As a Vikings fan, what feelings does this picture incite?

Jan 10, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) reacts after missing a field goal attempt against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If you are anything like the Vikings fans I know, it probably brings back feelings of disappointment, sadness and a whole lot of anger. For young fans of the team it may be the single worst moment in sports fandom history. And for older fans, it is at least in the top three.

So now, as a Vikings fan, how does this picture, taken yesterday in Seattle’s loss to Washington, make you feel?

Blair Walsh reacts after missing a field goal in the first half against Washington.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

That feeling you have right now is called schadenfreude, the feeling of pleasure derived from someone’s misfortune.

It is not just that Blair Walsh looks sad in this picture. It is not just that he gets to destroy the hopes of another fanbase a short two years after missing a game-winning chip shot in the playoffs. No, what makes this extra satisfying to see is the uniform he is wearing: the very same uniform worn by Richard Sherman and company in the first picture. The uniform of the team that got an undeserved trip to the NFC Division round in January 2016 at the expense of the Vikings.

Some might call it karma, some will laugh and shout from the hills “He’s your problem now, Seattle!” But few will feel bad for Walsh.

How did we get here? How did a kicker who was drafted in the sixth round, made first team All-Pro as a rookie, universally lauded as one of the game’s best not long ago, suddenly become the object of the Vikings’ fans ire?

While Walsh has never equaled his 2012 season, he was an above-average kicker from 2013 to 2015. That last year, the season it all went south, he was in the top half of the league in field goal percentage, tied for second in made kicks beyond 50 yards and first in both makes and attempts from 40 to 49. He was not Justin Tucker but he was more than adequate.

No, there was no steady decline in play with Walsh. It was one Ray Finkle moment. One snap that led to the holder not getting the ball turned. One split-second view of the laces facing his direction. One awkward plant, one awkward swing of the leg, one miss from 27 yards.

It all fell on his shoulders. The anemic offense, the freezing cold, the Adrian Peterson fumble? Forgotten. But Blair Walsh’s meltdown will be remembered forever like Scott Norwood’s wide right.

That singular moment zapped Walsh’s confidence in a way that is almost awe-inspiring. He made under 80 percent of field goals and PATs in nine games for the Vikings last year before they let him go and replaced him with Kai Forbath. And now the Seahawks get a taste of what it is like to get Walshed.

Events like the 2015 Wild Card game are fascinating because they reflect the fickle nature of sport. Walsh, once a treasure in Minnesota, is now a pariah. Bill Buckner, an All Star first baseman and a batting champion, is synonymous with making a costly mistake. Trey Junkin, Jim Marshall, great players at their position get remembered most for their worst moments.

Is it sad to see a player screw up on the biggest stage? Of course it is, only someone without a shred of human empathy feels pure joy in someone’s failure.

Actually, scratch that. We have all accepted as fans that we leave empathy at the door when we devote our time, energy and emotions into a specific team.

So now, Vikings fans get to relish the misses while Seahawks fans languish in Walsh’s residual yips. What a strange, temperamental world sports fandom is.

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for cover32/Vikings. Like and


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