>> by Brett Honeycutt
Sports Spectrum managing editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was featured in a recent edition of the magazine Sports Spectrum and is re-printed with the publication’s permission.
Probably the most devastating thing that can happen to us is to mess up publicly.
When you’re someone known by only a few people, messing up publicly is bad, but it can be overcome. But when you’re a pro athlete, the public mess-up can be more damaging. When you’re a pro athlete in the NFL, the most popular of the major four U.S. sports, and that mess-up comes in a playoff game that will rank in the top 25 pro sports events watched on TV that year, it can be devastating.
Add to that a fan base that can be merciless. And add to that the fact that your mess-up was a missed field goal, of a makeable 27 yards, that denied “their” team a victory in the closing seconds of the game and put “their’ team within two victories of the Super Bowl, and, well, you get the picture. It’s damaging in an apocalyptic-like way—apocalyptic at least to the fans of “their” team.
Sure it was 6 degrees below 0 (that’s 38 degrees below freezing) when Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh kicked the ball, and sure the laces were turned the wrong way, but fans had seen him make those easily all year. In fact, he had kicked field goals from 22, 43 and 47, in that order, to put the Vikings ahead 9-0 at the end of the third quarter. But Seattle came back in the fourth quarter to take a 10-9 lead and the game was on Walsh’s shoulders.
And he missed.
And “their” team lost.
And he heard about it in a harsh way.
Except from the first-graders at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minn.
They were slightly more supportive.
To see, let’s observe how first grader Tasha Lee handled the situation after a game that she, or the fans, had no part in determining the outcome: “For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppys are cute.”
I know putting those silly emojis aren’t normal in a column, but it’s also not “normal” for grown people to be so involved in “their” team that they lose their minds and start mercilessly bashing a kicker who led the NFL in made field goals, with 34. And all of those successful field goals were for “their” team, mind you.
Lee’s response was innocent.
It was pure.
It was child-like.
Like someone with no care in the world, except to encourage someone she doesn’t know personally, but who her teacher, Judie Offerdahl, wanted to encourage because she was trying to teach her kids about empathy.
Believing her teacher, Lee exhibited faith like a child. The kind of faith I wish I had more of and the kind of faith Jesus mentions that we need so that we can come to Him and believe He is the one who can take away our sins, give us joy despite hardships and allow us to spend eternity in Heaven, even though we don’t deserve it.
When Walsh was told by his dad about those first graders writing encouraging notes, Blair delayed his plane flight home by a day and visited their classroom.
It was a welcome respite for all of the feel-bad sentiments he had been experiencing since his miss.
He signed autographs, the kids smiled, and he smiled back, and they went back to seeing cute puppies in the midst of all of the hardships this life has to offer.
I know, what do cute puppies have to do with anything? Nothing, and fans of “their” team should feel the same way even after a missed field goal in a game where they watched from the stands or from their recliner or couch.
Because in the whole grand scheme of things, it means very little.
Caring for people, despite their mess-ups, is more important than all of that.