Former Vikings coach Bud Grant is a man’s man and a class act. Having grown up in Minnesota as a Vikings fan from their first season, I have thought a lot about Bud as showboating has become an art form among NFL players. Grant coached many great players in his years with the Vikings, but showboating was not in their repertoire. Grant’s stoicism and self-possession set the standard of behavior. Bud enforced such standards, but they may not have been necessary in the case of such great players as Fran Tarkenton and Alan Page. They were players in Grant’s mold.
The stoicism came in handy in dealing with the Vikings’ disappointments, including four Super Bowl losses. If to philosophize is to learn to die, as Montaigne teaches, life as a Vikings fan is an apt introduction to philosophy.
Grant was encouraged to pursue athletics as a child to overcome a case of polio. That certainly worked out well. Bud played three sports at the University of Minnesota. He must have learned something about playing football in the cold at Memorial Stadium on campus in Minneapolis.
He was drafted to play both football and basketball professionally. He played for the old Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA before going into professional football with the Eagles in the NFL. He left the Eagles to play with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League. Winnipeg — that’s cold. After his playing days, Bud coached the Winnipeg team to four championships over ten years.
Bud knows how to play football in cold weather. His approach to cold weather is stoic as well. He thought that the devices available to mitigate it — gloves, for example — mostly compounded the pain (in the case of gloves, by separating the fingers). Coaching the Vikings when they played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium, he had many opportunities to teach his players how to deal with the elements. I think his coaching record tends to support his theories, but times have changed.
Former Vikings owner Max Winter recruited Grant to coach the Vikings in 1967. Mr. Winter had been a part owner of the Lakers when Grant played for them and Bud had been Mr. Winter’s first choice to coach the Vikings upon their creation as an expansion team in 1961, but Bud chose to stay in Canada at that time.
Grant is now 88. I was thrilled to see him appear for the coin toss yesterday in a polo shirt as the thermometer was beginning its slow ascent from -6 degrees F. As a Vikings fan, I knew it would be the highlight of the day, and not just in retrospect. Whoever thought to invite him to make his appearance yesterday deserves our thanks.
The Star Tribune has published some of the tributes to Bud that circulated on Twitter yesterday here. It’s a close call, but I think this is my favorite.
— Tim Post (@TimPostmanPost) January 10, 2016