A Vikings legend takes his leave

Marc Elliott

SUPERIOR – Bud Grant. Upon hearing the news on Saturday morning that the Minnesota Vikings legend had passed away at the age of 95, I said that name to myself again, Bud Grant.

Though he hasn't been in the public eye as much as he was during his heyday as the head coach of the legendary NFL football club, I hadn't ever forgotten about him either. He was just one of those individuals that could imprint himself within your psyche and he was going to be in there, somewhere for the rest of your life.  

There are a select handful of people from the region who are known across the world for one accomplishment or another, and as varied as the people and their interests were in this life, Bud had made that list. I'm referring to people like Bob Dylan, Prince, Judy Garland, Herb Brooks and probably, the Pillsbury Doughboy. You can't make that list up without Bud Grant's name on it. That's some lofty company.  

But Bud earned the right to be on there. And he did it in a quiet, reserved, professional way. He was never loud or flashy and he was never going to embarrass anyone around him. Relative to some others in the brash, rah-rah world of pro sports and football, he just went about his business quietly and as far away from the spotlight as he could get.  

That was part of Grant and his team's qualities. That was part of the Viking "mystique" that developed over the years. Some fans have wondered if it was real or made up by the media. I can tell you firsthand it wasn't made up and that it wasn't created by the media. It was actually the Viking culture that had been developed under Grant and honed over time as his tenure extended.  

It was about having a quiet calm environment to prepare and play in. It was about being a professional at all times. It was about not allowing emotion to control your game and actions. It was about not succumbing to any distractions away from the task at hand. You know, like -30 below wind chills and stuff like that on a gameday. It was about having your mental preparation and focus match or exceed your physical being.  

When Bud came to the club in 1967 from the CFL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers he brought his "code" with him and those around him quickly picked up on it. Bud inherited a team that was being coached by a former playing legend. Norm Van Brocklin was a bit of a swashbuckling QB of his day. He was a much better player than he was a coach. He was both very tough and very coarse. Parts of his teams were too. And there wasn't much winning. It was a hard-battling, fighting type of team that gave off the appearance that they weren't consumed by victories, only by knocking the living starch out of their opposition.      

In the transition, one holdover and future Hall of Famer noted that Grant brought a "discipline and order" where there had been none before. He had a system and process for everything that the team did. They even practiced the way they would stand in formation for the pre-game National Anthem. Yup, true story. The player noted that the team went from chaos to order and that was when they began to get better.  

The team took on Grant's demeanor. They were high-level athletes, no flash or dash, there were many solid family men-good citizen types on the team, and they were unfailingly polite with the press while giving out as little information as possible.

Grant himself usually did this with a bit of a twinkle in his eye as if he knew some epic secret that you didn't know and he was going to keep it all to himself. Bud was definitely old school. But he was "cool" old school, he wasn't ever "I'm old school and I'm gonna rub your face in it." That wasn't him.  

If he was your best buddy's very strict dad type, you didn't care. You knew everything was always going to be OK so long as he was around. He was the steadying influence, the calm in the storm.  

Don't think for a second that his teams never had any fun. The team had its share of resident pranksters, and Grant may have been one of the biggest ones, but nothing was ever done to embarrass or browbeat anyone. It was always in the spirit of fun.   

A quick listing of his achievements shows four CFL Grey Cup Championships. Four NFL Super Bowl runners-up, and an NFL league Championship. He was also an NBA Champion as a player on the 1950 NBA Minneapolis Lakers. He was a CFL and NFL Coach of the Year and is in the Hall of Fame in each league. He was a three-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota earning nine letters from football, basketball and baseball.   I

got to meet him a couple of times years back and the first thing that comes to mind is this person is a "presence." You know that about them the moment you meet them. Bud was all that. For 18 seasons we put our Sunday afternoons in the palm of his hands. And for that long we got to be on a pretty good ride.

Rest in Peace Bud, thank you seems to be pretty inadequate right now, so I'll just say it without saying it...  

THE MINNESOTA WILD just dropped a 5-4 total slopfest of a game in OT to the ARI Coyotes. I'm still a bit disgusted at the thought of regression in tonight's tilt, the team didn't play that well, but then I had to consider the current dynamics at play here and lighten up a bit! This game was ugly to the point where I don't wish to review it.      

GM Bill Guerin's trade acquisitions are still settling in and Marcus Johansson looks to be the best of that group so far along with D-man John Klingberg. Kirill Kaprizov suffered an LBI last week versus the Jets and is listed as being out for 3 to 4 weeks. After winning at the SJS last night the club stands at 1-1 without him in the lineup.  

My primary thought in considering how the team has played shutdown defense for the past several games and comparing that to tonight's debacle is that if the team stays true to the structure they have been playing with they will be OK until Kaprizov returns. I'm hoping tonight was a bump on the ice for the team. I think they can still win their share of the games left on the schedule.  

That number stands at 15 after tonight's game. The team is 38-21-8 for 84 points. DAL leads the Central with 85 points. The VGK lead the West with 88 points. Half of the games left are against clubs that I feel will be hard matchups for the WILD. They are trending for a 101-point finish with a 96% chance of making the playoffs. They could win the Conference or division, or barely make the playoffs. Put on your seatbelts! PEACE