Every single week is the same: I find a worthy K College athlete, challenge them at their sport, suffer a disheartening loss that is often embarrassing beyond measure, and start the monotonous cycle over again. In these moments of hardship, it is important for all athletes to look towards their inspiration in order to get things back on track. So I turned to the man who inspired me to start this column and considered the question, “What would Shaq do?” My first response to this query was probably that he would mumble quietly about some NBA nonsense, go home, order way too much Chinese food which he would somehow finish, and watch his Icy-Hot commercials on repeat while chanting to himself “You look good, Shaquille.” As this didn’t seem like the most productive solution to my problem of losing to Kalamazoo College athletes, I resolved to challenge men’s soccer goalie, Beau Prey, instead.
Now Beau has had a distinguished career at K College and I am lucky to have called him a teammate for the past for years. He received All-MIAA honors at the end of this season and was a major part of the Hornets’ run to second place in the conference and a near victory over Calvin College in the finals. He was also named to the NSCAA All-Region team and boasted a .88 goals against average during the 2014 season. Throughout my soccer career, I have never played with a better goalie than Beau, but I felt that I might be able to edge him in a penalty kick competition. I was a fine keeper myself up until the age of eight when everyone started growing and I remained so short that a ball kicked four-and-a-half feet in the air was not only out of my reach, but out of my postal code.
I met Beau at the Kalamazoo College soccer field on a blustery April afternoon. To ensure that there was no bias, I recruited junior soccer player and penalty kick specialist Shahir Azhar to shoot on Beau and myself. Shahir would take five penalties on each of us and whoever saved the most, would emerge victorious.
I lost my intimidation factor on Beau when I jumped up to touch the crossbar on my first attempt and whiffed completely. I got it on the second try but I think the effect was spoiled slightly. My first penalty that I faced sailed by me before I could react in the slightest. Beau, on the other hand, leaped up with cat-like reflexes to snag Shahir’s shot out of mid-air before gracefully landing. I attempted this diving save only to land awkwardly on my collarbone while Shahir’s shot hit the back of the net. The contest ended with Beau saving three penalties to my one. My save came on a shot that Shahir hit right at me, which surprised me so much that I promptly dropped the ball and just barely kept it out of the net.
These losses don’t even affect me as much as they used to, I’m pretty numb to them by now. I guess the only answer is to join Shaq on whatever couch he might be on at the moment, indulge in some food which has cholesterol content off the charts, and prepare for my next challenge.