Story:The Price of Victory
The Price of Victory
Written by IllaRouge
"The Price of Victory: An Exclusive Interview with Klaus Korber" by Tabitha LaFleur
"We won." - Klaus Korber, G, Retired.
What is the cost of a dream?
Do you, dear reader, have a dream? What would you sacrifice for it? Is it worth your time? Your effort? How about your life? Your livelihood? The very thing you used to define your existence?
To put you on the spot is perhaps unfair of me. These questions aren't fully answerable. Not universally, at least. But every so often, we're struck with just such a case where all of these questions come to bear.
I speak, of course, about Klaus Korber.
Klaus's career is no secret to Furry Basketball fans, but it wouldn't be right not to highlight a few details. Passed over by his own father in favor of a player most of whom can't remember now, Klaus entered Tallahassee reluctantly. To say it was a bitter selection would be putting it mildly. Since then, Klaus has garnered a number of accolades, from five All-Star selections to playing in international games. Klaus even faced his father again when his coach made the controversial decision to bring on Rolf Korber as her assistant coach. But we're not here to talk about how Klaus's career began, nor how it played out.
We're here to talk about how it ended.
The stage was set in a way that rivaled fiction. How could it be more perfect? A sports writer's dream. Game Seven. Away game for the underdogs. Even match in skill and coaching.
At the end of the sixth game, rumors came from all sides concerning Klaus's hip injury. It wasn't until the morning that confirmation arose that he had been placed on the day-to-day list. As much as the team has coalesced in recent years, there was no doubt whom the leader among the players has been. Anxiety welled up from fans and detractors alike.
To characterize the coaching of the Typhoons, one requires context. At any given moment, the whims of the turbulent Coach Tetreault could sway from extreme to extreme. During the regular season, one might see her decisions as safe, typically choosing to play her players in appropriate positions and at manageable aggression (though both a failed three-guard attempt and Rosalie Smoot's infamous injury come to mind...), but as soon as victory is in reach? Well, then we see what Hildegard is known for.
Risk, risk, risk. The 2017 playoffs have been full of risky maneuvers concerning the Typhoons. Just before the playoffs were underway, Tallahassee made the announcement that longstanding co-captains Korber and Jake Velox were being returned to regular status in favor of new leaders in the form of Rosalie Smoot, acquired from the Biloxi Voodoo in reasonably bad blood, and Narkissa Kassius, Sixth Fur of the Year with Player of the Game awards from the bench. Who would have called that decision?
And yet, for the most part, this risk paid off in spades. With amped up aggression in their playing, teams fell at the gale of the Typhoons' force.
Third seed, Tennessee Moonshiners: Typhoons win in six.
Second seed, Queens Pride: Typhoons win in six.
First seed, Williamsburg Minutemen: Typhoons win in five.
One after another, the new leadership of the players blew through the competition. Each game, Coach Tetreault chose varying lineups, mirroring her style in previous seasons. What should have been a looming shadow from the recent managerial vacancy left by Filippo Arango's ousting didn't seem to faze any level of Tallahassee. Each victory gained on bated breath, hope swelled with every game.
And then we all found ourselves at the final game, as far into the season as any team can go. The true finals, Game Seven. The starting lineups echoed through Montana's arena. Klaus Korber, securely in the Point Guard position, the position he seems born for.
Players from all sides fell with expected frequency. Players traded in and out. Pauses between plays to mop up blood on the court; every fan in attendance had their eyes locked on the court; rallying cries turned to desperate howls; one last pile up that called for the last reserves from both players and their teams.
It all culminated in the final seconds. The shot clock disappeared. The Typhoons had the ball. Klaus Korber had a ball. The stoic Doberman showed nothing throughout the game, playing minute after exhausting minute, never breaking his rallying facade. We saw him jump. Have you ever experienced a moment of pure silence? I was there, and I can't with certainty say that this silence wasn't physical. Klaus put up the last shot of the game. The last shot of his career. It's a long three, so very long.
Montana Howlers: 108.
Tallahassee Typhoons: 110.
The game was over. Tallahassee had earned its first championship in the franchise's history. Tallahassee, Klaus Korber's home for the entirety of his playing career; Klaus, who never wavered in his dedication to a team he had never expected to be on; they brought each other a victory, and we said goodbye to a legendary player.
I hesitated for months in writing this article. It wasn't until we received official word that Klaus had retired that I finally put pen to paper. It felt too personal, the glorious win and the stinging loss of a great player, but finally, it couldn't be denied.
Media and FBAers alike have not settled on a consensus over the decision to play Klaus.
"It is a risk, and it appeared that Klaus was willing to risk it too, not one I'd personally take, but that is something between Klaus, Coach Hildegard, and the athletic director." - Renee Fiora, F, Williamsburg Minutemen
"As a general manager, I got to say I'm shocked and disgusted at the fact a coach willingly let an injured player play. I get it. It's down to the final game, winner take all, loser goes home. That should not excuse Coach Hildegard's clear disregard for a player's health and well-being during a final playoff game." - Hector Louis, General Manager, Texas Lonestars
"A relationship between a player and their coach is different for each pair. We can't know what kind of exchange went on between the two, but I can tell you, given what I know about both of those individuals, if either one didn't wanna go through with it, they would have spoken their mind. They made a gamble and I bet you they'd argue it paid off. I wouldn't have taken that risk, personally, but maybe that's why the Alphas didn't win a second championship this year." - Rourke Danyals, Coach, Albany Alphas
"Am I annoyed that Coach Hildegard basically decided to completely ruin one of her best players to rob us of our finals victory? A little bit. But one must concede that any coach that can get their team to the finals must know what they're doing. And if she is okay with the exchange; then well, good for her." - Kresta Renstill, G, Montana Howlers
"In my experience, it's players who declare themselves fit. I've seen plenty of players go onto court when they weren't fully fit to play for fear of losing their starting spot. It's tough because there's a lot riding on the results especially now with the increased worldwide TV exposure and money flowing into the game. Every game is dissected and scrutinized. It's not up to the coach to decide how a player feels it's up to the player. If it's day to day and they declare themselves fit is that the coach's fault? I'm sure Korber believes he made the right decision and full respect for that. I wanted to make sure I was physically and mentally ready before returning for Texas but that was my decision. It's affected a lot of things including my earning potential but that decision was right for me. We all make our decisions but ultimately those decisions affect the team and it is a team game. Coach included." - Andi Sekforde, F, Texas Lonestars
"Well...I can't really say. I mean, we all wish to get there. Ultimately, it's the player who has the choice...if it was me, Heck, I probably would have played...you really can't tell what could happen in that exact moment 'til you're there." - Yves Carbonneau, G/F, Winnipeg Voyageurs
"One hell of a risk, but a necessary one in game seven. While it ended his career, no one can deny that his final FBA shot was legendary." - Merill Providence, G, Tennessee Moonshiners
"As much as I think it is such a very risky move, you have to ask yourself on the context of everything that's been going on up to that point. All six of our games were close in the Finals thus far, trading wins and losses, and here we are in a win-or-die situation as a road team in a series in which neither team won in the road. Klaus lost in the Finals... hell, I lost in the Finals before, and it's such a crushing feeling. If Klaus was benched, then I'm sorry, as great our team was, we might have been crushed without him against a team that clawed back and forth with us all the way to a Game Seven. If he was benched and we lose embarrassingly, how would he feel? How would Coach feel? How would we feel? That's something you have to think about, and thank goodness I'm not a coach so I don't have to make those kind of decisions." - Narkissa Kassius, G, Tallahassee Typhoons
"I could go on a rant and vent my frustrations with Hildegard from the day I arrived. However my feelings towards her starting Klaus injured really make this ring seem pointless if a good dog and player I respect like Korber had to sacrifice the last of his basketball playing career for it. I firmly believe Hildegard made an irrational decision and should be held accountable." - Phil Gale, G, Tallahassee Typhoons
"Klaus knew the risk, and he chose to play. That's what makes him a champion. Any player, faced with the same decision, who says they wouldn't do the exact same thing is lying." - Rosalie Smoot, F/C, Tallahassee Typhoons
Even among the native players, there is no easy answer to the question of: was this worth it?
Let us hear the one opinion that matters:
Klaus Korber: Thank you, Tabitha. It's a pleasure to be here.
TL: This is the first interview you've done since the finals.
KK: To be fair, it's the first interview I've done since, I want to say, 2010.
TL: Heh, understandable. You came into the FBA teeth bared, both literally and figuratively. I've still got your Dawg Pack poster framed in my office.
KK: I'm flattered. That was a younger, more aggressive me. I think I was trying to make a name for myself, and playing into the Doberman stereotype isn't something I'm afraid to use to my advantage.
TL: If I may postulate, could that early aggressive image have anything to do with your father's dismissal of your ability during your draft?
KK: That's a fair assumption. A lot of things were said and done back then. I still don't quite understand my father's reasoning, but looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened to me?
TL: How so?
KK: I wasn't complacent. I didn't have a safety net when Huntsville passed me up. I dropped into a basement team, and I had no idea how to deal with that. I had one decision: I needed to dig myself out of that hole, and I had to bring my team with me.
TL: I notice your terminology the few times I have heard you speak. "My team," as opposed to "the."
KK: It's less ownership and more family, I think. Tallahassee is a home I never asked for, but now I can't bring myself to leave it.
TL: Were you asked to leave by participating in that final game?
TL: Ultimately, who made the decision to put you in that game?
KK: I mean no disrespect, but it's been interesting watching the media, fans, and foes alike pass judgment on everyone they think pulled the trigger. 'It was Hildegard.' 'It was Klaus.' 'It was Rosalie and Narkissa.' People keep looking for a single person that they can shoulder the blame on, as if my injury was anyone else's business.
TL: And with no disrespect in return, it still begs the question, who decided to put you in that game?
KK: Do you remember the saying they'd say back in gym class about teams?
TL: There's no 'I' in 'Team.'
KK: That's my answer. Not once since I started in this league have I operated as a single entity. A player is their team. I am the Typhoons, because the Typhoons are me. We made that decision. It was as much a conversation as it was a choice.
TL: Eloquently put. Was it that obvious as soon as you got the injury?
KK: No. At first, I was livid. I was like everyone else. I wanted someone to blame. 'Hildegard should have protected me. I let my ego get away from me. This, that, or the other player, if they hadn't bumped into my that one time.' But it didn't do any good. It was never just one thing.
TL: I have to ask one more obvious question.
KK: Do I regret it?
TL: Who's the writer here?
KK: [He laughs.] Right now? No. [He pauses; tears well up.] I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss playing. [His sorrow is reserved, as much as he's ever been.] But I'm not done. I'm going to take my time, go through physical therapy, travel, spend time with my wife and daughter.
TL: Maybe even relax for once?
KK: Ha! Maybe that too. [He sobers up.] I've missed a lot of Elsa's first years because of my career. It's not even a blessing in disguise. I get to be an active father. And you know what? I'm a damn Champion.
TL: That's the spirit. Any parting words?
KK: Some. To my team, I'm so proud of all of you. You pulled through when everyone said you'd fail. We earned every ounce of that victory. I didn't win this. We won this.
KK: To Narkissa, you're young, you're talented. Take your role seriously. You're a leader to your fellow players. Fight for that respect.
KK: To Rosalie, you may be the strongest person in the FBA, hands and hooves down. There is nothing more terrifying than a determined mother. I know, I'm married to one. This isn't your last victory, not with that relentless fire you have. Also, looking forward to seeing you, Eleanore, and Bart at the barbecue Sunday.
KK: To Coach Tazel, I don't know about God, but someone has been looking out for you. It's been a rollercoaster seeing you in the Typhoons, losing you, then seeing you rise up again. No one deserves this ring more than you.
KK: To Hildegard Tetreault, what to say? They broke the mold when they made you. There's no doubt that any player on the Tallahassee Typhoons will do more pushups, laps, drills, take more bruises, scrapes, eardrum blowouts. You're a bitch. You're a shitty person at times. I've hated you. I've loved you. I don't think it's possible not to do both. Your aggression is unparalleled. And yet, it's what we all needed. We made it. It doesn't matter what they say. You have the biggest prize in basketball on your finger. I've seen your compassion grow over the years, even if you think you've been stone-faced. You give a shit, you ruthless bitch. No one has been so protective of their players. You've cried with us. You've bled for us. You've failed with us, and finally, you've succeeded. Rub that in their faces. You've earned it.
TL: You've got the poise of someone gunning for commissioner. I'd watch out, Mr. Livingstone. Here comes a living legend. Thank you, Mr. Korber. Father, leader, Champion.
KK: Thank you.