Story:Endorsements and Letdowns
Endorsements and Letdowns
Written by FadedForest
The freezing wind snaked through the parking lot. A shiver ran through Matthew’s body; he tried to stay warm by crossing his arms and curling his tail around his leg.
Matthew glared out into the dark, cold night. The last light had left the sky hours before their game, leaving nothing behind but a bone permeating chill. To him, the cold would be an energizing breeze after a win, but tonight, like many nights as of late, it was more like a slap in the face.
His paws grasped his arms tighter. The game should have gone their way, but silly mistakes let Montana have a dozen or so more possessions. Even with him having a great game they couldn’t pull it out, Kresta matching him shot for shot and Sterling running over Dakota’s rookie Center. He hated to admit it...but the team was not doing good this year.
Another gust of wind forced those thoughts back to the recesses of his mind. Replaced with only the thought of getting to his car, his salvation from the sub-zero wind.
The door slammed shut, free from the wind he could relax...until his phone started to ring. A glance at the phone told him it was from Lukasz. A tired sigh escaped his maw, his breath visible from the cold. He stuck the phone in its car holder before answering.
“Yes Lukasz?” Matthew asked, before attempting to warm his paws with his breath.
“Ah, Mr. Silvius,” Lukasz said, his tone somewhat playful. “I hope I caught you at an opportune time.”
“You’ve got me for how long it takes me to get home,” Matthew replied, turning the ignition and bringing the car to life. “I need the rest since you’ve packed my day tomorrow,” Matthew replied, a twinge of annoyance present in his tone.
“And I have even less time than you,” Lukasz replied. “One of my other clients is presently occupied at a game, so I will make this brief.”
“Hmm…well I’m listening,” Matthew said impatiently, uninterested in hearing about his other client.
“Well, I hoped to remind you about that endorsement deal we signed together,” said Lukasz. “But it seems you already remember it’s happening, so that is good news.” “Kinda hard to forget with you being so persistent about it,” Matthew said with an even tone. Having stopped at a red light Matthew glared at the phone. So Lukasz had nothing to say about the game? Or was he too focused on his other client to have watched?
“Indeed, but I this is an important step towards this coming Free Agency, and I want to make sure you are prepared to take it seriously,” said Lukasz, the roar of the crowd picked up as he paused. “I should return to my own game. I will contact you in the morning: I should be getting into Sturgis around noon. That should be just after practice, yes?”
“Yes, but don’t forget I still have to be back for film review and a team meeting later that day.” Answered the weasel.
“I haven’t,” Lukasz replied. “The actual shoot and interview are scheduled around all of that, after all.” There was a brief pause as the crowd came to life with another roar. “I will have to go now. I will call you in the morning, Mr. Silvius.”
“Alright Lukasz, enjoy the game,” Matthew said. A moment passed and he heard the sound of the call ending.
A scoff broke the silence. Forget about the meeting tomorrow? Even before their own contract's ink had dried the dormouse had pushed the idea of signing an endorsement deal. It was the major focus of their calls. Something about brand value playing into value in the FBA.
From the start, Matthew had turned down the first half dozen Lukasz brought up on the spot. But Lukasz persistence had prevailed, having found one that intrigued him. An apparel company that specializes in injury prevention and recovery sports equipment. Perhaps because it touched him on more of a personal level than the others that he decided to take it. And if it got Lukasz off his back for a little while? Just a small bonus.
He smirked at that thought as he rounded the final corner, his home, and thus his bed, now in sight.
Light shone through his windshield, forcing Matthew to squint as he scanned the parking lot. His fingers drummed along the steering wheel, eyes darting between his phone and the parking lot. Lukasz was still nowhere in sight.
He found it odd when Lukasz didn’t call in the morning, but nonetheless went about his morning as normal. But then practice ended Lukasz was not there. All attempts to contact him failed, his phone ringing all the way to voicemail. Soon it reached a point that Matthew could no longer wait for the dormouse. He traveled over to the studio, hoping that Lukasz was waiting for him there. Unfortunately, that hope was dashed as he sat in his car. Stuck waiting to see if by some slim chance the dormouse would arrive to act as support.
One last glance at his phone told the Matthew time had run out. He took a deep breath and let it out in a long, slow sigh. He would have to take care of this on his own.
A blast of cold air met the weasel when he opened his car door. Matthew grumbled, he had learned quickly that in Dakota that a good jacket was a must. He zipped up his, stopping right below his muzzle, before throwing his bag over his shoulder and walking towards the studio.
The building was a refurbished warehouse, the red brick faded with age. He would have missed it if not for his GPS. As he approached the building the door opened, a lynx greeting him with a wide smile.
“Mr. Silvius, please come in.” The cat motioned into the building. He felt the heat on face as he entered the building. Letting his muscles relax as the warmth penetrated through his jacket.
“Will Mr. Abrahamovicz be joining us soon?” The lynx asked. Matthew’s shoulders tensed, and he debated what to say.
“No.” Matthew finally responded, the frown on his maw hidden with his back to the lynx. Silence permeated the hall for a second before Matthew heard footsteps.
“Very well,” the lynx approached Matthew. He came to a stop and looked up at the weasel, “I’m Scott Levine,” he extended his paw, which Matthew in turn shook.“I understand you’re on a tight schedule. So let’s get started shall we?” He motioned down the hall with his paw.
Matthew only nodded in response. He followed as the lynx began walking down the hall, staying right beside him.
“I’m here as a representative of Fenix, and will be doing the interview to go along with the spread after the photo shoot.” He stopped next to a door and turned to face Matthew before continuing. “I just want to say, we at Fenix would like to thank you again for agreeing to sign on with our brand. We are very excited to have you wearing our equipment.”
“Your company intrigued me,” Matthew replied with a shrug, “a sports apparel company is one thing, but your focus on injury recovery and prevention is unique.”
Scott nodded. “We have been expanding into sports apparel, but our founder’s original goal will always be where our focus lies.” He said, a smile had spread on his muzzle as he spoke. “They wanted to help players start anew after an injury, almost as if they were reborn or reinvigorated. It was actually that goal that caused them to gravitate towards using the phoenix as a symbol for the company.”
He paused and glanced down at his watch before turning towards the door, “It’s just about time. We should go on in.”
Matthew followed Scott as he pushed open the door to the studio, taking note of the room. The far wall was one large, smooth white screen. Multiple standing lights illuminated the wall. Off to the right, the weasel could see a couple of fans and paneled dividers lining the wall.
It took Matthew a moment to realize Scott had walked off to the left side of the room. He stood by a large table, laying something down and smoothing it out. Scott spoke, his back still to the weasel. “Now your agent insisted this is all you wanted, but if you ever want change the equipment...just let us know and it’ll be in your paws asap.”
On the table laid a black arm sleeve, though it extended farther than a typical sleeve, going from the bicep to cover the paw and a portion of the fingers. Matthew picked it up and examined it. An image of a phoenix wing was visible on the back paw fabric.
“Go ahead and put it on,” Scott suggested.
Matthew nodded, though he sat his bag and the sleeve onto the table. He could feel Scott’s questioning gaze but ignored it. He reached down towards his right paw and began to remove the wrap.
It coiled as it fell discarded onto the table. His focus was on his paw, eyes tracing the scar that ran below his pinky finger. A soft sigh escaped his maw, as he grabbed the sleeve and slid it on.
As he flexed his fingers he heard Scott cleared his throat, pulling Matthew’s attention back to him before speaking.
“We put a lot of care and research into the biomechanics of the body and injuries. We are always looking to improve the design of our products. Right now compression sleeves provide reduced soreness and better circulation. But we hope to take the benefits further than that as we improve the design and technology.” He smiled, “Of course we’ll provide you with the latest model.”
Matthew looked over the sleeve again, though he turned back when he heard Scott place another bag on the table. The smile had faded and he wasn’t looking at Matthew as he began to speak. “And, god forbid, if you do get injured...just let us know what you need.”
An awkward silence persisted for a moment, only broken when the door opened again. In came a blue robin, dressed in all black, button down shirt and all. The only break from black came from his blue and white feathers. In one paw he carried a large bag, and the other pulled a rolling suitcase.
Scott spoke first, “Ah, you must be David.” Matthew ignored when Scott stepped away to greet the bird. His mind replaying what Scott had said.
He glanced between the discarded wrap and his sleeved paw. If he gets injured? The better statement would have been when he gets injured. He held no delusion of invincibility, at least not anymore. An injury was inevitable, his paw clenched, but that did not mean he was helpless.
He had resolved himself to do everything in his power to take care of his body. Whether it was extra time in the trainer’s room or specialized training regiments, he was not going to let an injury end his career again.
“Mr. Silvius,” Matthew glanced towards Scott, a frown on his face, “would you mind changing behind that screen while David gets his equipment set up?” Scott said, motioning towards the two 3-panel screens on the right side of the room. “As soon as he’s done with you, we can start the interview.”
The frown softened, and the weasel nodded. He let out a soft sigh as he walked over to the panels. Scott was bound to talk about his tennis career. It was uncomfortable, to say the least, but Lukasz had convinced him this was important for his career.
Though, not important enough to be here. The weasel shook his head, pushing back the thought and feelings that came with it. That couldn’t be the focus right now. He had agreed to do this endorsement. No matter how uncomfortable the interview may go, and it deserved his full attention.
The tension in his shoulders released, determined to get through this first, and then he could focus on why the hell Lukasz wasn’t here later.
A tired sigh escaped Matthew’s muzzle as he pinched the bridge of his nose. The whole experience had been draining. He wasn’t sure what was more exhausting, the photo shoot or the interview that followed. Though he wasn’t leaving empty handed.
Multiple bags filled his other paw. Scott had handed them to him, saying that there were many arm sleeves in each for him to use during his games and practice sessions. He had thanked the lynx before heading out, intent on making it back to the stadium for film review and a team meeting.
The stadium was nearly within reach when his phone started to ring. His arm fell to his side and dug it out of his pocket. His face fell flat upon seeing who it was. Lukasz. He could feel the tiredness slip away as the anger he had pushed aside slowly resurfaced.
He tapped the answer button and slid it up to his ear.
“Don’t forget about the meeting huh? Funny I was the only one here.” Matthew said, his tone laced with contempt towards his absent agent.
“I apologize that one of my clients very nearly committed career suicide last night,” Lukasz replied, his voice a little more clipped than usual. Matthew came to a sudden halt, jolted by what Lukasz had said. He almost didn’t register when the dormouse continued to speak. “I apologize, too, for not being able to inform you of my change in plans, but I had very little time to do so between the calls to the GMs of the Summit and the Kahunas and my client.” He let out a huff. “I never knew damage control was so difficult within the FBA.” Matthew had not moved since his abrupt halt, now he standing in the middle of the sidewalk. “What the hell happened?” He asked, pushing the anger at Lukasz’ absence aside.
“Well, my client made the mistake of punching someone on the opposing team,” said Lukasz. “I’ve been trying to spend my time between telling the GMs of both teams that she would keep it under control, while telling her that no amount of bad blood justifies nearly ending her career before it’s ever really begun. It’s been a very long day…” He then sighed. “I apologize that I wasn’t able to make it there, Mr. Silvius.”
“Damn...sorry I didn’t know, you know I don’t care for the latest gossip going around on the news and at practice.” Matthew replied, “And it’s alright, you know how uncomfortable this stuff is for me, just let me know next with a voicemail or something.” As an afterthought, he added, “I’m sorry for the attitude.”
“It’s alright,” said Lukasz. “I did miss something important, after all.” He sighed. “Hopefully, my faith in you was not misplaced. I assume it went alright?” Matthew shrugged, though no one was around to see it. “It went well I suppose. The rep seemed happy with the shoot and interview, said it would be in the next issue and he’d make sure I get a copy.” He answered, “Also he went ahead and gave me the sleeves to wear for the games from now on. Told me he’d be in contact with you regarding future business.”
“He said as much to me,” he said. “Well, I’m glad you’ve gone through with this endorsement. It will certainly help you out come the free agency period.”
“If you say so, I still don’t see much of a point.” Matthew said, “But I guess that’s what I pay you for.”
“Indeed,” said Lukasz. “You pay me to handle that so you can concentrate on your game. And speaking of concentration, I should get back to trying to get my client out of this mess she’s gotten in.” He then sighed. “I will speak to you later, Mr. Silvius.”
“Best of luck, later,” Matthew replied, though it appeared the dormouse had already hung up. He decided to take a look online and see this ‘punch.’ It did not take long to find it, considering it was headline news on FMZ.
He could only shake his head as he watched the video. A single word popped into his mind, foolish. Foolish of her to throw a punch and risk her career, and foolish for Lukasz to work so hard to save it. Perhaps it would be best if Lukasz dropped her if they were so willing to risk their career. That way he could focus on his serious clients.
The call did little to boost his mood. A frown had settled on his muzzle. The anger had faded, but disappointment took its place. Lukasz had prioritized a foolish client over him. He dwelled on that fact for a little while before taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh.
This train of thought was detrimental he realized, so he pushed it to the back of his mind for later. Right now Dakota was struggling, on track to miss the playoffs for the first time in years. He couldn’t focus on Lukasz or his clients’ failures. How he played the rest of the season...that’s what’s important.
Besides, if the problem persisted...there were alternatives available.