By Roger Currie
Memories today of a sports legend who was one of my childhood heroes. I first met Bud Grant in 1957. I was 10, and he was the 30-year-old rookie head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I thought I had truly died and gone to heaven.
Over the next five years, Grant’s team would win the Grey Cup four times. It was the golden age of sports in Manitoba. With those piercing eyes and the shock of prematurely white hair, Bud showed zero emotion on the sidelines. One rare day he threw down his clipboard in anger, and a hush fell over the stadium. He truly was God we thought as youngsters.
What a different game it was then in the CFL. Western teams played a 16-game schedule in 11 or 12 weeks, meaning it was not uncommon to play two games in 48 hours or less. The active roster was 32 players, compared with 42 today. The coaching staff was three people compared with 10 or more in 2014.
Grant still insists he would never have left Winnipeg in 1967 were it not for his home team, the Minnesota Vikings, making him an offer he could not refuse. Ten days ago he was at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg where they unveiled a bronze statue of him. At 87, Bud is rather bent over and walks with some difficulty, but his mind is still razor sharp. He said “I’m honoured to have this happen while I’m still alive.”
The unfortunate part is the obvious comparison between then and now. A few days after Bud’s event, the 2014 Blue Bombers lost their seventh game in a row and were eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight year. It’s now 24 years and counting since Winnipeg’s last Grey Cup championship. Giving Grant such a well-deserved honour only makes that drought seem a lot longer.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.