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E.M. Swift
July 16, 1979
Cut by the Vikings as a washed-up 222-pound weakling, Alan Page is one lean and mighty man for Chicago
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July 16, 1979

Don't Kick Sand In His Face

Cut by the Vikings as a washed-up 222-pound weakling, Alan Page is one lean and mighty man for Chicago

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Page's weight is simply not an issue in Chicago. One of the things that persuaded Page to join the Bears, rather than strike a deal with another team, was that Finks told Page that he wanted him to stay exactly as he was. "Alan knows better than I do when he's effective and when he's not," Finks says. Page has always demanded no more than to be treated as an individual—nor has he accepted less. He hated what he viewed as the regimentation of football in Minnesota under Grant. He hates labels—like "Purple People Eaters," as the Vikings' defensive line of Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Gary Larsen and Page was dubbed in its heyday. "I am not purple and I don't eat people," Page would say.

"One thing I have learned," says Finks, "is that whatever Alan Page tells you he is going to do, he will do. If he tells you he will run a marathon, he will run it. If he tells you he will go to law school, he will do it. When he told me he wanted to play three more years, that was good enough for me. Because he is an honest person. Honest with himself. That's very refreshing in this business."

The worst part about it was the mile markers. They could have skipped that. I missed the first couple, and after that I saw every one. When they wouldn't show up I'd go bonkers.

The leaders bound gracefully, springing like deer, their feet touching lightly. As they approach, there is no sense of speed, only of smoothness. Their effortless strides cut through distance in a great hurry, and they rush past and away. Behind them, the other runners are packed in broken rows, stretching out for a mile or more. Diane Page passes first, taking short, determined strides. A hundred yards back, her husband, paced by Don Knutson, a friend from Minneapolis, has slowed to an eight-minute-mile pace. His feet flip outward as he runs, and he comments to Don that after three miles he is not yet warm.

Two days before the marathon, Alan Page, attorney, had appeared in court for the second time—his first time out was in small claims. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where he studied from 1975 to '78 while playing with the Vikings, Page passed the bar exam in February, on his second try, and joined the large Minneapolis firm of Lindquist and Vennum. His name is dead last on the long list on the door, painted at about knee level. In the bluntly worded release announcing Page's hiring, one of the senior partners wrote, "We don't hire jocks. He is coming to our firm as a new young lawyer who is a superb human being."

In court Page wore a double-breasted blue suit and a thin bow tie that looked too small beneath his large, handsome face. He took a seat in the back of the courtroom, waiting for his case to be called, and as he looked over his notes, another attorney introduced himself. "Good to have you in the profession, Mr. Page. Hope I never have a case against you, though. You might take it out on me physically."

Page took no offense, despite the implication that he would lose this fellow's hypothetical case, and, a few minutes later, Line 6 was called by the clerk of the court. Page went before the bench, followed by two lawyers for the plaintiff—the Pillsbury Company. "The big guns," Page whispered.

Line 6 was Pillsbury Company v. Southern Railway System. Pillsbury alleged that some $640 worth of its merchandise had been damaged somewhere between Illinois and Tennessee, and that Southern Railway was responsible. The small amount of loss claimed was misleading, because this was a case that might set a precedent. Southern, which does not operate or own a railway line in Minnesota, where Pillsbury has its headquarters, had hired Lindquist and Vennum to present a motion to the effect that the state of Minnesota had no business hearing the case in the first place. Lindquist and Vennum had selected Alan Page from its long list of attorneys to present said motion. Pillsbury sent a pair of heavyweights to court, one being its senior attorney. "You could feel the building sink when they came in," was the way Page, who had not anticipated that much opposing firepower, put it.

"Good morning, Your Honor, my name is Alan Page," he began. It was the first time he had ever directly addressed a court, and he was nervous. His voice cracked once; he paused, then referred briefly to his notecard. Soon he began to relax. Slipping his notes behind his back, Page presented Southern's position easily and forcefully, spicing his argument with legalese, citing Statute 49USC 11707D as casually as if it were a maneuver out of a playbook. When Page had finished, John H. Allen, Pillsbury's senior counsel, rose and droned on for a while, and then the judge said he would have to ponder the matter and would stay in touch. (Later, he ruled that the case could be argued in Minnesota.)

Outside the courtroom, Allen approached Page timidly. "My son wanted to come down today," he said. "Not to see me. To get your autograph."

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