I Did It My Way: A Remarkable Journey to the Hall of Fame
by Bud Grant and Jim Burton
Publisher – Triumph Book
Rating – 6.5/10
Summary – Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant was noted for his stoic silences during his career. But he has had an interesting life and he offers some nice insights in his autobiography, I Did It My Way. While the book could be better, football fans will still enjoy it.
Review – In the eleven seasons between 1968 and 1978, the Minnesota Vikings won ten division titles and appeared in four Super Bowls. Coach Bud Grant was a constant during those years. Grant’s life – inside and outside coaching – has been interesting and he recounts his story in the autobiography, I Did it My Way.
Some of the best material in the book concerns Grant’s hardscrabble youth in Superior, Wisconsin. He sugarcoats nothing, telling readers that a) his grandmother was a prostitute, b) he never had enough to eat, and c) alcoholism is common in his family. Perhaps even more remarkable is that Grant tells the story without apparent bitterness.
Grant eventually moved on to military service at the end of World War II and then to the University of Minnesota where he played football. Again, he does not view his college days through rose-colored glasses, stating that he a) was not a good student, b) did not enjoy playing college football, c) lived in awful housing, d) scalped his complimentary game tickets, and e) learned how not to coach by observing his college coaches.
After college, Grant played two years of professional basketball in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers. (A period of his life which he should have covered in more detail). Then, Grant played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles before leaving for the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers (who offered Grant a nice raise). It was in Winnipeg that Grant got his chance to coach in 1957.
One of the best things about Grant is that he comes off a likable, down-to-earth, straightforward person. One could say that his is the story of an “everyman” who ended up in extraordinary circumstances. He easily confesses that “…to this day, I still do not know how to tie a tie. Clip-on ties saved me, because every time I went somewhere I had to put on a tie.”
Grant’s passion – aside from football – is the great outdoors. He spends a lot of I Did It My Way on his passions for the outdoors; some of this material is excellent (such as the time he was stranded for several days after a blizzard during his youth), but some of it falls flat.
Near the end of I Did It My Way, Grant offers a strong – and very moving – account of the death of his wife, Pat, in 2009. The couple was married for 60 years and Bud notes that, with her death, “a part of me was lost forever.”
On Football – Hits & Misses
The tragic flaw in I Did It My Way is the selection of material for the book. Grant’s fame comes from coaching the Minnesota Vikings, but he does not place a special emphasis on those years. The reader wants to know more about Grant and the Vikings. Readers would feel disappointed if a former President of the U.S. were to write a memoir and devote no more attention to the four years in office than to any other stretch in his (or her) life; essentially, this is what Grant has done in his autobiography.
What remains is still pretty good. Grant shares a unique perspective on coaching “A lot of coaches feel that they can outcoach or outthink other coaches. That is just not true. You really can’t outcoach someone else, but you can outpersonnel them…”. Some of Grant’s other insights on coaching also surprised me. For instance, Grant writes that he often said literally nothing to his teams at halftime, believing that people listen more if you wait to speak until you have something important to say. On the other hand, Grant was a firm believer in rules as a way to create discipline and a “team feeling”; to this end, Grant stipulated how his players a) wear their socks and b) were to stand for the national anthem. (He even goes into detail on how he dictated what his players were to wear while standing for the national anthem on a snowy day in Buffalo).
I Did It My Way is enjoyable, but not perfect. While the book loses momentum during Grant’s digressions from football, it is still a good, easy-to-read story.