Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I’ve been interviewing people for a long time. The hour or more I spent with Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant might represent the best on-the-record conversation I’ve had in 30 years.
Grant said he’s contemplating retirement, so he can write books. He may write about race relations, after watching the demographics of Eden Prairie change dramatically during his tenure. He may disappear into the woods with his father, Bud, the legendary former Vikings coach.
He also told me that his father came close to never playing sports or coaching football. When Bud graduated from high school, he told his father he wanted to live off the land, to hunt and fish and forgo college. Instead, he attended the University of Minnesota on the GI bill, subsisted on five-for-a-quarter candy bars and a all-you-can-eat-for-a-buck spaghetti at Café di Napoli in Minneapolis, and lived off the generosity of Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman.
Bud is 87. Mike is 57. Mike says he wants to spend time hunting with his father while he can, and that may mean leaving a program that is trying for its fourth straight and 10th total state championship tonight at TCF Bank Stadium.
``My dad didn’t want to go to college,’’ Mike said. ``He got out of the war he wanted to go hunting. He just wanted to go live in the woods. My uncle tells the story of him and my grandfather arguing, fighting, my Dad saying, `I want to go into the woods and hunt. That’s it.’
``His brother says it’s truly what he wanted to do. He would disappear for days when he was 15 or 16 and be gone hunting and fishing, where he has his cabin now. My grandfather would say, what, you want to be a `Hunyuk’ your whole life? I don’t know what that is. Whatever a Hunyuk is, it can’t be good.’’
I’m writing about Mike’s future and Bud’s past tonight. It’ll be in the Saturday paper and online at startribune.com. If you want to hear our full conversation, in which Mike weighed in on race, Jerry Kill, college recruiting, Red McCombs, Rick Spielman, high school coaching, hungry kids, Tim Brewster, Glen Mason, Jeff Diamond, Sid, Tom Kelly and John Gagliardi, you can find it on my podcast at Souhanunfiltered.com, along with conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig, Ross Bernstein and Sean Barnard.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Vikings owner Mark Wilf said two things that cannot be disputed on Wednesday after the team decided to suspend Adrian Peterson.
He said: ``We made a mistake’’ when deciding earlier this week that Peterson should play this Sunday.
He also said: ``It’s a fluid situation.’’
Yes, it is.
Once Anheuser-Busch, one of the NFL’s foremost sponsors, publicly upbraided the Vikings’ decision, all that beer swept away the Vikings’ previous decision.
That’s why the Vikings decided to suspend Peterson, with pay: Because of the fear of major sponsors running away from the team and the league.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf offered a prepared statement on Wednesday morning at Winter Park but did not take questions.
When Zygi Wilf left the stage, co-owner Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and vice president Kevin Warren did take questions.
The most repeated phrase of the press conference: ``We believe we got it right.’’
Yes, they got it right after public backlash and the threat of sponsor retreat made playing Peterson untenable.
I don’t blame Spielman for this or for being unable to offer any big-picture questions about Peterson on Monday. He’s a wielder of stopwatches and personnel decisions. He’s not equipped to speak on child abuse by his best player.
Warren is a legal expert. He emphasized that ``It’s very clear that the Minnesota Vikings are the ones who initiated this process.’’
The Wilfs were the people who got this wrong to begin with and who underestimated what the reaction would be to playing an admitted child abuser.
But at least Zygi and Mark eventually, belatedly, showed their faces.
Where is the NFL commissioner?
Roger Goodell is paid $44 million a year by NFL owners to be the corporate face of the NFL.
He rose through the NFL as a public relations expert.
When the NFL needed him the most, he ducked under the NFL’s cloak of invisibility.
He hasn’t merely appeared weak while mismanaging the disciplining of Ray Rice and Peterson.
He has appeared cowardly.
Warren said the Vikings ``initiated’’ the process of suspending Peterson, and that the commissioner then granted the Vikings an exemption to allow them to pay Peterson and keep his rights.
In other words, while cowering in his Manhattan offices and collecting his millions, Goodell needed the Vikings’ obviously overwhelmed braintrust to suggest a solution to the league’s latest nightmare.
Goodell should be embarrassed.
It doesn’t seem like that’s an option for him.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a finishing flurry quite like the one in the Vikings' 29-25 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
It's remarkable how hard the Vikings hsve played in the weeks since it seemed their season was doomed. What I'll explore in my Monday column is why it took so long for this coaching staff to put its best players on the field. With Matt Cassel at quarterback, Cordarrelle Patterson starting at receiver and Xavier Rhodes starting at corner, this is a competent team, a team that could be at or near .500 and theoretically in the playoff race if those players had started earlier this season.
This was a Vikings team that made all those dramatic plays with its backup quarterback, backup running back, and a lot of backup defenders on the field.
We'll have extensive coverage in the Monday paper and on startribune.com, complete with videos.
We'll also update Adrian Peterson's health as soon as possible after the game, Indications now are that he has a sprained ankle and nothing more. It will be interesting to see whether Leslie Frazier plays him next week, or lets Toby Gerhart have a start.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Awaiting the start of the Gophers game at Michigan State's Spartan Stadium.
This would be the Gophers' biggest win of the season, if they could pull it off.
I believe their performance last week, in a loss against Wisonsin, was their most impressive performance of the season. Beating a very good Michigan State team on the road would be more impressive.
In fact, beating Michigan State would give the Gophers their most impressive six-game stretch in the modern era.
Glen Mason's best seasons did not include a six-game stretch in the Big Ten schedule this impressive. The 2003 loss to Michigan interrupted an impressive stretch. If the Gophers win today, they will have gone 5-1 in a key six-game stretch with their only loss coming against a very good Wisconsin team.
I'd argue the Gophers' loss to Wisconsin marked their best performance this season, given the quality of the opponent.
A victory today would trump that.
I'll be in studio Sunday morning for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500ESPN before heading to the Metrodome for Vikings-Bears. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
There are rational reasons for starting Christian Ponder on Sunday.
I'm just not sure the Vikings are employing any of them.
Here are possible behind-the-scenes explanations for starting Ponder, or at least not starting Josh Freeman:
1. If Freeman has looked lost in practice. It would be hard for an NFL head coach to believe that a quarterback who has trouble running the offense or completing passes in practice would be able to do so in games, especially on the road.
2. The Vikings have decided to tank the rest of the season to obtain the highest possible draft choices. I could see the front office wishing for this outcome, but Leslie Frazier is incapable of trying to lose a game. A coach would tank only if he was assured of coming back next year, and there's no way the Vikings can be making assurances to their head coach given the ineptitude of this team.
3. The Vikings' offensive coaches don't know what they're doing.
Starting Freeman is the most logical decision, but if he's not ready to start, then it's tough to figure out why the Vikings wouldn't start Matt Cassel. Cassel has given the Vikings their best-quarterbacked game of the season, against Pittsburgh, and would give them their best chance to win on Sunday at Green Bay.
I can't think of a good reason for starting Ponder. Worse, the feeling in the Vikings' lockerroom is that starting Ponder is an embarrassment.
Frazier has done much to build trust and respect in the Vikings' lockerroom. He's sabotating his credibility by starting Ponder when everyone knows Ponder's career is effectively over in Minnesota.
For all of their problems, the Vikings have continued to play hard even as their season has slipped away. It's tough to put your body on the line when your bosses keep handling the most important position on the team so poorly.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay to discuss this, the Wolves, the Wild, and the Gophers.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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