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December 30, 2016


After the curses and death threats and groans across Minnesota from Mankato to International Falls, Blair Walsh needed a little love.

He found it in the oddest of places - the first-grade class of Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, a Minneapolis suburb.

Walsh is the kicker who missed a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds left that would have sent the Minnesota Vikings to a playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks last season.

Ordinarily, Walsh, even if comatose, could make such a kick. But he didn't. Yes, it was agonizingly cold and the cement-hard ball was not properly placed. Still, he blew it, and the cries for his head echoed far and wide (like the kick).

Enter Judie Offerdahl , a teacher impressed by Walsh's decency in accepting responsibility. She asked her first-graders to write him:

"I'm sorry they cursed you," a boy said.

Another note read: "Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed."

Days later, Walsh visited the school, signing autographs and talking about his pets when growing up. The class was wowed by its visitor, but maybe not as much as Walsh.

"They just know that I'm a Vikings player," he said. "So for them to show that kindness and to show that empathy toward me, it's just remarkable."


It would be nice to say that this big pat on the back carried Walsh to great things. But his kicking was dreadful this season and the Vikings cut him in November.

Just as his botched kick defied reason, so it was with Ernie Els on the first hole on the first day at the Masters. The four-time major champion was a mere 2 feet from the cup but needed six putts, leaving him with a jaw-dropping 9. "I can't explain it," he said.

Sports parked itself in other unusual spots in 2016: