For those who didn’t grow up playing the Nintendo 64, the video game Goldeneye 007 revolutionized first-person shooting games. Like Halo in the early 2000s, Goldeneye became ubiquitous among twitchy gamers looking for bragging rights among their friend group. Based on the 1995 film of the same name, Pierce Brosnan’s first as James Bond, Goldeneye 007 sold seven million copies and grossed over $250 million worldwide. It’s still so popular that it has recently been re-released on modern consoles with updated graphics and controls.
The game had multiple playable characters, including Bond, the beautiful Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), and turncoat double agent Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). However, Oddjob was usually the most popular character. He may not be as suave as Bond or stunning as Natalya, but he had a distinct advantage. He was diminutive, a small target. I’m not sure why Oddjob was a playable character. He was from the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. It also seemed strange that the developers included a character with such an advantage. Regardless, Oddjob lives on in video game infamy.
Our compact friend popped into my mind when I discussed the Pro Bowl with Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press. We were talking about how the NFL has changed the event. Instead of playing an exhibition football game, which seems insane after a 17-game season, they’ve spun it off into various skills-based events. There is a longest-drive competition, one that involves precision passing, and a “gridiron gauntlet.” On the final day, there’s a flag football game.
Dodgeball is my favorite event, though. It reminds me of gym class when I’d square off with my friends for bragging rights, much like with video games. Some kids could throw the ball hard enough to take your head off. Others shifted into another dimension when you threw it at them. I was slow, threw hard but inaccurately, and caught nearly everything thrown at me. It was admittedly a strange skillset. The hardest guy to get out, though, was small and quick. You’d have to take a little off to throw it near him, and he almost always picked it. He was kind of like Oddjob, where his stature was his advantage.
That’s why I think Duke Shelley would be a sneaky good dodgeball player.
The Duke is lightning-quick and has soft hands. He’s good at reading the ball out of other players’ hands and probably is capable of throwing hard. But, most of all, he’s a small target. An opposing player has to be accurate to hit him. They will have to wire in their toss, which should give Shelley a better chance of getting a grip on it. He also has a relentless spirit. He’s a sixth-round pick who the Chicago Bears released while he was recovering in the hot tub. Shelley is the kind of guy I want at the end of a dodgeball game with everything on the line. He’ll make the catch to let the other guys back in.
Is Shelly Minnesota’s best dodgeball player? Of course not. That’s Justin Jefferson. He’s a three-tool player who can run, catch, and throw with aplomb. He’s Bond, the titular character who saves the day. Kevin O’Connell is Boris. He may have a cannon arm, but he’s also kinda nerdy. Kirk Cousins is Baron Samedi; he uses voodoo magic to stave off injury. Danielle Hunter? Jaws. He’s ginormous and reticent. Every one of those characters is beloved for different reasons, but none of them resonate like Oddjob.
One of the greatest things sports offer is the opportunity to see something you haven’t seen before. Jefferson’s catch in Buffalo is an obvious example. But we could also include Minnesota’s historic comeback against the Indianapolis Colts, or their Houdini acts in London, Miami, and Washington. The problem with the old Pro Bowl is that we’ve seen bad football before. Sure, it’s the best players all gathered in one space, but it’s more exciting to see them tap into their multifaceted abilities.
Who knows if Shelley will make a Pro Bowl? He may not even be on the Vikings next year. But I’m convinced he’d dominate in dodgeball if he ever makes it. It’s probably his hidden talent. People always pick Oddjob for a reason.