Bud Grant became known as the stern, tough ball coach roaming the sidelines of Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. during the Minnesota Vikings glory days of the 1960s and ’70s, short sleeves and no heaters in site for his sideline.
It was a psychological advantage, he figured, as visiting teams were often left wondering how the Vikings could stand the freezing weather. For the past three days, Grant was sitting high atop his driveway in perfect weather, king of his garage sale with a lawn chair as his makeshift throne as more than 1,000 customers came to rummage through his treasures from five decades of being involved with the Vikings as either head coach or consultant. Longer than that he was, and remains, an avid outdoorsman.
Even in the final hour of his three-day event, his garage sale had hundreds of Vikings items, from trading cards to signed posters, pictures to footballs, helmets to t-shirts. The driveway was still full of outdoor gear, from fishing reels to hunting gear to a wooden catfish trap that found no takers with its $200 price tag.
“I’m surprised my fish trap didn’t go. Nobody wants my fish trap,” the Hall of Fame coach known as the “Old Trapper” said as customers and fans continued to mill about in the final hour.
If an item wasn’t autographed, Grant would add his signature for an additional $25 while making small talk. Steve O’Hern of Hiawatha Estate Sales handled the pricing of items.
But the most impressive feat for Grant, who turned 88 years old on the opening day of this year’s garage sale, may have come on Thursday. With a steady stream of customers, Grant stayed outside for 12 hours straight – bathroom breaks would have wait.
“It was just like when I was in a deer stand,” he told O’Hern.
More 850 of the browsers turned into buyers over the three-day sale, and that didn’t include those that just wanted his autograph. He had no idea how many autographs he put to paper or whatever memorabilia people brought.
“You’d have to look at the till to figure that out,” Grant said Friday. “You can see, this is typical what you see. The first day, of course, they were all lined up all the way to down to the road. We finally got through all of that. It’s good.
“We got a lot of publicity on it. We had a pretty good turnout. We’re a half hour from closing and we’ve still got a lot of people here shopping.”
NFL Films was there for Wednesday’s opening to chronicle the event.
Grant even started a Twitter account earlier this month to advertise the garage sale and had numerous posts during each day of the sale, promoting different items, the hours of operation, the address and other instructions.
O’Hern estimated that last year’s sale brought more traffic, despite getting roughly 500 people through on the first day. Last year, O’Hern said, about 300 people were lined up ready to race into the driveway and garage when Grant blew his coaching whistle to get things started.
That’s how O’Hern initially got involved. Eight years ago, he was one of those garage-sale crazies that arrived before it opened and ran to the tables. His interests, like Grant’s, remain in the outdoors. O’Hern is involved with an annual duck decoy sale in early February at the old Thunderbird Hotel near the grounds where old Metropolitan Stadium used to stand (that hotel is now the Ramada Mall of America).
After his first trip to Grant’s garage sale, O’Hern started talking to Grant when he attended the decoy sale, with the coach even buying decoys there and then reselling them at his garage sale.
“(Grant) started buying stuff from me. He said, ‘You aren’t going to be mad if I buy this and put it my garage sale.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to laugh to the bank with you. Give me my money.’ So we did that,” O’Hern said.
Grant said none of his former Vikings players stopped by this year’s event, joking that “by the time they retire, they’ve seen enough of me.”
Grant maintains a sense of humor about some of the items for sale, too. Next to a trio of semi-inflated autographed footballs was a note saying those balls weren’t from New England, a friendly poke at the Patriots’ Deflategate saga.
“Yeah, I’ve got a sense of humor,” he said. “We’ve got some footballs that were under-inflated because they sat on a shelf for a long time. We didn’t have a pump here.”
The neighbors seem to understand the increased traffic during the sale, with one of them a couple houses down running their own sale.
“The neighbors are great. They all know who it is, and one of the neighbors is doing an estate sale down there,” O’Hern said. “I went and bought a bunch of stuff.”
For those worried that the items will eventually run out and the sales will end after this year, beware of jumping to that assumption. Grant has six children, 19 grandchildren and 10 great grandkids to keep the product flowing and replenished on a daily and annual basis, not to mention a basement and off-site buildings with more.
Said O’Hern: “Bud’s got plenty of stuff.”
And plenty of fans interested in buying it.
Bud Grant foregoes bathroom breaks for fans
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