Blair Walsh experienced the worst day of his professional career Sunday. If the Vikings kicker checked his Twitter account that evening, here’s a sampling of messages sent to him:
• How does it feel to let a whole entire state down in one day
• dude.... you should leave minnesota. trust me.
• Every Vikings fan in the world now hates you.
• thank you for destroying my soul.
• if you could swallow a gallon of bleach that’d be great
Those were ones suitable for print, purposely omitting other comments made to Walsh about death and suicide.
The only obvious reply to the cruelty and vile hurled at Walsh on social media over his missed kick is thus:
Have people lost their freaking minds and sense of perspective?!
Do those fans honestly believe an appropriate, sane response to a crushing defeat is to send despicable messages to a player who feels worse than anyone else right now?
What a world we live in.
“The people who are saying that stuff are the people that don’t matter,” Walsh said. “The people who are going to say mean stuff, that says a lot about them. And the people who say kind stuff, that says a lot about them as well.”
That last point needs mention, too. The vast majority of people who contacted Walsh via social media were supportive and rational. They left nice comments, tried to lift his spirits. Those are true fans.
Walsh knows he failed in the biggest moment of his career by hooking a 27-yard field-goal attempt with 26 seconds left in a 10-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Criticism of him is warranted.
He blew it, choked, flopped, however you want to describe it. He owned it during interviews after the game and again Monday morning.
He didn’t dodge the media or offer “no comments.’’ Didn’t blame his holder, Jeff Locke, for not turning the football’s laces out.
He blamed himself over and over and over.
It’s OK to be angry and compassionate at the same time.
Walsh is human. A human who made an unfortunate mistake for the entire world to see. (I even received an e-mail from Australia about his miss.)
He’s devastated right now, just as anyone in his situation would feel.
Long snapper Kevin McDermott approached Walsh at his locker after the game and put his arm around him. Walsh buried his head in McDermott’s chest and sobbed.
And yet some folks on Twitter suggested he leave the state or drink bleach. Real mature.
“I know the magnitude of [the] situation,” he said Monday during clean-out day at Winter Park. “I’m not blind to what it meant to this team. But at the same time you have to be realistic and you have to be compassionate toward other people, and I think I saw that yesterday.”
Unfortunately, he also saw the other side, the irrational, hurtful side.
Sports make us emotional, sometimes overly emotional. Our investment in teams causes outbursts that don’t often surface otherwise.
Social media provides a natural outlet for venting, but those who spew hateful comments directly to athletes — pro or college — should reassess their priorities. That’s crossing a clear line.
“It’s our job and it’s important, but at the end of the day it’s football,” Walsh said. “There are plenty of things in life that people are going through, battling cancer and sickness and other things that are real adversity. This is adversity in your workplace. It’s tough, but you have to keep everything in perspective.”
Walsh has received plenty of support since his kick sailed wide left. Family, friends, other kickers and complete strangers have offered kind words and a pep talk.
Walsh appreciates those gestures but managed to poke fun at his new, unwelcomed celebrity.
“I think it’s important that people understand that as hard as this is, I’m not a charity case,” he said. “I’m somebody who is really confident in my abilities.”
Some fans will never forgive him. Some will forgive, but Walsh’s name always will remind them of a blown opportunity.
Despite one’s own level of anger or disappointment, nobody can deny that Walsh has handled the lowest point of his professional life with class and dignity.
He accepted full blame for missing a field goal that cost his team a chance to advance in the playoffs.
Being mad at him is understandable, but Walsh doesn’t deserve the ugly treatment he’s received from some irrational fans who fail to comprehend human decency.