“For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppys are cute.”
Such were the words of wisdom from Tasha Lee, a first-grader at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, for Vikings kicker Walsh, who missed a 27-yard field goal in Sunday’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks that would have put them ahead with the clock running down.
While Vikings fans around the state continued to curse the kicker and rip him apart on Twitter, first-grade teacher Judie Offerdahl thought Walsh’s difficult situation would be a great way to put empathy into practice for her students.
“I knew that Mr. Walsh probably felt horrible about it,” said Offerdahl, a (shhhh) Seahawks fan. “I also knew it would be a good teachable moment for the kids.”
So students are writing heartfelt messages to an athlete they don’t know.
“Dear Blair Walsh,” wrote one. “I know that 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. Your fan, Sophia Doffin.”
On Tuesday, each student took turns sitting in a chair at the front of the class and shared their letter and message of hope. Alex Rice assured him everyone makes mistakes. “I had missed a basket before,” he said.
Jacob DePoint really empathized. “One time I had the same problem as you and we lost the divisional playoffs,” he wrote. “You rock.”
Still others like William Ofori just offered reassuring words. “You are handsome. … Don’t worry. It’s just a game.”
“We talked about when in your life have you made a mistake and how do you think he felt?” said Offerdahl. “We also talked about how you pick yourself up like Mr. Walsh did.”
Offerdahl plans to send the letters to Walsh. Jeff Anderson, Vikings executive director of communications, said the team will make sure Walsh receives them. “I know he will appreciate them very much,” said Anderson.
For now, Sophia tries to put it all in perspective.
“I want to tell Blair Walsh that he can keep trying even though he feels sad that he missed the winning kick,” Sofia said, standing next to the stack of letters. “It’s nothing really to cry about.”