Bud Grant, the man who has spent a lifetime preaching the unmatched importance of durability, turns 90 on Saturday.
“How does it feel?” asked the Hall of Fame Vikings coach. “Well, I just came back from turkey hunting in Nebraska. The week before that, I was with my son hunting turkeys up by Battle Lake and Ottertail. Between that, I was in Wisconsin for their fishing opener. So I don’t know that I feel any different.”
Grant missed Minnesota’s fishing opener while getting ready for his popular three-day garage sale that ended Friday. On Saturday, Grant will celebrate at his home in Bloomington while surrounded by his six children, 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
“One great-grandchild lives in Seattle,” Grant said. “Everyone else lives within a half-hour of my house. That’s pretty good.”
Asked for the key to healthy longevity, Grant said, “Your parents.” Then he thanked his mother, Bernice, and father, Harry Peter Sr., for the genes they passed down.
“I can’t do the things I used to do,” Grant said. “I’m stooped over, and I got an arthritic back. I got two artificial knees. Modern medicine can keep us going, but the main thing is if you’ve got your mind. I’m lucky. I can entertain myself with my memory.”
Grant’s sense of humor came out when the big 9-0 was first brought up. He mentioned his “closest friend,” Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, who turned 97 two months ago.
“I’m trying to catch Sid,” Grant said. “But I don’t think I’m going to catch him.”
Grant was born May 20, 1927, in Superior, Wis., a rundown city limping toward the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted 10 years.
“My dad was a city fireman,” Grant said. “A lot of people didn’t have jobs. But during the Depression, a lot of times my dad didn’t get paid. They’d give him an IOU. When the city would get some money, he’d turn in the IOU.”
Bernice is the one who gave Grant the nickname that would last a lifetime.
“We had two Harrys in the house,” Grant said. “When you call ‘Harry,’ who’s going to come? So she called me, ‘Buddy Boy.’ ”
When Grant was stricken with polio as a child, his parents encouraged him to play sports as a way to strengthen his legs.
“My doctor told my dad, ‘Get the kid a baseball glove and let him go running around,’ ” Grant said. “One leg was shorter than the other. I didn’t have it as severe as some people had it. Right now, one foot is smaller than the other. That’s the only residue I got from polio.”
Grant, of course, went on to play for the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers (1949-51), the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles (1951-52) and the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1953-56).
Each year, Grant comes across long-forgotten gems as he sorts through his belongings while preparing for his garage sale. Last week, he found a commemorative watch given to him in 1945 when he played right end for Paul Brown’s football team at the Great Lakes Naval training station near Chicago. Grant didn’t put the watch up for sale, but it did provide a walk down memory lane.
“Paul always called me ‘Harry,’ ” Grant said of his fellow Hall of Fame coach. “We beat Notre Dame that year. After the season, we had a banquet. Paul introduced a half dozen of us players. When he came to me, he said: ‘This is Harry Grant. I want you all to remember him because you’re going to be hearing a lot about this guy.’ That made me feel pretty good.”