Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Purple People Eaters

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    The Vikings legend shares about the Purple People Eaters, outdoor practices, and his best friend Sid.

    Bud Grant Interview
    Blue jeans. One leg crossed over the other. He’s wearing a casual button-down shirt, tan and camo, and he proudly displays two baseball caps within reach. One—Vikings purple—covers silver-white hair, while the other—Winnipeg blue—sits near a can of Tab soda on the card table.

    He’s manning a garage sale, carefully counting out dollar bills and quarters, and it all seems rather ordinary… except he also signs autographs for the visitors.  “Bud Grant. HOF ’94,” he writes. Over and over again. On a worn leather football. The rod of a fishing pole. An old game program.

    Harry “Bud” Grant will forever be known as one of the top coaches in NFL history, and many remember him as the straight-faced coach who soldiered the sidelines and held players to an exceptionally high standard of conduct.

    “I wasn’t that tough,” Grant tells me. “I don’t think so. I suppose you’d have to ask the other players or coaches – I can’t answer that question. We had rules, but it was an easy job, really.”

    He breaks his signature stoic expression for a split second, just long enough for me to question his sincerity. I prod a bit, ask him about the no-heaters rule he implemented during winter games.

    “We had no indoor practice facilities in those days. We had to practice outside, so why not play outside?” He answers matter-of-factly. “We became acclimated, learned to play with no gloves, no heater, no underwear […] so Sunday was easy for us. It was tougher for other teams that wanted to come in and wanted to be warm. We were cold, but we still played.”

    For Grant, it’s all about practicality.

    Case in point, you may not know that the former coach stands alone as the only man to ever play in both the NBA and the NFL. In fact, Grant won the first championship in NBA history with the Minneapolis Lakers. He left the Lakers, however, to join the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive end. The decision proved a no-brainer.

    “The bottom line was that I could make more money playing football than I could playing basketball,” he explains.

    Grant viewed sports—playing or coaching—as just a job, a way to make one’s living, not concerning himself with the spotlight or the fame. For an icon like Grant, media requests are not uncommon, although he says they now come very few and far between. League reps and cable stations hounded the coach for appearances shortly after his career, asking him to audition for game-day commentary and halftime interviews.

    “I figured out it would be like 24 road trips,” he says, scoffing. “I’m out of this to stay home, not to get on the road again. My ego didn’t need it.”

    Eventually, people just stopped trying.

     The Vikings are set to tangle with the division rival Chicago Bears this weekend at the Metrodome. It’s a game that usually has me buzzing all week most seasons… not so much this year.

     The Vikings match up pretty well with the Bears this time around and actually have a solid chance to win this game. Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are coming off a combined season high 239 yards rushing on 40 carries last week at Lambeau Field and you can expect to see more of the same again this week.

    The Bears are giving up 4.9 yards per carry and currently ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 145.2 yards per game. Last week the Bears’ defense let the Rams run the ball 29 times for 258 yards. That’s a whopping 8.9 yards per carry! Ouch.

     So, why am I not trash and smack talking to all the Bears fans I work with? I guess because maybe it’s a meaningless game. Or, maybe I’ve just thrown in the towel on this disheartening season? In any case, my psychologist told me that I just need to forget about wins and losses, draft positions, coaching fixes, injuries and arrests… and just focus on enjoying a good football game.

    The last Vikings game I really got fired up to enjoy was way back in week two. I was seated one row from the top at Soldier Field during a rainy contest that unfortunately saw the Vikings fall short to the Bears in the final seconds of an exciting 30-31 ballgame. Yes, I know first hand that when these two teams get together it will usually result in an entertaining affair.

    I’m counting on another engaging contest between the Vikings and the Bears this Sunday. A week 13 win just seems fitting. Wins have been few and far between lately… so why not enjoy this one? Punching the Bears in the mouth would be the highlight of the year for me.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Metrodome really rocking one last time? And, I think the Vikings can win one more game and still land a quality, gritty, big-armed senior QB like Fresno State’s Derek Carr or LSU’s Zach Mettenberger come draft time.

     Go Vikings! My pulse still beats for the purple.

     

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