I once passed Brek Shea in a hallway.
If you're thinking that this is no big deal, that I write for a blog that covers Orlando City and that I shouldn't be too shocked to occasionally bump into Orlando City players, you'd only be partially right. I live in Louisville, KY, so my first-hand access to professional soccering Lions is fairly limited. In fact, the number of MLS players that I have said, "excuse me" to was exactly zero until that moment in the hall at Louisville Slugger Field last August.
Full disclosure, I was never much of an athlete. (For context, the sports highlight of my entire life was when I scored 12 of my team's 14 points in a sixth-grade YMCA basketball game, which we lost, 15-14. I had a bunny layup in the final seconds which I missed that would've won the game for us. My regret level for this memory is about an 11 on a scale of 1-10.) That fact was never more apparent than in that hallway with Brek.
I always hear about how amazing court-side seats in the NBA are because of how awe-inspiring the athleticism of the players is from that close of a distance, and it's definitely true that watching sports on TV or from the press box can be deceiving. From that distance, you easily fall into the idea that you're not that different from those heroes on the field, that if your life had gone differently you might find yourself down there too. Maybe if I had taken sports more seriously growing up, I think to myself, or if I had gotten better coaching, or maybe, just maybe, if I had only made that layup back in sixth grade, my life would have taken a completely different trajectory and I'd be one of the guys out there living our dream.
As soon as I turned that corner and saw Brek coming towards me, I realized within a second how that entire line of thinking which I had desperately allowed myself to secretly believe was absolute, 100% USDA Prime crap. You never feel much like a professional athlete when an actual professional athlete -- who plies his trade on a high level -- is standing next to you. They are not like you and me.
I was born with legs for walking and running like normal people, Brek was born with pistons that could run a locomotive, disguised as legs. The dude looked like a gazelle impersonating a human, only with more tattoos, with a crappy haircut, and an expression that seems to be saying, "Yeah, this playing soccer for money thing is cool but, like, I'd quit it now for a lifetime supply of Corona and a Tiki hut on the beach."
It's no secret that Brek has seen his share of struggles over the past few years. A European fantasy seemingly held by all American, self-proclaimed, "footballers" was more like a nightmare for Shea. The 25-year-old hasn't made 20 appearances in a season since 2012, and hasn't scored a goal for his club in that same span. He has only had one double-figure scoring year in his entire career, and injuries certainly have played a part, especially recently, in the hindrance of this once burgeoning star.
But let's not forget that Brek is the same guy who did this:
Maybe we'll see something like that in purple this year. Let's hope so. Brek certainly has all the physical gifts to make it happen, but now it's time to put up or shut up. The gazelle hasn't been able to get to a full gallop in a long time and I'm beginning to wonder if he can really run like he used to.