How to Win Friends and Influence Teammates

By Johnny Ginter on March 24, 2014 at 11:15a

Everybody wants to be liked, and if you've played any kind of sport, you know how important (and sometimes difficult) it can be to stake out your niche on a team. You don't necessarily have to be the best at everything, but it's usually important that you're good at something.

And what that something is can be pretty pliable. Maybe you're the person who hits home runs. Maybe you're the person whose mom drops off juice boxes at the end of every game. Maybe you're the person who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Alan Jackson lyrics and can repeat them on command, to the delight of your teammates.

It doesn't really matter how "important" that role is, it just matters that you find one and do it well. That's a good lesson to learn in life, and even the benchwarmers have their part to play.

So when I heard that Amedeo Della Valle was headed for greener pastures in Europe, I was more than a little distressed. Not because the Ohio State men's basketball team absolutely needs his three point shooting, but more because he fills an important role that all teams in every sport need to be successful: the Fan Favorite.

The Fan Favorite exists not because they're going to win you any games or score a bajillion points or whatever, the Fan Favorite exists to make rooting for your team easier for the casual fan, and to make rooting for your team more sensical to the outside observer. "I can't believe you root for the Buckeyes," a sad little turd of a human might say to you. "They're so arrogant/overrated/lame/boring/vague criticism based on nothing!" And then you pull up the video of Amedeo running for Student President and his heart melts as he says "Aw look at that floppy hair! Okay I get it now."

And truthfully, as much as Ohio State fans profess to not care what anybody thinks... we do. We aren't made of stone. A big part of us loves being the scrappy underdogs, even if we rarely are due to us being generally awesome most of the time.

That's where the Fan Favorite comes in, and once ADV leaves, there will be a big goofy hole in our hearts until we find a replacement. Here are some of the requirements for applicants:

1. A Big Ol' Smile

Personality is everything, and borderline the only thing that's required of a Fan Favorite. Della Valle has that in spades, and had a number of things going for him in this regard. First, his Sideshow Bobian haircut, bouncing up and down the court as it did. Second, the delightful Italian accent, which conjured up images of whatever Italian stereotypes you think of when Italy is brought to your attention. And third and most importantly, he has a relentlessly positive attitude that's infectious and fun as hell.

Few Fan Favorites can pull off the dour, grumpy look (Adrian Beltre being one), so if you wanna hang with us you're gonna have to bring the sunshine.

A true inspiration.

2. Don't Completely Suck

I was an okayish swimmer in high school, but soccer was always my true calling. I loved running around and kicking the hell out of a ball and occasionally pretending that I had any idea what was going on or what I was supposed to be doing. Which I never did, and that ended up being the problem. Because aside from my inherent ability to annoy others as a teenager, this was my greatest failing in my high school attempt to be a Fan Favorite.

Having some modicum of skill is necessary because people don't want to root for an underdog that constantly falls flat on his face in everything that he tries to do. At a certain point it's either mean or sad or some combination of both. Mark Titus knew this, and that's at least part of why he released his Mr. Rainmaker video. Della Valle certainly helped his cause with his performance in the comeback win against Nebraska.

Plus, being honest now, when did you start to REALLY root for Kenny Guiton, before or after the Purdue game?

3. Know Thy Social Media

How are the kids gonna know about you if you aren't tweeting, Instagramming, Snapchatting, Facebooking, and possibly Tindering your fingers off on a regular basis? Look, you may have the smile and the marginal talent, but if you can't make a solid Salt n Pepa pun that gets retweeted by co-eds and beat writers alike, you must not even be trying.

Volume, volume, volume. ADV has like six thousand or so tweets in roughly three years, which in my mind is completely unacceptable. That number should be triple what it is, and maybe, just maybe, let to his early exit from Ohio State. I mean, I'm not a basketball insider, but it seems likely.

4. Don't Overstay Your Welcome

Fan Favorites have a shelf life, which is roughly five seconds after an especially irritating loss. Instead of people going along with your shenanigans, they'll start to wonder why you're taking up a roster spot (because obviously the person not good enough to take your position would be the difference maker in a defeat).

That's sad, but also the nature of the Fan Favorite. You need to know how to stick around just long enough to be beloved, and then get out of dodge while they still have the opportunity to miss you. Who knows how Buckeye fans might've soured on Kenny G had he ended up stringing a few bad games in a row, but guess what, we'll never know because that dude is outta here.

And so, sadly, is Amedeo Della Valle.

You were (and are) a fun basketball player to watch and to root for. No, you weren't Diebler 2.0, and you weren't the difference maker against anyone except a Nebraska team we should've stomped anyway, but none of that matters now. You had fun, and we had fun watching you have fun.

That's pretty much the definition of a perfect Fan Favorite, and we'll miss you. Arrivederci, Amedeo!


Comments Show All Comments

buckeyeEddie27's picture

I'll miss the 'Deo Wig Cam at The Schott during games.   That was funny.

Shine on you crazy diamond.  We'll miss you.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

sb97's picture

I generally don't follow twitter feeds for OSU athletes.  I just find it creepy but I did follow ADV's feed.   That guy just seemed to genuinely enjoy being a college athlete and college life in general.  It was very refreshing during a time when so many people want to focus on the dark side of college athletics.

Johnny Ginter's picture

i follow that same rule for the same reason but ive made two exceptions: james louis ("I LOVE CEREAL WITH WATER") and michael bennett

brandonbauer87's picture

All of my favorite current Buckeyes are leaving before their next season. Thanks for the friendly reminder that I won't be cheering on Craft, ADV, Philly or Kenny G anymore. 

Fort Seneca Steve's picture

Well said Johnny G.!  I still feel that the Nebraska game was a sign of things to come from Amedeo.  Guess now we will never know.  Good luck Amedeo.

Before there was Larry Bird, there was "Hondo" John Havilcek! The Pride of Martins Ferry, Ohio!

doodah_man's picture

I think what made it so real with Amedeo was it was so hard to figure why you liked him, you just did. I looked for him when they put him in and loved it when he had a great game. I wouldn't care if they were paying him $300,000,000.00. I wish all the best for him.

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

thatlillefty's picture

Sorry, but this italian kid could never have been a true fan favorite. That title belongs to Mr. Slam Thompson. Someone who actually sees the court and makes SportsCenter highlights on the regular.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I'm not sure I agree with "don't completely suck." Far be it from me to suggest anyone who plays college sports "sucks," but the basketball walk-on is the epitome of the fan favorite. Titus built his whole brand on it -- if he had been P.J. Hill instead of slightly worse than P.J. Hill, he would have been just another not-so-great scholarship player instead of Mr. Trillion.


The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.