Bud Grant, the great Vikings coach, might never have gotten into football if it weren’t for the fact that the New York Giants trained in the preseason in his hometown of Superior, Wis., in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
“Many teams in the NFL in those days went to outlying areas, and the Giants went to Superior,” Grant recalled. “Ole Haugsrud, I think, had something to do with that, to bring them to Superior. And as a kid at 10, 11, 12 years old, I was at every practice.
“I shagged balls and watched them practice, watched them play, I walked out with the team, walked in. They had a big tackle at that time by the name of Dewitt Coulter, and he used to let me carry his helmet from the practice field maybe 300 yards to the locker room. A big thrill for me, of course, and he gave me his helmet and I carried that sweaty helmet into the locker room and hand it to him, and he’d say, ‘Thanks, kid.’ That was some of my memories. I spent a lot of time there.”
One of the ways Grant got to know the team well was because his father ran a concession stand there by the nearby baseball stadium.
“There’s not much to do after football practice, so the New York Giants, with Steve Owen and his brother and some of their staff, would come to the baseball game at night. It was just across the street from where they were staying. I don’t know if anyone is old enough to remember Steve Owen, but he was a very rotund, big guy. They’d hang around until the end of the game, and my dad would give them all free hot dogs.”
Yes, and Grant nearly started his Hall of Fame career being drafted by the Giants before the merger of the AFL and NFL, but then the Philadelphia Eagles, who incidentally trained in Grand Rapids from 1949-50, selected him No. 1 overall.
“After playing with the Gophers I had heard my dad, I hadn’t heard directly, but [the Giants] apparently said, ‘We’ll draft your kid probably somewhere in the top of the draft,’ ” Grant said. “Philadelphia stepped in and drafted me No. 1.”
The Vikings defense has deservedly gotten most of the praise during this 4-0 start, but Monday night the offense really seemed to perform well in the 24-10 victory over the Giants.
For a unit missing so many key players — Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil — the Vikings seem to have overcome that by getting contributions from all over. Obviously Sam Bradford has performed well, and Monday he threw to nine receivers, completing 26 of 36 passes for 262 yards.
The Vikings also had six players rush the ball, with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata each rushing for a touchdown. Even Bradford recorded a 5-yard run.
Bradford also didn’t take a sack Monday night, as the offensive line blocked well, even with Jeremiah Sirles having to come in for Andre Smith at right tackle.
And perhaps most impressive, the Vikings have played four games and not turned the ball over once.
Ryder Cup big success
The Ryder Cup ended Sunday as probably the greatest in its 41 tournaments, with some 57,000 fans at most sessions setting a standard for future tournaments that will be hard to top.
The success of this year’s tournament will make it easier for Hazeltine National Golf Club to get future major championships and other top golf events. Club President Jim Andersen said Sunday that the Chaska course has made a bid to hold another PGA Championship.
Financially, the tournament will be a big boost for Hazeltine, with people paying $7,000 for the big hospitality suites and $2,500 for individual suites.
Patrick Hunt, executive chairman of the 2016 Ryder Cup, was asked if things went as he had expected.
“I really have to give credit to the PGA and all of our 4,000 volunteers because I would have to say yes, and I would have to say those 4,000 volunteers have done a good job of adjusting to the incredible levels of participation and involvement by patrons,” Hunt said. “I would argue that we always had high expectations, but I think everyone has outperformed.”
The lone negative mentioned often in the media was the handful of fans who were verbally aggressive toward the European players, but Hunt said that issue was minimal.
“Nothing of any significance [went wrong],” he said. “I would say the one thing is the few individuals who are maybe overserved and making comments that make the rest of the good fans look worse than they should, but we’re resolving that tissue. And again, that’s very minor.”
When asked if he would change anything, Hunt said he wouldn’t — he would just want to host the Ryder Cup again.
Should help Hazeltine
With Hazeltine membership at peak capacity, Hunt said the biggest impact from this event would be on the potential for future events.
“I would say that we have really opened eyes,” he said. “We’ve had so many compliments from the Euros. Paris [which will host the 2018 Ryder Cup] was very intrigued by everything we were doing. We had a few ceremonies, and they were very complimentary. Both the PGA and other entities have been really impressed.”
Hunt also said that the course has gotten tremendous reviews from players.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “We were joking the other day that if professional golfers don’t say anything, they love it, but they have absolutely loved our greens. That means their feelings about that part of the golf course is off the charts.
“Everyone is saying this is the biggest and best Ryder Cup ever.”
Hazeltine members invested around $13 million over several years to get the course ready, on top of all the additional finances put toward the Ryder Cup. Hunt added that the new clubhouse on the grounds was also a part of that cost.
But Hazeltine will get a share of the Ryder Cup revenue, and that money will start coming back to members.
As for all the buildings erected, Hunt said: “Everything will be up and out of here by the end of November, if you can believe that. That will just move to the next event. It’s like a traveling road show.”
Hunt said the revenue and merchandise sales were all-time records for the Ryder Cup. He also said the PGA was ecstatic with reviews.
“They said it has been absolutely fantastic and we have set a new bar for Ryder Cups,” he said.
And when it comes to how this tournament affected Minnesota, Hunt said: “500 million households in about 200 countries across the world have seen Minnesota, some in the middle of the night.”
Hunt said it will soon be back to business as usual. “I need to take a look at that tee sheet to try to get on this weekend,” he said.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com