Wednesday, June 25, 2014
You may not know his name, but you definitely know Mike D’Amico’s face. Better known as Teddy Goalsevelt, D’Amico is the World Cup fan who shot to fame by emulating the rough-riding 26th president of the United States. Teddy became an immediate Internet favorite thanks to his impassioned war cry.
But if you think becoming a viral Internet sensation is easy, you have another think coming, according to the VCU Brandcenter alumnus.
In fact, D’Amico suggests the headline of this story should read “Random coincidence makes man famous.”
So how did D’Amico — who wasn’t even a soccer fan five years ago — become the “most epic fan at the World Cup?”
“That’s actually kind of a funny story,” he said. “So the story starts with me getting laid off in September, which at the time was pretty rough.”
He spent a couple of weeks with no income before he started freelancing, which, he says, in advertising pays better than a salary. He quickly went from making a “comfortable” living to making what seemed like “a crazy amount of money,” which he started saving for nothing in particular.
In November, D’Amico received an email from the American Outlaws, the supporter group for the U.S. soccer team that organizes trips to the World Cup for hundreds of U.S. soccer fans each year.
“I had almost forgotten about the fact that a couple of years ago I had signed up for the waitlist for their trip,” D’Amico said. “I had applied … thinking it would never happen. I got this email saying, ‘If you want to go, we need you to send us $5,000 in a month.’
“So [there I was] with some extra money sitting in the bank and this email here in front of me saying, ‘Hey, you have the right amount to go to Brazil,’ and at that point I talked to some other people and I’m like, ‘This is fate, right? This is definitely not a coincidence.’ Everyone agreed, so I went ahead and spent the money and now here I am.”
“Here” is Brazil, where D’Amico is having the time of his life reveling not so much in his newfound fame as in the attention that fame has brought to a sport he loves.
“The one thing that I keep trying to reiterate is that I’m just a crazy person who got lucky,” he said. “There were enough people interested in and watching U.S. soccer that an image of me being a lunatic can go viral. That’s really my favorite part.”
It should be noted that it’s also a coincidence that D’Amico is a soccer fan at all.
“I am a very passionate sports fan in general. And that’s part of the reason I ended up getting involved in soccer because … you see the entire planet aside from a few countries that are so passionate about soccer — it’s like all of our sports combined. … And I’m saying to myself, ‘There’s got to be something. There’s something I’m missing.’ … The 2010 World Cup was completely out of control, crazy, over the top for U.S. fans for excitement, drama and everything, and so at that point, I said ‘Enough is enough. I need to give this a legitimate chance.’
“I gave myself what I call a soccer boot camp, because I think the thing that was separating me from being a fan was lack of knowledge. I just didn’t really understand the game. So what used to look boring to me, now that I understand what’s happening, is more interesting. So for one month in the summer of 2010, all I allowed myself to any media – reading, listening, watching, it had to be soccer related; that was the rule. And I went in being a casual USA World Cup soccer fan, and I came out being a world professional soccer fan.”
That kind of dedication and passion made D’Amico right at home in his days as a student at the Brandcenter, which is now part of the VCU School of Business.
“There’s a reason why no one was surprised that I was a VCU Brandcenter alum,” said D’Amico, who graduated in 2007 from the Brandcenter’s art direction track. “Because the people there are some of the most fun and outgoing and creative and amazing people that I’ve had the pleasure of being around. So I think being in that environment and being able to soak up some of that from some of the more talented, more interesting, more creative people, to me, really changed the trajectory of my whole career and my whole life. It’s a more interesting, more open lens that you see things through.”
But still we wonder: Why Teddy Roosevelt of all people?
D’Amico knew he wanted to do something fun that would get people excited.
“I thought about it more and more and finally it just hit me: Teddy Roosevelt,” D’Amico said. “Of all the presidents, of all the cultural icons, from movies, TV, to whatever in the history of the U.S., I don’t think there’s a better character that you want leading your country, your team, your fans into battle in the middle of the jungle than Teddy Roosevelt.”
Will Teddy ride again after the World Cup?
“This is all so new, I haven’t really thought past tomorrow,” D’Amico said. “But for now, Teddy is a dedicated U.S. soccer supporter and he will be at every match he can make it to.”
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