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.
In suspending Adrian Peterson without pay for the rest of the season, Roger Goodell made the right decision, and probably for the wrong reasons.
When the photographs of the damage Peterson did to his four-year-old son were made public, with the caveat that the wounds had begun healing before the photos were taken, it was clear that Peterson had behaved inhumanly, using his incredible physical power to damage someone innocent and defenseless.
The courts in Texas, where child brutality is often mistaken for strong parenting, barely blinked before cutting Peterson a favorable plea deal. Vikings’ management tried to reinstate him after one missed game, with general manager Rick Spielman saying `` We believe this is a case of a parent disciplining his child.’’
The only person with the power and willingness to discipline Peterson would be Goodell, the NFL commissioner. And he did.
To think he punished Peterson severely strictly because Goodell was concerned with the child’s safety would be naïve. Goodell punished Peterson severely to offer a warning to other wayward players, to challenge the players’ union, and to reestablish himself as an authoritative figure months after he was made to look either foolish or corrupt with his handling of Ray Rice’s act of domestic violence.
Goodell is severely punishing Peterson because he so lightly punished Rice, initially handing Rice a two-game suspension even while knowing that Rice knocked out his then-fiancee in an elevator.
There will be howls of protest from Vikings fans, and fantasy football owners, but Goodell got this right. He had two choices moving forward: To remove himself as acting judge and jury of player misconduct cases, or to make an example of a star athlete who harmed a child.
Peterson earned this level of punishment. Whether Goodell has the right to impose it is a matter for the courts, and Goodell probably won’t mind watching Peterson’s legal team fighting him in the courts, where Goodell for once will get to wear a white hat.
There are new podcasts up at Souhanunfiltered.com, and this afternoon I'll be at Devil's Advocate bar in downtown Minneapolis with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo, from 4-5 p.m. Jeff Dubay will host his podcast right after us.
Michael has covered the NFL before, so we'll talk about Peterson a bit before getting into how Michael went from a guy hanging around the offices at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to becoming one of the best hockey writers and reporters in North America. You can listen live at Souhanunfiltered.com - or listen anytime. That's the cool thing about podcasts.
My full column on Peterson, with different thoughts on his predicament, will be up tonight on startribune.com and in tomorrow's paper. Thanks.
I'll also be live at Shamrock's in St. Paul on Wednesday at 8, talking about the NFL and other topics. That will preceed a music showcase for the @Aliveandsocial network, as local acts Nathan Anderson and The Last Ride will take the stage. They are remarkably talented and I'd love to see our towns support them and other rising talents.
In light of ESPN’s excellent 30-for-30 on Randy Moss -- ``Rand University’’ – startribune.com is republishing the piece I did on Moss right after the Vikings drafted him.
I remember visiting his hometown of Rand, West Virginia, and being appalled at the living conditions. I remember the anger in Moss’ voice when he told me about his distaste for his home state, and I remember people close to him calling me after the story was published to complain that I allowed Moss to vilify an entire region.
I covered Moss, on and off, from the day he was drafted until the day he was traded. I heard Mike Tice expound on the "Randy Ratio.’’ I had Moss rip into me in the locker room in Green Bay after he rubbed his rear end on the goalpost at Lambeau Field. I heard Moss call other reporters awful names.
I also saw one of the greatest players who ever lived.
This was a player who changed the way NFL defenses operated, and the way divisional foes drafted. This was a player who came within one miraculous Giants drive in the Super Bowl as being known for a Super Bowl-winning catch.
He was probably the most talented athlete I’ve ever seen…and one of the most difficult.
How great could he have been if he had given full effort? How great could he have been if he didn’t get frustrated and begin to drift, as he did in the ’98 and 2000 NFC title games? How great would his legacy be if he hadn’t walked off the field for a team that would minutes later back into the playoffs?
Moss was a born contrarian. He wasn’t evil, just stubborn to a fault. As you can see now that he does television analysis, he has a great understanding for the game.
He just didn’t want life to be any easier for those around him than it was for him growing up.
MANKATO, Minn. -- Got a solution to the Vikings' problem with birds hitting the new stadium and dying.
Let's think about this. Birds flying into building. Legendary coach who loves shooting birds. That's it!
Put Bud Grant out in front of the stadium. The man is known to be a little miserly. All you have to do is give him $50 bucks, a tank of gas, and free shotgun shells.
Birds fly toward stadium. Bud lets loose. Dinner for everyone.
What could go wrong?
Why would the Vikings sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to a $36.5 million contract?
Because they have big plans.
After spending three days with the team in Mankato, what struck me is that this team, after a couple decades of turmoil, has a chance to be somewhat stable.
Denny Green won a lot of games, but the organization was never calm when he was around.
Mike Tice was turmoil personified. Brad Childress was constantly battling with quarterbacks or bosses. Leslie Frazier was a calm and wonderful human, but he wasn't hired by the general manager who runs the team, so he was always in limbo.
Now you have a head coach hired by the general manager he works for who cares about nothing other than winning games. You have a coaching staff that Vikings employees say is already making a difference. And one of those coaches, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, is capable of building one of the best offenses in the NFL out of the parts he's assembling.
The worst contracts in sports are those that reward what a player has already done. This one projects what the Vikings expect Rudolph to do.
Rudolph has been a very good player. He has not been a star. In Turner's offense, he could become one.
Jay Novacek played five seasons in the NFL before playing in Turner's offense in Dallas. His best season pre-Norv: 38 catches, 569 yards, four touchdowns.
His first season with Norv and a budding offense: 59-657-4. His best season with Norv: 68-630-6.
Rudolph is bigger and stronger than Novacek, and about as fast. Turner spoke this weekend about teaching Rudolph to run more fluid routes, which should enable him to get deep more often, and to catch the ball in stride and run with it more often.
Assuming decent quarterback play, Rudolph could have a breakout season this year, or next.
Wrote about receiver Erik Lora for today's editions. Other interesting or emerging players to watch: Cornerback Jabari Price, safety Robert Blanton, guard David Yankey.
Key player to watch? Maybe Sharrif Floyd. He's lighter this year. I don't know if that's a sign that he's hungry and in better shape, or a desperate move for a player who didn't make an impact as a rookie.
I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM today and every weekday at 12:15 with Mackey&Judd. I'm on WJON at 7:05 a.m. with Jay Caldwell in St. Cloud every morning. My Sunday show, Sunday Sports Talk, airs 10-noon on 1500ESPN. Sincere thanks for reading and listening.
Eli Manning has made five career starts against the Vikings.
In those games, he's thrown three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, and the Giants have gone 1-4.
Against the rest of the NFL, Manning's career numbers are: 217 touchdowns, 148 interceptions, and a 77-59 record.
Perhaps Manning's worst game as a pro came in Jersey against the Vikings. The Vikings would finish 8-8. The Giants would rally to beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.
On Nov. 25, 2007, the game was a mismatch. The Vikings intercepted Manning four times, returning three interceptions for touchdowns, and won, 41-17, with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
Dwight Smith intercepted Manning twice, returning one for a touchdown. Chad Greenway and Darren Sharper each intercepted one and scored on returns.
Sharper had a knack for reading Manning, and baiting him into throwing into coverage. And those Vikings defenses were particularly tough on teams that wanted to play traditionally, by running to set up the pass. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams didn't allow many rushing yards, and the front four put lots of pressure on quarterbacks in obvious passing situations.
Manning lost his first four career starts against the Vikings before finally beating them, 21-13, on Dec. 13, 2010. Even in victory, the Vikings held him to one touchdown pass and intercepted him twice.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 Tuesday with Judd&Dubay.
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