Bud Grant: The Meanest Nicest Man in NFL History; the Legendary Vikings Coach Explains Why Shooting the Dog Is Sometimes the Best Solution

By Walters, John | Newsweek, June 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

Bud Grant: The Meanest Nicest Man in NFL History; the Legendary Vikings Coach Explains Why Shooting the Dog Is Sometimes the Best Solution


Walters, John, Newsweek


Byline: John Walters

The garage sale kicks off at 5 p.m. today, May 20, which also happens to be the 88th birthday of its host, Bud Grant. "That's just a coincidence," says the former Minnesota Vikings coach.

It's a yard sale, really. Most of the items, plumbed not only from Grant's home on Oakmere Road in Bloomington, Minnesota, but also from those of his six children and 19 grandchildren, will be displayed on either the sloping driveway that is the length of a Fran Tarkenton pass or on his front lawn. Bud's Bazaar, a vernal tradition now in its 10th year, will continue throughout the day Thursday before closing on Friday at noon.

Don't let the calendar fool you: This is no spring cleaning. If you want Grant, a Hall of Famer best remembered for having coached the Vikings to four Super Bowls in the 1970s, to autograph your purchase, that will run you an extra $25. "Some people have garage sales to get rid of junk," says Grant with the slightest trace of a grin. "I have garage sales to make money."

The handshake remains firm. The eyes, keen and blue. The hair is white, but then wasn't it always? Grant went turkey hunting in Nebraska last month and bagged three gobblers. He maintains an office at the Vikings facility in nearby Eden Prairie.

And yet, Grant disappeared from the public eye 30 years ago, when he retired from coaching. He shuns the spotlight and declines every invitation to opine about the Vikings' (mis)fortunes on local radio. He has turned down so many appearance requests from the NFL that, "they've stopped asking me."

So why is Bud Grant having a garage sale? Everyone who knows and loves Grant, from his son Mike, who has led Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School to 10 state championships in football; to his former defensive end Jim Marshall, who set an NFL record for most consecutive games played (282) but confoundingly still finds himself not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will tell you the same thing: Bud Grant does not need a dime.

Why does a man who does not want for earthly riches--Grant owns nearly 500 acres of terra firma in neighboring Wisconsin--spend the week of his 88th birthday staging a flea market in his front yard?

"Hey," says Grant, fixing you with those Siberian husky eyes and a delicate tone of admonishment. "Everything has value."

'Shoot the Dog'

You can digest all 263 pages of Grant's 2013 autobiography, I Did It My Way, and learn nothing about the Vikings' four Super Bowl defeats between 1970 and 1977. You will, however, discover what Grant, a Depression-era baby born and raised in Superior, Wisconsin, loved best about playing high school sports: "I could take a shower every single day."

You will not find a sentence noting the Vikes' 11 NFC Central championships in a 13-year span under Grant's guidance. You will spot nary a clause noting that Bud Grant once intercepted five passes in a game as a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, which remains a pro football record. You will, however, learn that in his second and final season with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952, Grant earned $7,000 (he neglects to mention that, as a converted defensive end, he caught 56 passes, second-best in the league). "I'll earn a lot more than that with this garage sale," he says with satisfaction.

Truly valuable items, Grant does not casually discard. This house? He has lived here since 1967, his inaugural season as Vikings coach (How many Hall of Fame NFL coaches, by the way, would even want the public to know where they live, much less invite them over to haggle over the price of duck decoys?). Grant's wife, Pat, who died a few years ago from Parkinson's disease, was married to him for 60 years. His best friend, iconic Twin Cities sports impresario Sid Hartman, 94, has been his sidekick since Grant's first day of college at the University of Minnesota--where he was a three-sport star. …

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