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Timberwolves Superfan Jiggly Boy: ‘It’s OK to Just Go Nuts with Your Joy for These Guys’

It's an exciting time to be a Timberwolves fan, making it the perfect time for the franchise's most excitable fan, John 'Jiggly Boy' Sweeney, to talks hoops with us.

Twitter: @BHill_SportsBiz|

Jiggly Boy, pictured here in 2015.

Wolves. Back.

The etymology of that catchphrase isn't complicated (or is it?), and it's reverberating, basketball-like, around the heads of Minnesota Timberwolves fans this morning. Last night, your Wolves continued their circuitous path through the Western Conference Semifinals by dismantling the Denver Nuggets 115-70, thus forcing a decisive game seven Sunday in the Rocky Mountains.

Now, Racket isn't what you'd call a go-to news source for hoop-heads, though we've covered this postseason Wolves run through lenses like tattoos and bars (and, last postseason, merch guys). In anticipation of game seven, however, we're busting out the big guns like KG: an exclusive conversation with superfan Jiggly Boy.

Twenty-one years ago, in cahoots with the Timberwolves marketing department, longtime Brave New Workshop owner John Sweeney cooked up the character Jiggly Boy. For Jiggly Boy's first major appearance at Target Center in 2004, Sweeney started dancing on the Jumbotron, ripped off his shirt to reveal "WOLVES 1" etched across his bare torso, and kept on dancing as actors playing security guards escorted him away. Unaware of the bit, fans were outraged to see a Wolves-loving party animal go out like that, and the stunt became an early viral video. Sweeney would return as Jiggly Boy for KG's homecoming in 2015, and spin the persona into a lovely charitable campaign.

But enough history!

We were lucky enough to connect with the franchise's biggest superfan as T-Wolves fever grips our state like it hasn't in two decades, back when Jiggly Boy was born. Get hyped. Stay hyped. Wolves in seven.

So you've been in Singapore and Korea the past few weeks?

Yeah, and it's funny how many people recognized me as Jiggly Boy over there. Ya know, is such a big part of their culture. I got out of the airplane in Seoul, South Korea, and like five people came up to me in the first 10 minutes. It was hilarious.

No way. That's so funny. So how closely have you followed the Wolves this year?

Oh, real close. I've been out of town, so I've been watching the games on TV, but yeah it has been just awesome. I made it to Target Center quite a bit during the year, but we have two sons who are traveling aboard, and I've been out of town following them. Hopefully if the Wolves win on Sunday, I'll be there for a couple games during the next series.

What's your general feeling as we head into game seven, after pummeling the Nuggets last night?

A couple things occurred to me. In 2004, during that Denver series, I danced with the Timberwolves Dancers. But the whole premise of that dance was, in the Denver Post, some guys on the Nuggets had said that Target Center was the quietest arena in the whole NBA. So I took the mic, said I was too ticked off to dance because all these people in Denver think this is a quiet place—let's make some noise! They played "Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC and we danced.

That would have been 20 years ago… so my first thought about the game last night, was how much the arena affected the game. I think in the post-game interview the Denver coach even mentioned that, when the crowd got engaged, they were cooked. I was really impressed with those 20 years of pent-up energy; the fans are playing a big role. Which is odd, because I couldn't believe they lost two in a row at home with that much energy. But I don't know, they're kind of a young team, so maybe they thought it was easier than it was after winning those first two in Denver. It's still the big dance, it's still The Joker.

I don't want to jinx anything, but do you want to offer a prediction for game seven?

I think game seven is going to come down to overtime, and Jaden McDaniels is going to hit a three to win it.

Book it! You've had such a multi-faceted career, but how much do you think about Jiggly Boy when you reflect on life?

I actually think about it more than you'd think. One reason is: It's still hilarious to me that—20 years ago is when I first danced, and seven years ago is when we did the Garnett thing—people still give a crap, right? Like when I go to the games today, people ask me for selfies. I think the reason is that it was just a really good bit that showed people you shouldn't be afraid to have a good time. It's encouraging to see that joy in the world. The second reason is I try to raise as much money as I possibly can for the Smile Network International. I check in with them to make sure the donations are still coming in, because they're saving kids' lives with cleft palate surgery.

Do you know how many kids they've helped through the Jiggly Boy initiative?

Between 400 and 500.

Incredible. So we're at this 20-year mark, and Jiggly Boy came onto the scene in, really, the only other hyper-exciting era of Wolves basketball. It feels like a real bookend now, to have that happening again exactly two decades later. So I have to ask: Have you and the Wolves talked about, provided we get more games at Target Center this postseason, the possibility of Jiggly Boy's triumphant return?

[Laughs.] What's the best way to say this… let's just say if everything happens OK on the court, there's a chance of that happening. I'd like to see if Garnett and I can do something, if he comes back for a game, because there are similarities between Garnett, Ant, and just the energy. There's a sense of playful irreverence that the team has, and I think that was also true 20 years ago with Sprewell and all those guys. They had that same demeanor of, "We don't really care, we're just gonna go win and play some basketball."

Totally, and obviously pretty sensitive territory, given Garnett's longstanding beef with the current ownership that… doesn't seem to want to give up the team anymore. I'm sure that'd be a delicate process.

It could also be really interesting, exciting, or delicate if it's the Celtics because: Which team is KG going to be rooting for?

Anything else in the world of Jiggly Boy or the world of Timberwolves basketball that we haven't touched on?

The reason the whole bit happened, and kind of the premise behind Jiggly Boy, was that it really is OK, even in the state of passive-aggressive celebration, to have fun and support your team in an unbridled way, right? Come hell or high water, we just love these guys. And I think this is a really lovable team, and now we've got the success behind it. I hope Timberwolves fans embrace that. Whether they win on Sunday or win the Finals or whatever, this is a team we can get behind; it's OK to just go nuts with your joy for these guys playing basketball. It's great for the city, it's great for the state, it's great for the world I think. That's what I hope, that we can all be an example of energetic fandom.

Unrelated here, but I was reading some Jiggly Boy history, and I gotta ask: Were you really friends with Chris Farley?

Oh yeah. We grew up together, our dads went to high school together, and I'm still close with his brothers. We lived across the street from each other in Chicago, and yeah, old family friends. We're from Madison, Wisconsin, and we all went to this place called Edgewood, a Dominican Catholic high school where, ya know, fat rich kids can have a lot of fun. So that's what we did.

Love it. I'm a big fan, and it feels like with David Spade and Dana Carvey's podcast—where they did that big multi-part series where they talked to all Farley's friends and family—combined with the upcoming biopic, there's really a renewed cultural remembrance and celebration of his incredible talent.

Again, so much joy. All he really wanted was to make people laugh. He's well-missed. I'll be with a bunch of high school buddies on Sunday for the Wolves game, actually, and I'm sure we'll share some stories.

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