Editorial Roundup: Bud Grant: ‘A coach in Minnesota’s self image

Published 8:49 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

If it is possible for one person to personify a state of millions, that person was Bud Grant and that state was Minnesota.

Harry Peter “Bud” Grant Jr. died Saturday at 95, and even though he last coached the Minnesota Vikings in 1985, he remained to the end a piece of the franchise — he maintained an office in the team’s headquarters, first in Eden Prairie and then in Eagan, and was one of the first people to whom new hires were introduced.

He also remained a vital part of the team’s image, even for the generations of fans who came after his era on the sidelines, and by extension the image of the entire state.

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Yes, he never won a Super Bowl; yes, those four Super Bowl losses have etched themselves firmly into the psyche of sports fans of the Upper Midwest. But his Purple People Eaters teams — Alan Page and Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller and Chuck Foreman, Ron Yary and Jim Marshall, Paul Krause and Mick Tinglehoff — those were the glory days of the Vikings.

Close your eyes and think of Bud Grant, and odds are your mental image will be the Great Stone Face in the swirling snow, headset atop a purple Vikings cap and an unflinching expression that suggested that he saw everything on the field and slightly disapproved.

Football coaches come and go, but Grant transcended his trade, and not merely by being successful (11 division titles in 13 seasons, four Super Bowl appearances in eight years).

In a game built on calculated violence and raw emotion, Grant was reserved and understated, traits that most Minnesotans embrace. He muffled egos — his own as well as his players — and kept the focus on the group.

He turned the Minnesota winters into an advantage. His teams, by decree, embraced the cold and snow. There were no heaters on his sidelines, no gloves on his players’ hands. Let the other team huddle around their heaters and dread leaving that space; the Vikings would want to be on the field where they could run around and warm themselves with their activity.

He played into that imagery at age 88, taking the field for a pregame coin toss in his shirtsleeves on a below-zero breezy day at the Gophers stadium.

Minnesotans embraced that attitude as well. And the rest of the nation noticed. Bud Grant not only defined the Vikings team. He helped define Minnesota to itself and the rest of the nation.

— Mankato Free Press, March 16

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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