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.
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!