MINNEAPOLIS -- At age 88, Bud Grant lives the public portion of his life by a simple credo, of which Pat Smith frequently reminds him before the two travel to an event.
"I frequently tell him, 'Your goal at this point is to make people happy,'" said Smith, the woman who has been by Grant's side for several years since his wife, Pat, died of complications from Parkinson's disease in 2009.
Grant's famed imperviousness to the cold is the stuff of legend in Minnesota, and he gave Vikings fans a thrill on Jan. 10, when he walked to the 50-yard line in short sleeves in minus-6 degree weather before the team's NFC wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks. Grant stood on the field for the coin toss and on the sideline for the national anthem, unmoved by the frigid temperatures before a game that tied for the third-coldest in NFL history.
Since the game, Grant said he's heard from "everybody I see" about his appearance before the wild-card game. And in classic Grant fashion, the Hall of Fame coach will not admit if he was cold while standing on the field.
"Hey, cold is not debilitating," Grant said at the Vikings Winterfest in Duluth, Minnesota, last Friday. "Heat is debilitating. Too hot is harder to play in than too cold. I've sat in a deer stand for four hours, and been cold the whole time. But maybe a deer's going to walk out there somewhere. I don't mind being cold."
Grant's bravado amused Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who worked on Grant's final staff in Minnesota and appeared to be stifling a laugh as the old coach walked out on the field. "I talked to him later," Grant said. "He said, 'That was funny, but I understood, though.'"
The Vikings, of course, will move back indoors when U.S. Bank Stadium opens this fall. The two-year renaissance of outdoor football in Minnesota, which rekindled memories of Grant's four Super Bowl teams mastering the elements at old Metropolitan Stadium, has come to an end. And if the Vikings play another outdoor home game, it figures to be at least a generation away.
Grant's send off, though, gave him one more opportunity to create an indelible winter memory.
"It was our last outdoor game," Grant said. "I had to make a statement somehow. It was our last [outdoor] game; let's celebrate. It got a hoopla-la, and that was all afterward."