent took the silence as an invitation to continue. "You see, Brad, that’s your problem. You say a lot of things without thinking about them first, and that is troublesome. That’s what makes your potential employer think twice before they want to have you on their roster. You want to make them see what you can do on the court, right?”
"Here, think about it in this way," Blake continued. "Do you like supermodels?"
"Well, yeah, I guess," replied Brad. A smile on his beak.
"Okay then... imagine a supermodel that looks absolutely beautiful to you," said the caribou, waiting for Brad to visualize it, smiling wider. "Now, imagine that beautiful supermodel walking down a runway, all bowlegged." The smile began to fade. "Imagine her cursing out loud, spitting on the floor and sniffing her armpits." The smile was replaced with a frown.
"Now, you, Brad, could easily be the face of the FBA. You've got the talent for it, obviously. But you see, if your behavior is not as attractive as the others, people will mock you and not take you seriously. That is all people will remember of you and you are better than that!"
Brad rubbed his head, looking down at his ham, remaining silent for now. He'd heard this over and over again from Blake. He was getting tired of the song and dance, but Blake knew that you couldn't get through a boulder with one big strike. You had to chip away at it piece by piece. Once past the defenses Brad erected, with his hyper-patriotism and all-American jock mentality, he *was* a loyal, talented individual. Maybe not the next Buck Hopper or Rodger Umaechi, but being in the FBA at *ALL* was an achievement, even if not the star.
The ironic thing, was the stardom that Brad craved would impinge on his freedoms even more than he had now. If only the bird could realize what the caribou was doing for him, to know he was being shaped from that boulder into a picturesque statue.
“So... what do I do? Just throw away my phone whenever I want to say something?" asked Brad, a bit softer. He looked up from his ham, back at his agent. "You know I'm not going to be able to stop myself all the time, right? And you're not going to be around all the time to yank the phone away."
Blake nodded solemnly. "I know," he replied, simply.
"Why do you put up with me? You KNOW I'm a nightmare - hell, Tiller knew and he reminded me of it every day. Why don't you just make it easy on yourself and find someone who'll listen all the time? Why not give up?..."
He hung his head down. "...like Tiller did?" he added, softly.
Blake leaned forward against the table, gathering his words before speaking. “Because I believe there is a lot more to you than Tiller ever saw. I know you’re capable of great things, Brad, and I want to help you achieve them. I have not spent the past 8 years working my tail off back in Europe, just to give up on someone as talented as you.”
Brad's gaze never left the floor. Somewhere in his mind, a few chips fell to the ground, after Blake had tapped the carving chisel just so, shaping just a bit more in that rock-hard brain of his.
"So... what DO I do?" he asked again. This time, a bit more seriously.
“The next time you want to tweet something, type it out, then read it out loud. Think about what implications it might have. Is it harmless? Does it offend someone? If you think it will, just delete it, wait a while, and try again later."
Brad looked back up from the floor, trying to have those suggestions at least rattle around his brain for a while. He looked a tiny bit confused, but also tired. Tired of hearing the same things, maybe. Or tired of having to defend himself after every tweet.
Blake finished as he sipped a glass of water. "What I’m trying to say is: Think about what you’re saying before you post it publicly. Please? For the both of us?”
Brad opened his beak, the bald eagle starting to automatically go into his 'My freedom' mode, but those words rattled around his head. Stop. Think. Wait. Simple words, simple concepts. He paused for a moment. Blake set down his water, and watched his client, who was looking off to the side, as if he was indeed thinking.
Brad looked back and nodded. "I... I will try." he said, simply. No smile. No boisterousness. But Blake could tell - it was as sincere as he'd seen in Brad. And that made the caribou almost jump for joy. Inside, of course.
“Thank you, Brad. That means a lot to me," came the reply, with a tiny smile. He checked his watch, and raised an eyebrow. "Now, I believe you have a flight to catch. So we are done here. Breakfast is on me.”
"Thanks," replied Brad as he got up and shoved the chair back under the table. He stopped for a moment. "Thanks for not giving up." he added, smirking.
"You are a big rock. I am simply helping you chisel the ugly parts into a statue." replied Blake, giving words to his earlier thoughts.
Brad chuckled at that. "Hope your chisel doesn't break..." he replied, before speeding away from the restaurant table towards his room.
Blake took another sip of his water as he watched the eagle dash off. "Good thing I have lots of chisels." he mused to himself, chuckling.
2014 - 2015 Regular Season Stats
2015 - 2016 Regular Season Stats
2016 - 2017 Regular Season Stats