I tell myself every year that I’m not gonna do it, that I’ll keep my composure, watch for the entertainment factor alone, and move on with my day.
And this year, like every year, I failed. My Mom grew up in Minnesota, and though my parents raised me in Alaska, she brought her infectious love for the Minnesota Vikings with her and infected me at an early age.
So when Viking’s placekicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal—the football equivalent of tying your shoes—and cost the Vikings a chance to advance to the next round of the playoffs, I let my emotion and competitive spirit get the best of me. I stormed out of the house and into the woods; raving, cursing, and bemoaning the result of a bunch of millionaires tossing a ball around.
About thirty minutes later my heart stopped pounding, my hands stopped shaking, and with a little more clarity, I reminded myself that it was just a game. The world has much bigger fish to fry—and I’ll be damned if I was going to let this ruin my day.
A quick perusal of social media told me that not everyone was processing the defeat by screaming at the tree tops and moving on with their life. Blair Walsh’s twitter and Facebook pages were being bombarded with hate. Death threats, insults, and suggestions that he should just kill himself flooded the pages.
I was ashamed to be a sports fan, sharing this allegiance with these closed-minded, self-absorbed people. My football fandom was already on rocky ground over the constant controversies surrounding concussions, the league’s legal practices, and the slew of off the field incidents that tarnished the game.
I considered trying for the umpteenth time to put my fandom to bed and find something more productive to do with my weekends.
But a few days later something beautiful happened.
Armed with crayons, colored paper, and stuffed animals, a group of seven-year-olds swooped in to remind us what grace, empathy and forgiveness look like. Blair Walsh walked to his mailbox to find it overflowing with cards from a first grade class chock full of the -isms and philosophies that only they can offer:
“I know it can be hard to get through things that are sad. But you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed. You can still help the Vikings win the Super Bowl next year.”
“For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppies are cute.”
“You are handsome. … Don’t worry. It’s just a game.”
I haven’t stopped smiling since.
Blair Walsh stopped by their classroom a few days later to thank the kiddos for their support, receive a rainbow colored stuffed animal, and thank them for their support.
So what if he missed the kick? It’s a bummer that the Vikings’ championship dreams are over, but that isn’t the message fans should be taking away. Leave it to the youngest generation to remind us that we’re all human, that it’s what inside that matters most, that no matter what happens, it’s just a freaking football game.
In a world that I fear is growing cynical, where the lines between religion, politics, and sexual orientation becoming more defined and pull us apart, how wonderful it is be reminded of the beautiful qualities and actions that our species is capable of.
If a bunch of first graders can cheer up a millionaire athlete with a hand written note, there’s no reason we can’t offer the same love, empathy, and acceptance to our fellow man.
Author: David Cannamore
Editor: Renée Picard