I talked to John Sweeney by phone on Thursday morning, and my first question was intended more as an introductory pleasantry than an invitation to be hilarious.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said. “Just trying to balance being a theater owner, a dad and an idiot.”
Wednesday was like a lot of other days for Sweeney, right up until the point that he ripped off his shirt at Kevin Garnett’s welcome home game at Target Center to reveal a special message for KG. But even that was something Sweeney — an improv comedian and co-owner of the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre in Minneapolis – has done before.
Sweeney first pulled the shirtless act back in the Wolves’ heyday in 2003-04, riling up the crowd at a few games, including one in the playoffs against Denver. A Star Tribune writer dubbed him “Jiggly Boy,” and it stuck. Does he mind that name?
“I’m fine with that name,” Sweeney said. “I’m the youngest of 8 from a Irish Catholic farm family, so I’ve been called a lot worse.”
He was in cahoots 11 years ago with the Wolves’ game ops folks, and he said they texted him again a few days ago with a simple question: “KG is coming back. What about Jiggly?”
The difference now is that Sweeney has two impressionable sons, ages 11 (William) and 9 (Michael), and both were at the game with him. But he couldn’t resist.
“We had a good philosophical discussion on the car ride home about when it’s appropriate to take your shirt off,” Sweeney said.
In this case, the timing was perfect. An overflow crowd was already amped up for the return of Garnett, and the sight of the 49-year-old Sweeney dancing shirtless turned the dial up a notch. Even KG couldn’t help but look and smile.
“It might say more about the Minnesota culture than you think. We’re OK getting a little bit more than appropriately excited as long as someone does it first,” Sweeney said. “When KG gave me the smile and the wave, it got a little crazy in there.”
Alas, we should not get too used to seeing Sweeney’s routine. It’s reserved for special occasions, and Wednesday was about as good as it’s been around Target Center in a long time.
“I think it was a (one-time) special appearance,” he said. “Maybe it’s me being a comedic snob, but you don’t want too much of a good thing. I think it’s really fun to see a 49-year-old fat guy dance a couple times, but there’s a tipping point where it goes from funny to ‘sit down.’”
Brandon Bostick, the tight end whom the Vikings claimed off waivers last week, has shared an interesting first-person piece for MMQB.com about his emotions and experiences in the aftermath of that botched attempt at recovering an onside kick late in last month’s NFC title game.
After Bostick’s special-teams miscue, the Seahawks went on to defeat his now-former team, the Packers, in overtime. He immediately became a scapegoat and is still trying to cope with the loss.
“There have been a few deaths in my family, and when I was in high school, a favorite uncle passed away. When he died, I didn’t cry because it didn’t feel real. The night of the NFC championship game kind of felt like that,” Bostick told MMQB.
“I knew it was a big deal. I knew it was a key mistake that cost us a trip to the Super Bowl. But, with all due respect, I think the media kind of took it and ran with it. I became the singular scapegoat. Social media didn’t help, either. I don’t know how many death threats I received, but there have been a lot. I still haven’t read most of the messages that people sent me, but I want to so I can deal with the consequences and use it as motivation. But it is physically impossible for me to read every troll’s comment; the volume is simply too much. So their comments sit there, untouched, maybe forever.”
Interestingly, former Browns running back Earnest Byner, who lost “The Fumble” in 1987 that cost the Browns the AFC title, called up Bostick in the days after the game and offered to give him guidance. Bostick said he and Byner have since talked once or twice a week.
I don’t want to steal all of Bostick’s thunder, so read the whole piece for yourself right here.
The NFL scouting combine is now a few days behind us, which means the draftniks have had sufficient time to update their mock drafts to reflect what was learned in Indy.
It is still more than two months until the actual draft, and future events — none bigger than free agency — will shape how the first round of the draft actually plays out.
But if the draft were to take place today, it seems as if there is no consensus about which position the Vikings will target first. Sure, a number of the mock drafts I pulled up still had them taking a wide receiver, a popular pick the last time I did this roundup. But now we are starting to see some new names linked to the Vikings in these premature projections.
One in particular keeps popping up. That would be Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, who helped himself by running one of the fastest forty times down in Indy. The Vikings could use another quality cornerback, especially in this division, so the connection does sound logical.
Anyway, check out which prospects are being mocked to the Vikings in these notable mock drafts:
Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. “After White’s performance at the combine the Vikings will be lucky if he is still on the board when they pick,” Kirwan wrote. “White is big, fast and productive and is a perfect fit in Norv Turner’s offense. Teddy Bridgewater could have AP behind him and White and Patterson out wide which puts this team on the map.”
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. “Reunited and it feels so good for DeVante Parker and his college quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The two Louisville Cardinals need each other — Teddy needs a legitimate No. 1 receiver and Parker will step into an NFL offense begging for his ability in the red zone,” Miller wrote. “With freakish size, game speed and the ability to post up in the end zone, Parker has the skill set needed to open up the Minnesota offense with speedsters like Jarius Wright and the big-play potential of Cordarrelle Patterson.”
Todd McShay, ESPN: Waynes. “I think this pick could come down to Waynes and Louisville receiver DeVante Parker, who was Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target at Louisville and is a top-10 player on our board,” McShay wrote. “But Minnesota really needs help at corner, so I’ll go with Waynes. He really helped himself at the combine by running a 4.31 40-yard dash, which eliminated any concerns about his speed after showing a little bit of tightness on tape. He is a technically sound cover corner with good instincts and football character. Plus, he plays hard and isn’t afraid to show up in run support.”
Peter King, MMQB: Waynes. “Even if the Adrian Peterson thing blows up and the Vikings lose him and they love Melvin Gordon … Mike Zimmer likes his front’s ability to pressure the quarterback,” King wrote. “Now he wants a corner to play with Xavier Rhodes as his two long-term cover guys in a division with very good quarterbacking.”
Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting: Parker. “Norv Turner recently said that Charles Johnson is the Vikings’ best receiver. That’s basically code for, ‘We need to upgrade at receiver,’” Galko wrote. “Parker is in the mix for the top receiver in the class, and his relationship with Teddy Bridgewater gives him the nod over the other options here [including White].”
Peter Schrager, Fox Sports: Waynes. “Waynes could go earlier, depending on team needs in the top 10. He is a 6-foot, 186-pound corner who starred in a man-to-man defense at Michigan State. He worked on an island against some of the best in the country,” Schrager wrote. “He does it all and runs a 4.32 40-yard dash. Mike Zimmer is a defensive backs coach at heart and there are never enough corners in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler.”
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa. “The guard-tackle versatility would allow Scherff to start inside as a rookie and kick out to tackle eventually if the Vikings don’t re-sign Matt Kalil after 2015 or decide to part ways with Phil Loadholt,” Edholm wrote. “Scherff is already an established run blocker who fits what the Vikings want to do offensively.”
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. “Cooper would be a steal for the Vikings and their young franchise quarterback,” Jeremiah wrote.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. “Passing up Teddy Bridgewater’s former Louisville teammate, receiver DeVante Parker, probably won’t be a popular move in many places,” Banks wrote. “But solidifying the offensive line and protecting the young quarterback is paramount, and Peat addresses one of the team’s weakest links.”
Matt Brown, Sports on Earth: Waynes. How often does the extremely obvious mock draft pick actually happen? Understandably, DeVante Parker has long been pegged to the Vikings, who need another outside receiver. Who better to pair with Teddy Bridgewater than his top college target?” Brown wrote. “But the wide receiver depth in this draft is strong; the Vikings may instead opt to take the top cornerback on the board. Waynes further established himself in that position after running a blistering 4.32 in the 40.”
1) I didn’t go to last night’s Wolves game. I have my reasons: some are practical, some are professional, and some are just plain weird.
From a practical standpoint, it just didn’t fit into my week. With a small baby at home, sleep is a treasured friend and a rare commodity, and I pretty much knew if I went that I would go out afterwards and that the rest of my week could very well be shot. Lame? Yes. I’m lame.
From a professional standpoint, I’ve found that sometimes when I’m at a live event, I forget to focus on the actual game. As much as it would have added to the understanding of the night and KG’s return, from an atmosphere standpoint, to be there … I really wanted to focus on the basketball and try to take the emotion out of it. So I watched on TV, as free of distractions as possible. I didn’t even tweet during the game!
And from a weird standpoint, there was probably a part of me that feared it would be a train wreck and didn’t want to see 20,000 Minnesotans let down. We deserve nice things. It, of course, started like a train wreck … but the total sum of the evening was far from that. It was glorious. Maybe I’ll kick myself 20 years from now for not being there. But in a weird way, I’m more interested in being at KG’s next game than I was in being there last night.
2) It was just one game. A skidding Washington team was the perfect opponent. The Wolves were already improving thanks to their return to health. But if you’ve watched enough bad Minnesota basketball in the past decade — and you know I have — then you know this and need to believe this: the Wolves haven’t played defense like that since KG left.
That’s hyperbole, I’m sure, since you could pick out some game in the last eight years where the numbers say their defense was better. But in the broader sense, they have not played D like that since Garnett left: closing out on shooters, communicating on screens, contesting every shot … these are fundamental things, but they have so often been missing.
When KG blocked a corner 3 to end the first half, keeping the game tied 42-42 … it sounds ridiculous and hard to measure, but it was just a reminder of what good basketball looks like. A 38-year-old KG is a better, more valuable basketball player than a 26-year-old Thad Young — particularly on a team that has been missing these fundamentals for so long. I’m very serious about this.
3) I would like to see KG play forever. That is not practical. Short of that, I’d like to see him for the rest of this year and then one more year — as long as his body is willing and able. Part of it is that I love the symmetry of No. 21 playing 21 seasons. Again, I’m weird.
More of it is that a handful of weeks of this will be a building block, but it won’t be enough. Next year, with the team the Wolves are building, could really start to emerge — not in the sense of contention, mind you, but in the sense of seeing the blueprint start to take shape. It would almost be like KG’s rookie year (26 wins) and his second year (40 wins).
Garnett should be here to shepherd that and to contribute to that. He should get a proper going away around the NBA for an amazing career. And then he should retire in peace, learning from Brett Favre’s 2010 season and Jim Thome’s 2011 season that one year of magic — assuming next year is what I think it could be — does not qualify you for a second year of magic.
For now, though, let’s live in the moment. Last night was a game nobody thought would ever happen — not even KG himself. It was more than nostalgia. It was an honest homecoming, the rekindling of a love affair. And it was beautiful.