When you heard the news that Minnesota’s greatest football coach of all time, Bud Grant, passed away, what memory popped into your head?
Piles of snow at Metropolitan Stadium, no heaters alongside the Vikings bench? Bud and Fran Tarkenton planning the next play? His classic crewcut? That great Mud Bowl upset over the Rams in 1977?
The day in 2016 when he went onto TCF Bank field for the coin toss, in short sleeves – temperature a balmy minus 6? (He apparently asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to hold his coat, and said something like, “We want everyone to see how much we love the weather here.”)
Maybe you’re a local and recall checking out Bud’s garage sale every year at his Bloomington home. Or felt a bond over his devotion to fishing and hunting.
For me, the outstanding memory is the day that I fought Bud Grant for a shopping cart – and won.
It was back in my days working at the Eden Prairie Sun Newspapers office. Despite a downpour, I headed to the nearest Target for a few items on my lunch break. I was in a real time crunch, so I was moving fast. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed towards the shopping carts. Two carts had just been returned from the checkout lines. All the rest were dripping wet from the June monsoon.
A woman beat me to the first cart. I headed quickly to the second just as a man entered the store. He and I were on a collision course.
My shopping competitiveness made me want to whisk the cart away from him, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized I was about to steal the cart away from none other than Bud Grant.
Fortunately for me, he was a gentleman and surrendered the dry cart. “Looks like you want it more than me,” he laughed.
Minnesota’s revered football coach and outstanding athlete smiled, pulled out one of the wet carts and headed off to search for light bulbs.
OK, I exaggerated, it was not a fight. He passed the cart to me without hesitation.
I stood there, feeling foolish for trying to score the last dry cart in the store. I was also a bit starstruck. Bud Grant was on a Target run? Buying light bulbs? Didn’t our GOAT coach have people to take care of such tasks for him?
The encounter lasted a matter of minutes, but I remember it well.
Bud gave us a lifetime of premier athleticism, sportsmanship, leadership and achievements. Our memories – the classic haircut, that stoic face on blustery cold days, and a smile toward a goofy woman obsessed with a shopping cart – will live on. Rest in peace, coach.
— Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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