Kassius Waterson is a North American river otter center, currently playing for the Albany Alphas. He also played two seasons with the Edmonton Totems (2018-2020).
Headshot of Kassius Waterson, c/o PAC.
|No. 19 – Albany Alphas|
|Species||North American River Otter ( Mustelidae )|
|Listed height||7 ft 6 in (2.29 m)|
|Listed weight||305 lb (138 kg)|
|School||The Ohio State Mammalian University|
|FBA draft||2018 / Round: 2 / Pick: 26th overall|
|Selected by the Edmonton Excavators|
|Pro playing career||2018–present|
|Career highlights and awards|
|2023 Salary||$3 million|
|(IC) Agent||Kortan Shizuka|
|(OOC) Usage||Ask me before any use|
Kassius Waterson was born on October 13, 1996 in Tampa, Florida, via Cesarean section as one of the largest pups ever born in the Tampa General Hospital maternity ward. As he was placed into his father Dezmond’s arms, he was a massive 25.5 inches and 11 lbs. 4 oz. It was due to the fact that he was so incredibly large at birth that he was held at the hospital for close to the first two weeks of his life, as they tested him to ensure that it was only fetal macrosomia that he was affected with. After several clean slates of health, he was finally allowed to leave the hospital and enter the real world. As he got older, his growing never seemed to stop, and his parents, being smaller themselves (his father was 6’2” and his mother was a tiny 5’4”,) began to show more and more concern.
When he turned three in 1999, Kaz was 3 feet 6 inches, and close to 40 pounds. His parents took him to the doctor and raised their concerns for their pup. He was given several medical tests, which determined that his growth was not caused by a physical abnormality. He was simply at an incredible 98th percentile for length and weight. He was projected to be well within the seven-foot range when he reached his peak. He was going to be a giant, no doubt about it, and his father knew exactly the way to control his incredible child: get him into basketball.
The first time Dezmond put a basketball in Kaz's hands was a defining moment. It almost seemed to click with him that this was what he was destined to do. His father practiced with him every day he could, and he improved with every dribble and every attempted shot. When Kassius was finally old enough for school, he was bullied severely for his massive size; people were afraid of him, and it left him lonely and incredibly shy as a child. His teachers loved him, however, for his incredible creativity and athleticism. He had talent and it showed, and his teachers were definitely noticing. Throughout his school days, he only had one true friend to look up to: a blue jay named Atheos Loukas. They met in second grade and they clicked together like glue, going everywhere together. They became incredibly close, and are still close to this day.
It would be in fifth grade where he would become something else that would change his life: he became a percussionist in his school’s concert, and later, marching bands, alongside his best friend Atheos. He would spend hours at a time working on his drumming, to the point where he was at an incredibly advanced level, allowing him to audition for Furry Drum Corps International in 2009. He was accepted into the Orlando Academy, with whom he would work as a tenor drummer for four years, until focusing on his high-school career, and then taking his talents to Santa Clara in 2016, where he would work as a snare drummer until his age-out year in 2018.
Another sport he would decide to join would be, surprisingly to his friends, judo. Many thought his big frame would be too slow and lumbering for him to be effective at the sport, but his size was no issue, and he would excel as a heavyweight competitor, going so far as to join the US Olympic team in Judo in 2020, placing fifth in the competition. He would then take this experience into the ring and begin training in his free time as a professional wrestler.
In seventh grade, he joined his middle school basketball team, quickly becoming the team's starting center after just five games. He would be on his school's basketball teams for six years, and would be their starting center for most of the time. Most of the teams he faced in his high school career seemed to fear his presence; centers in his division called him “The Jeffesron Giant.” His exceptional abilities on the court got people watching, and talking. There were FCAA scouts watching him every game, especially during the playoff games in 10th and 11th grade. But it would be at his senior year state quarter-final game against Farsides HS that Kaz would be given the letter that changed his entire life in the locker room. He was given the news that The Ohio State Mammalian University in Columbus, OH was offering him a full-ride basketball scholarship. He had the golden ticket in his hands, and he took it. In 2015, he took his basketball and marching talents to Ohio State. It was an incredible change, and it took him a very long time to adjust to the climate and social life changes. As a drummer, he was nothing short of incredible (mainly due to the FDCI experience he had prior to college.) As a basketball player, it took him time to adjust to his surroundings, and the truly intimidating crowds of The Shot. The fans came to play as much, if not more than the players did.
The Punch Heard 'Round the World
In the summer of 2016, Kaz made an important life decision that would affect everything in his life: he publicly came out as pansexual. To him, it made him feel more in touch with his own self, and it was a positive situation all-around for himself and the company around him, who accepted him with open arms. However, that didn’t mean everyone accepted him. And on December 18, 2016, in the third quarter of their game against Braylor, Kassius committed a blocking foul against their center, a beagle named Chase Helawig. What followed may be the most controversial event to reach The Shot.
Kaz was put into a medically-induced coma for four days following the brutal incident. He was out for three games, before coming back for the school’s away Ohio Rivalry game against GLM. In this game, Kaz played one of the best games of his career, putting up 8 blocks, 16 points, and 6 steals on his way to becoming Player of the Game. When interviewed after the game, Kaz was a jumbled mess, having to cut the interview short due to a nosebleed; this strange behavior has led people to believe that his inclusion in the game was a breach of concussion protocol. An investigation would be conducted as to the coach's playing of concussed players before their alloted return date, ending in coach Greg Alstern being fined $60k for medical infractions.
Strange Major, and a Questioned Future
Kaz, when it came time to declare his major, confused everyone by deciding on a Creative Writing major. He had originally kept his love for writing a secret to the public, as he didn't want the constant attention received by most high-school writers. However, the more he worked in his chosen field, the more he improved and the more he liked it. As of now, he has no books published. However, he is in the process of writing one right now.
During his years at OSMU, he had a constant conundrum in his head: what should he do after college, and what should he make his career. His friends and coaches told him to keep playing basketball, and to make a complete career out of basketball by joining the FBA. However, in his head he was thinking about making a career out of creative writing and becoming an author, and he got to work writing his first novel. However, after two months of thinking, he finally surprised everyone by throwing his name into the 2018-2019 Draft Class in the summer of 2018.
He was the #26 pick of the Draft, picked up by the Edmonton Totems after a trade deal was made with the Bangor Tides in the nick of time. This was a shock trade deal, as most of the combine scouts placed him as an automatic day-one pick. People were shocked, but were quickly over it, instead now excited for just how well he would perform in his first ever professional season.
Edmonton: Seasons of Firsts
Kaz’ first season in the FBA was a rather eventful one. He would start his season on the bench, typically playing no more than 5 minutes per game; even with his short tenure on the court per game, however, he still attained a large fanbase within the Totems community. He would get cheers in the crowd nearly every game, cheers that would only grow more raucous and loud with every appearance. He seemed to enjoy the publicity, and it led him to create the T-Line, the FBA’s first official organization pep band.
In February 2019, he would miss several games after he suffered a scalp contusion and a severe concussion after getting in a car accident immediately following the All Star Rookie Showcase. He would receive hundreds of fan e-mails and letters wishing him a speedy and full recovery. He would recover after ten missed games. He would be considered the Rookie All-Star, and win the Totems Spirit award for the season. Kaz found himself on the starting lineup near the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, following fan comments and a performance review from Coach Stan Shields, Sr found him fit to start. He would average about 25 minutes per game for his second professional season. After the 2019-2020 season ended, he would find himself a free-agent and received a 3 year, $3Mn/yr contract to Albany, which he would gladly take.
Albany: Project Alpha-19
When Kaz took a free agency contract from Albany, he quickly packed his bags and moved into the Albany Players' Complex. As soon as he had finally unpacked his things and moved into his new home, he received the news that his grandmother, Margaret Waterson, had lost her 12-years fight with breast cancer. This news utterly destroyed the otter, who, unable to cope with his emotional baggage, began seeing therapist Dr. Howard Gutierrez. When he joined the team, it was kept a secret from the Albany fanbase, with the exception of "Project Alpha-19" appearing on posters throughout the city, and the "Complete the Project" slogan being seen on their calendars. In their first preseason game, he was revealed to have been the project all along, to a massive ovation from the Alphas faithful. By the end of the 2020 preseason, he was playing more than lead center Raoul Kidane, and intends to "be the best center the city of Albany has ever had."
On April 11, 2021, Kaz would earn his first Player of the Game designation in a win against none other than his old home team, the Edmonton Totems. He would receive a rather warm reception from his old fans.
Personal Life and Other Information
One of the most widely recognizable features of Kaz's figure is his striking mohawk, which he has dyed in various vibrant (or sometimes pastel) colors to represent different things, many of which he leaves up to fans and teammates to decipher. The most famous usage of his hair was when he dyed it bright pink for the first half of October 2020 (to honor his grandmother who lost her fight with breast cancer on September 30 of that year), and the freshly-done bright purple hair that he brought into his Alphas team photoshoot, after having hid his locks from the team until just before the group picture.
Also prominent in his attire are his shooting sleeves, most of which are airbrushed by different artists. His sleeve collection contains works honoring the lives of his friends and family, including works commemorating his grandmother, Malcolm Albins (which contained an airbrush of his personal back stripes), and the double-sleeve Tobias Jr. and Riley Skye tribute, which were airbrushed in non-permanent ink that lifted off the fabric, which "represented the fragility of our existence. It also contains two works from famed poster airbrush artist Philip Castle, and allegedly contains a real work by Banksy, but this latter claim has not been confirmed.
On April 15, 2021, Kaz's Japanese-inspired hibachi and sushi restaurant, Big Blade, opened to the public in Albany. The reservations-only establishment was created as the brainchild of Kaz and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and employs "the best of culinary showmanship America has to offer," all of whom were required to go through a grueling audition process to become the first chefs. The restaurant's theatrics include the usage of fire, smoke, and dry ice, with a rather surreal atmosphere that takes a lot of inspiration from the works of Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, and Salvador Dalí. In late 2022, rising on the success of Big Blade in Albany, Kaz gave full-time operations rights to Morimoto and famed restauranteur Toshio Suzuki, and decided to open three new restaurants under the Big Blade banner: Big Blade "Goes Broadway" in New York City, Big Blade "West Coast" in Beverly Hills, and Bigger Blade in Dallas, each to rave reviews and booming success.
|Up All Night|
A Kassius Waterson Story
3:24 AM. Yet another shot missed its target, bouncing off of the rim and back to the ground again.
I was furious with myself. I had just posted the worst points game of the whole season, and I wasn’t taking it lightly on myself. I, having gained my sense of perfectionism with drum corps and marching band, never could stomach anything I did being imperfect. It was turning into a major internal problem, but it was one I hid well. I didn’t want anyone to know about these all-nighters I was pulling after games; I didn’t the coach to chew him out for being a horrible player, either. In the back of my mind, I knew the coach wasn’t like that, but I refused to accept that thought back there.
I took another shot, sinking it this time; nothing but net and air. I wasn’t impressed yet, immediately sprinting it into a layup, lands it, sprints to the other side of the basket, and lands another layup. I then ran back a bit, still in the two-pointer range, and fired. I missed. Again. I felt something beyond anger, beyond frustration and annoyance; it wasn’t grief or sadness, either. It was something words could not explain, something too deep for an otter’s psyche. I felt as if every missed shot was another time I dishonored the Totem brand. Every missed shot was another disappointment, another L, a losing season, never gonna get Top Totem, Player of the Game, they’re gonna fire me, I’m gonna be homeless, I’m going to die.
I felt something thicker than mucus begin to drip from my nose, but I couldn’t have cared less about it. I was furious with myself; I began to punish myself. I forced my body to hit the shots twice as fast, twice as hard, twice as intense, no breaks, nothing. I felt like the worst player in the world. I felt like everyone else thought I was the worst player in the world. I didn’t let myself catch my breath (not like I could anyway), as that all-too-familiar smell of metallic crimson punched my nose and lungs and body like a boxer in a championship fight. My now-shirtless body stained the court with a clear-red swirl of liquid, and the salty sweat of a need to prove myself to the world burned my tired, callused skin.
Shots were sinking left and right as I viciously attacked the basket. My fury would not subside, as my thoughts grew fuzzier and duller. My nose was less dripping and more pouring now, as my heart worked overtime, nonstop, to pump my blood to my limbs and head. My mouth received the taste of metal with every time I opened it to breathe, and my vision started to turn into a tunnel. I felt my feet go completely numb, but I kept going. My hands went next, as the dark tunnel my eyes were in continued to close in on him. My breathing was ragged, but I continued to push myself until everything went completely black, the tunnel closing in completely on him.
A second later, I woke up to the face of my coach sitting about a foot in front of him. The room was quiet except for the sound of a mop swimming and sloshing on the hardwood floor. I could feel the muscles in my throat clinch up and tighten at the appearance of the older man in front of me; the one face I especially did not want to see. I shook me lightly to make sure I was awake. “Kaz,” he said in a tired, yet intrigued tone, “you are one crazy idiot.”
I didn’t understand what I was saying. I could hear him, but the words just couldn’t seem to get a grip on my brain. I was unable to get anything out of my mouth other than a simple, weak “Yes, coach.” I then found the unexpected courage to blurt out “Sorry about the blood."
“Sorry about the blood.” The blood. The crimson fountain that my nose becomes on occasion. Not the horrendous performance I had just given on the court, not the terrible shooting or my defensive idiocy. My blood on the court was what I had apologized to him for. What the actual fuck was I thinking?
“Don’t worry about the stupid blood, kid; worry about yourself! The hell were you thinking, staying out here and working yourself that hard? Good thing I found you when I did, I thought you were dead out there! Now go home, kid. You’ll improve with repeated practice, not with near-killing yourself in one night.” He sounded concerned for more than just the win (which we had gotten anyway), which confused me. All my coaches in high school had cared about was winning. They didn’t care about the game. They didn’t care about the sport. They only cared about the record. The players didn’t matter; to them, they were merely pawns in their game of court chess.
But here, to Coach Shields, the players were everything. Their health was everything. The record matters, of course; the players mattered more. And for now, I couldn’t seem to understand what to do with this care. All I did know was that these all-nighters wouldn’t be alone anymore.
|Crash and Burn|
A Kassius Waterson Story
|It was, to say the very least, a very interesting time in my life. I was a center, albeit a reserve, for the Edmonton Totems, and my intense hard work and “lovable personality” had brought me to the Rookie Showcase in the 2019 All Star Week in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I knew right away that once the fans were enfranchised for the various occasions that would arise in Winnipeg, I could almost guarantee in my head that the fans would gladly cast a ballot with my likeness on it. And although I did preciously little to bolster my personal campaign, the incredible fanbase of the Bête Noire Pavilion decided that I was deserving enough of a chance to express myself within a, for lack of better words, less dangerous situation.
However, to be completely fair, this narrative is not about me. This narrative is about another rookie in the competition: the FBA’s top prospect, and the number one draft pick for the 2018-19 season, Terry O’Toole. This Irish wolfhound was, at this point, famous for some wrong reasons. He was considered to have an ego about the size of Alaska, and his narcissistic qualities had seemed to give his name a very negative connotation. He, at this time, was also famous for two very negative reasons: his father had just viciously criticized him and team (on which he is a starting shooting guard,) and he was just busted for the possession and usage of recreational marijuana.
Of course, people were in shock. No one has expected Terry’s emotions to actually stoop to that level, but somehow they did. He was in complete distress to the unfortunate extent where he was either A) ready to sacrifice his career to save his emotional state or B) not even able to think of the all-important ramifications of his actions. All his mind could process was pain; he had to have felt a sense of acute and extraordinary ianguish that he was unexpecting and mentally unprepared for, and his father had just viciously and unrelentingly chewed out his entire semi-year’s performance on the professional court. His public image was, at least to my imagination, was going to be completely destroyed by this situation, but I didn’t care what the public was about to say. I was going to be there to support him through this entire situation, through thick and thin, from beginning to end. He was more than his mistakes to me. He was a rookie, a fellow player, a friend; I could be there to help him out more with the suspension he would surely receive; the FBA’s zero-tolerance policies proscribe against any and all narcotics-related allegations with a sort of orotund rigidity.
And now, just like me, he was feeling a plethora of stress. As was previously established, his father had called him out in one of the harshest interviews I had ever heard; I was frankly flabbergasted that a man such as Cedric O’Toole would have the boldness to criticize his own son in such a manner, and I would have been just as enervated to hear my father destroy the credibility of the personal foundations of my profession. I wasn’t even affected by his father’s bridge-burning tirade, and yet I still felt his internal struggles. This was more than just constructive criticism. This was an attack, and I swore at the moment the scathing interview concluded to protect him, at least until their familial bonds were reformed.
The game had finally concluded at around nine fifteen in the evening. As soon as I was off the court, I was in the locker room getting dressed and preparing myself for the media backlash I was inevitably going to receive for my actions, or at least so I thought. I took my jersey off with a sense of peaceful stress. I was in emotional distress, but it wasn’t my job to show that right now. As soon as the coach was finished with his moving diatribe, I found my way back to the parking lot, and to my car. It would be at this moment in my personal situation that I would begin to question the logical framework of my decision to buy myself a Smart car; as an otter of such large size and imposing stature, it was always quite a difficult endeavor to get myself into the driver’s seat of my own car, and this was not the time to get into this type of predicament. To me, I was up against the clock. After what must have been a comedic five minutes to watch me get into my car, I finally crammed myself into the car about half my height. I must have looked like Zack Tate in a washing machine; not to say that wouldn’t be a good idea.
I was finally on my way to the hotel. Traffic was slow getting out of the arena, so I was a little behind schedule as I try to merge out and get onto a faster road. I get into another lane and keep heading down the road. As soon as I’m away from the arena, traffic is flowing smoothly. I start to think about what I’m going to tell him: you’re gonna be fine, don’t be all worried, and also, what were you thinking you idiot? Wait, I had already gone HARD on Twitter, that was already getting me into a little hot water. I was overreacting, whatever, he’ll live. Stop at a red light, wait my turn, adjust myself as much as I can with what little space I have.
The light turns green, and I go into the intersection. Little did I realize how bad things were really gonna turn out.
We had lost the game. Of course we did. Our entire framework imploded right on me, trying to think of some stupid way to get Terry O'Toole out of the hole HE dug for himself. I wasn't focused at the ONE TIME I had to prove myself. I wouldn't have been mad if I had been traded to Tallahassee as soon as the game was over. I, of course, failed the team. I led us to a 24-point L in the records of history, and I'll be damned if I ever get another shot on the court again. Coach Stan is gonna see those tapes. And he was gonna send me to the alternates list. Because a performance like that is grounds for never dressing again.
Maybe I could have thrown myself into the oncoming traffic. Ran the red light myself, then they would have hit the left side. Perfect, I get turned into otter mush, and I become so unrecognizable, at least no one would have the guts to attend my funeral of shame. The funeral for my career would be enough. It's not like was gonna stay on the team anyway, no matter how loyal I am to the Totems. They would have every reason and right to send me crying back to my father. Where I always was.
My father was always there to pick me back up, even when he shouldn't have; and I always had a problem with busy streets. Maybe if my father would have taught me some tough love and independence at the age of six, my nightmare of a career for the Totems would have never happened, and at least that car wouldn't have ran a red light...
My head is still spinning, foggy, I can’t seem to think. What’s on the news right now, am I even alive? Can’t seem to work on anything, I can’t move my arms, what’s that in my nose? Blood. Yep, that’s blood alright. Systems are normal, then. Perhaps I am witnessing my own autopsy? No. I’m witnessing my own ER visit. This is a lot to take in, I know. But just, stay with me, we’ll get through this together.
Terry is sitting in the waiting room. Coach Stan (Edit: Sr.) is on his way. Reporters are trying their damnedest to get in. They can’t. Of course not; I’m barely alive. On the news I see my car, smashed into a half-pancake of right-sided demolition. Tow truck’s got my car on it. Totaled, T-boned by a guy who ran a red light. The red light I waited for. The green light I went through. The green light he/she waited for; the red light they went through, and continued on. I did not continue; when two cars collide, both typically stop, but not this time. My car made of plastic and carbon fibre was no match for this guy’s aluminum Toyota. It was like hitting air to this thing.
And to my brain, the air felt like swords on my hide. Swords which cut, but never drew blood. The only blood there was came through from my glorious snout. And boy, there was a lot of blood. I had the IV in my arm to prove it. Type AB negative running through my underfed arteries. My brain was fried. I was in a car crash, that was for certain. But what wasn’t certain was the condition of my head. The doctors were checking on me all the time, and it seemed as if I was getting worse. My concussion was severe, as it would be after a bigfur such as myself gets T-boned in a plastic car.
At least I was on the other side of that car.
I was right outside the hotel. I was 80 meters away from the parking garage. The right side of my car was crushed. I was alive, somehow. If the car would have been going the other way, I would be an otter pancake. As I spun into the center of the universe, I was completely out. As my car was totaled into oblivion, my attacker disappeared. Of course it was a hit and run. It couldn’t have happened any other way. The world was destined to make this a mystery. Of course, this being Winnipeg, a camera caught the whole incident. He wasn’t getting away from this. He wasn’t getting away WITH this.
I wake up to Terry. Of course. I broke my promise. I said I wouldn’t get in a crash, but alas, life was really out for me at this point. My snout was dripping blood as if I had been stabbed, and the blood on the steering wheel kept dripping onto my pants. My head was on fire. My body ached, my seatbelt was still on, but I still tried to get out. The next thing I know, I’m in the hospital, Terry in the waiting room, reporters stopped at the door looking in at my corpse that wasn’t.
Perhaps it was a sign. Perhaps I should have thought about this a little bit further. But of course, I couldn’t think at all. All I could feel is my body crashing and burning. On the court. On the road. On my potential deathbed, that of course, wouldn’t be my deathbed. But you never really know. And reader, if there is one thing that you can learn from this, take away as a moral to learn from this “aesop fable,” it would be this:
Don’t run red lights.
Terry and I were finally in the hospital room together. I felt my body ache, not as much as it was before, but still a burn. At least we could talk about the situation in private, where only the heart monitors could butt into the conversation. This was what we both needed. If only I could move. That would have made this conversation perfect. But of course, you can’t always get what you want. I wanted to win, and that didn’t happen. But at least I made a friend. A friend in tragedy, one made from that one moment in everyone’s lives where we can’t help but crash and burn. We both crashed separately; at the least, we were going to burn together.
And burn we did. We talked for what had to be nine hours. Oh. It was three. Well, I guess that works as well.
There just never seemed to be an end to the conversation. Suspensions, injuries, relationships, other situations in our lives. We ate pan pizza and talked until the end of time. Or maybe just three hours burnt together by two men who have just crashed. In two different ways. But what does that matter? I made friends with the number one rookie, Terry O’Toole. Now to scratch that off my bucket list.
A Kassius Waterson Story
“The hardest thing about writing, for me, is facing the blank page. -Octavia Spencer
Troubled is he who must face the treacherous pain of a blank page: the endless possibilities do tend to sabotage the subterranean machinations of the minds of anyone who has a creative side. It can almost be painful to experience the horrors of total freedom. We as civilized, knowledged, and cultured beings enjoy routine, order, and guidelines; it is for this very reason that many in the writing business, when faced with the blank page, succumb to the sickness simply known as writer’s block.
And that is exactly what Kassius Waterson was going through right now.
Kaz was sitting in his office-slash-bedroom, slaving over a keyboard’s backspace button. He was facing the exact same question that plagues the lives and haunts the dreams of every aspiring creator: how to fill a blank page. He had every idea in the world flying by his eyes each second, and trying to capture one was akin to capturing lightning in a mason jar. To him, there was no way he could win; the blank page left Kaz waving his own enemy as a banner of surrender. It was a pitiful sight to see: a genius cut down by the blades of his own greatest asset.
He smacked his desk once, twice, almost trying to smash another concept out of it or his brain with each furious thud; for Christ’s sake, he went to college for this, he should be used to this type of stuff by now, the bachelor’s degree from THE Ohio State Mammalian University is right there on the wall to prove it god damnit! He suddenly exploded out of his chair and started to pace around the room, his thick tail skidding across the ground like an Olympic skier going through the gates at double speed. He looked at everything, researching it thoroughly. EVERYTHING: his drums, his old uniforms, his clock, his posters, the floor, chair, desk, the snowglobe from Florida that his father gave him for his birthday last year, phone, keys, wallet, he needs something, anything, what do I write about, is it lunchtime yet? Check the kitchen, I’m hungry anyway. Hallway, kitchen, counters, sink, I need to do the dishes. What about the fridge, cabinets, looking everywhere, there has GOT to be something here to give me an idea --
The sound of an unlocking front door did nothing to tame the wild beast of Kaz’s mind; in fact, it was unclear as to if he had even heard the sound. When Tyron walked in, he saw an otter running around so frantically he thought Kaz was losing his mind. Well, he was half-correct; he was losing his mind, but not in a way of permanent insanity. He knew Kaz had his quirks; it was one of many things about his character that charmed the big timberwolf, but he had never seen him so fired up before. It almost scared him, seeing Kaz so worked up over something like this, his typically care-free demeanor falling away to reveal the raw, eccentric, pained creative genius that he spent four and a half years honing into an explosive device to rival a nuclear bomb.
“Hey Kaz, you seem pretty tensed up. What’s going on?” Tyron tried his best to neutralize the rabid mustelid near-laying waste to his own kitchen. He was, at the moment, pacing wildly whilst reading the back of a can of Campbell’s soup.
“I have a DEGREE in this shit, and I still can’t come up with an idea! I have a creative writing degree. I went to COLLEGE to learn how to beat a blank piece of paper, and yet it is kicking my ass as I speak! I need ideas.” He was damn near pulling his ice-blue hair out now.
“You need ideas for writing, and so you’re reading the ingredients of a soup can. You’re freaking me out, Kaz, and you need to calm down.” Tyron spoke with a tense, yet unangered authority, and Kaz responded positively to the command. He sighed, setting down the shuddering can of clam chowder onto the counter. Sighing again, he walked over to the couch, and Tyron placed a hand on Kaz's back.
"I'm sorry for freaking you out...I just have writer's block."
“So you’re telling me that you let someone sack you for a 12-yard loss. No way, hun.”
“It’s true, hun. I don’t have a clue what happened, but suddenly that dude dang near took my top with him. I told him after the play to give me my wallet back.”
“I guess it happens like that sometimes. One second you’re missing every shot, the next you’re dropping bombs on the board like the Luftwaffe. Sometimes, everything just clicks and you start killing it. Kinda like writing.” Kaz smiled.
Tyron was able to get Kaz’ eccentric head out of the rut of writer’s insanity; he was finally, at least somewhat, relaxed enough to not pace around his house muttering to himself about his Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He was proud of his work in getting it after four long years of slaving over keyboard and composition book alike; though it sounded boring and impractical, he never got the impression that he was wasting his time by learning how to use words to change the world. In fact, he saw it as an opportunity to grow and develop, not only as a user of the English language and as a writer, but as a person; not only that, but he saw it as a pleasurable activity to partake in. Besides, it was better than all the other nonsense the kids in college with him were getting into.
The rotund timberwolf sat with the Redwood otter on his couch; somehow, even while seated Kaz could still almost touch the ceiling of his apartment. The couch, which had been specially reinforced by his grandfather to take the stress of two super-heavyweights, did its duty with pride; the cushions, however, were in desperate need of a fluffing cycle. The two athletes crushing them with the force of almost 700 pounds were cuddled next to each other, simply enjoying each other’s company and talking each other off of the ledge (even if only one was really on it.)
The world just seemed to be calmer now to Kaz. His mind, which was just moments ago aglow with various nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention, was actually able to process one thought at a time; his body was no longer stuttering like a scratched CD talking too fast, and instead was relaxed, his tail subconsciously thumping itself against the wall, as it did when he was content. The two just relaxed in the comfortable silence filled up only with background radiance and the heartbeats of two professional athletes now beating as one.
Tyron finally spoke up to break the radio silence. “You know...I ain’t got a clue how someone can just sit down and write the way you do. Don’t you ever get bored, want to do something else?”
“All the time. And I beat those feelings by writing about them. If I get distracted, I write about the distraction until I get over it, then I go back to writing what I was originally working on. But I never get bored of writing.” Kaz looked at Tyron, who looked amazed and confused.
“Think of writing like a road trip. An unplanned road trip, one of those trips you just take to get away from it all. You hop into your favorite ride, pick a direction on the compass, and head off. You don’t care about where you’re going, what you have going on, work, school, anything. It’s just you and the world, driving to nowhere in particular and enjoying the ride life takes you on. Writing is the same idea: I get comfy, pick a topic, and go. I don’t care where the story leads, where it goes, if the characters are fleshed out, or if there are plot holes or grammatical errors or misspellings. I don’t care about that right now; what I care about is the journey.
“See, writing is a journey, Ty. It’s not a destination. Even when an author finishes a book, they think of how to continue the journey. The last book in a series is never the end. The characters have lives afterward: maybe they get married, or move to another country. Maybe they have kids. What are they going to do? What about their grandparents, ancestors way back, who were they? What ever happened to that one pizza delivery guy? See, it never ends. Like the road trip. It’s not about where you end up; it’s about how you get there.
“That’s how I never get bored of writing. I just enjoy the journey, and don’t let myself get tired or bored when I can’t see the destination in front of me.”
Tyron smiled, near blown away by his lover’s philosophy. “So, it’s like ya never stop…that’s just unbelievable.” He appeared as if his jaw would sink to the center of the earth at even the slightest tremor as he struggled with all his might to hold it up to form that wonderful smile.
“I thought the exact same thing before I learned the truth of it: every block is a new opportunity.”
Suddenly Kaz’s eyes lit up, like a firework had just exploded in the big otter’s head. “Every block is a new opportunity…” He got up, opened the end table beside the couch he and Tyron were relaxing on just moments before, and picked up a pad and pencil. He wrote one word on the pad’s blank page, destroying the barrier that separated him from his story, breaking down the walls of his mind as if he was freeing Berlin:
Written by Cryptic and BigCed
© Cryptic, BigCed
|This has been recorded from an interview, recollecting events that allegedly occurred on 01/03/2021 in the Alphas Players Complex. Permission has been granted from both parties to release this information.
This has been recorded from an interview, recollecting events that allegedly occurred on 01/03/2021 in the Alphas Players Complex. Permission has been granted from both parties to release this information.
The training room at the APC was empty except for Kaz. He had a bone to pick with himself for his performance the night before, but of course, everyone thought it was just his "first in, last out" mentality kicking in after a totally-acceptable performance for a second-string center who had only 14 minutes of playtime. He walked away from the treadmill and stumbled a bit, having genuinely wiped himself clean. Kaz liked to call it being "factory resetted." All he knew though was that this pain was his penance for the team's failure to win it in OT. Meanwhile, Terry happened to be walking by the training room, having just wrapped up some good natured sparring with Narkissa, over at the wrestling ring next door. He had seen the lutrine bigfur in the gym at various points throughout the day, but was somewhat surprised to see him there at this late hour.
He entered the room and walked over to his teammate. "You been here all day, bro?" he asked.
"Well, what can I say," Kaz replied, turning to face the swingfur topshot, "basketball never sleeps."
"I know that, I own the shirt... though it's a bit tight on me these days." The wolfhound chuckled, bouncing his pecs in a show of muscularity typical for him, and one that seemed to lighten the giant lutrine’s spirits a bit.
"Well, I guess I need to, though. Unless you wanna hang out a bit." Kaz seemed groggy in his response, and Terry seemed to take notice.
Terry nodded. "Sure, I'm down to hang. Hell, why don't we head over to your apartment? Don't think I've been over there." He gave a light smile.
"Might as well. It's a spot just outside the APC. I guess you're the one driving?"
"Sure, I can drive." The canine pulled out the keys to his new sports car, a 2021 Subawoo BRZ, and motioned for the mustelid to follow him.
"You got a new one? Nice.” Kaz followed his teammate, still slightly embarrassed to be around him.
Several minutes later, they were at the rather-high-end studio apartment building. The outside wall was entirely glass, and was genuinely cool to see among the other miscellaneous Albany buildings. “Well, here we are.”
Terry looks around the bigfur's apartment, nodding in approval. "Team apartments ain't too shabby. Good work, Jack." He was, of course, referring to Alphas owner and general manager Jack Faris, who had invested millions in improving team facilities. Kaz walked into the living room, which at the time contained his MIDI tenor set; of course, having most likely never seen a kit like that, the hound’s eyes were caught up by it. “Are these your drums, bro?”
"That's my virtual tenor set. I have a virtual snare and a real snare and tenor set as well,” Kaz replied, trying not to gloat but unknowingly failing miserably at it. It was a good thing that Terry was used to it.
"Four more than I have, hah!" He idly taps his fingers on the virtual drums, somewhat poorly mocking a drum roll.
"I can practice on this without annoying the neighbors," Kaz said with a light chuckle, before grabbing a pair of mallets from his drop bag. What came next was Kaz completely waking up from his sweaty tiredness (to be honest he probably owed Terry an interior detailing of his car), and letting his fingers and hands flow like water across the six-shot tenors. The mesh heads were damn near silent, but still tuned. For a few moments, the hound couldn't help but look on in awe. He had heard Kaz had played drums as part of marching bands, but seeing him play the muted drum kit, seemingly without much effort, was a sight to behold.
He shook his head, half talking to himself. "Man, this must be what it's like for an average fan to watch one of us play in a game. You're like a pro, bro."
"Because I am a pro, my guy," he said, moving over to a wall that had several plaques and a shadowbox on it. The shadowbox had two medals in it: a gold DCI World Champions medal, and a gold DCI I+E World Champion award for snare performance. Both were dated to 2018. “I mean, I guess I’m as close to a pro as you can get. I won this one for a solo I wrote and performed, and the Founders' medal was for my corps winning the DCI World Championship."
Terry nodded, his eyes moving from the shadowbox to the other plagues. "Damn, that's some impressive hardware."
"Yeah, two of them are the Fred Sanford Percussion Awards from 2017 and 2018, and there's one from the Angelica Award."
The swingfur noted some of the dates, and it occurred to him that 2018 was the year Kaz was drafted. "Wow, you were doing this up until you declared for the draft, huh? That's some dedication, man. Legit drum corps competitions, on top of basketball? Not sure I could balance that."
“I mean, 2018 was my age-out year. You can’t be over 22 years old.”
Terry gave one of his trademark wolfhound head-tilts. "There's an age limit for that, huh? Didn't know that."
Kaz seemed to chuckle. "Yeah...I just hate that those days are over now. I still think back to that last time we sent in the clowns...and I can't help but choke up a bit. Those were the best days of my life. And now they're gone…as are the standards. The standards we followed were so much harder than the FBA, too. My director told us to do the impossible, and we delivered every time. I don't feel those same standards in basketball, because the coach understands that our body isn't perfect."
Terry couldn't help but remember that one time he caught the big otter shining his basketball shoes and ironing his own jersey. He nodded slowly. "I never thought of it like that, but I suppose that's true. I guess I prefer to focus on improving. Perfection might not be realistic, but you can always do better."
"Therein lies the problem. I've always been a perfectionist at heart...which has led to, eh...personal issues. Have I ever shown you my high school yearbook photo from junior year?" Kaz was suddenly opening up to Terry. This was a new side of him that, to him, no one had seen. He sounded uncharacteristically shy and reserved.
"No, I can't say I've seen that." Terry sounded a little taken-back, unnerved by the sudden nervousness of the big otter standing beside him. Kaz walked into his bedroom and came back with a large photo. It was his high school's basketball team publicity photo. And there he was in the back. A completely-unrecognizable rail of an otter who looked like a wiry skeleton. It was shocking, almost disturbing, to see him this small. He was obviously sickly; Terry was no doctor but even he could tell that something was going on.
"I was 17 in this photo. 6'10, and 131 pounds." He sat down, Terry following suit immediately after.
Terry blinked, trying to process what he seeing, but practically failing. "I've seen some lean bigs, but... wow..." He looked at Kaz, who had a look of near-embarrassment on his face. “That was really you?”
The words hit Kaz like bullets. He seemed to close himself up, visibly curling into himself slightly in a futile attempt to hide his embarrassment and guilt. “Yeah. Anorexia near killed me. I was picked on and bullied so much for my height that I...I just wanted to be normal-sized. I overworked myself into a frenzy. Then, even now, I felt like I was never good enough, ya know? Like, no matter what I do, it's never enough. For example, had I made just two baskets, we would have won yesterday..."
The wolfhound draped his arm along the otter's broad back, trying to comfort him. "But you are good enough. You play in the FBA, man. Best basketball league in the world. There's only like 360 people, in the whole world, who can call themselves FBA players at any one time." Kaz was obviously upset with himself. "I've been playing less than 15 minutes, though. There's no other reason why I'm not a starter. That means I have to work harder. They don’t trust me to work the whole game.”
"Dude, you do good work in those fifteen minutes. You're a beast in the paint. I see it every day in practice. You can play center in this league, man." Terry rubbed his back, trying to instill some confidence into the big ott’s system.
"But I can never capitalize...I might be a 'beast', but really, I can't do anything with it. It's not enough to just get the ball. You have to finish it."
"So that's part of your game you have to work on. That's okay. We're all working on something." Terry was trying to lift his teammate’s spirits. “And if you want, since I am really working on the same problem, how’s about I help you out with your finishes?”
Kaz looked at him. “Alright. That’ll help.”
Terry looked the bigfur up and down, glanced back at that Junior year photo, and gave a slight chuckle. "You know, this might sound odd, but I probably would have been kinda in awe of you in high school... growing up with a Dad who was 6'8", a brother who would grow to 6'7", counting Jake Turner as a friend... I wanted to be that tall, or taller. I was actually somewhat disappointed that I grew to only 6'5"... in a way I guess I had an ideal I couldn't reach either. Hell, it's even part of the reason I've been hitting the gym as hard as I have the past couple years. I figure if I can't be bigfur tall, I can be swole as fuck instead." The wolfhound laughed, assuming a front lat spread pose.
"I mean, you are swole. I'm not even as big as you are. I'm just a shy, embarrassed dumbass." He chuckled. “But I guess we all have something.”
"Hey, you're not a dumbass. You're one of the most talented people I know. DCI, an Olympian in judo, a hibachi chef, and an FBA player. And you're damn good at all of those things."
“... Am I though?”
"Dude, yes. Everything you do man, you have a talent for it. A lot of people are only good at maybe one thing." The canine drew closer to his lutrine teammate. "The world would be a more interesting place with more Kassius Watersons in it."
They had spent the night just talking and getting to know each other. Sure, it wasn’t the on-court practice they could have been doing, but it was something just as important. This was team-building, and when nobody else would catch the signs of a player having an issue, Terry swore to catch them and speak up. Sure, they were a team altogether, but Kaz and Terry were something closer. Their practice the next day and the game after that were more of the same. Another loss, another bad stat for the record books. But those two couldn’t have cared less. Because they were playing together. And that’s what mattered to the Alpha Tag Team. -|