INDIANAPOLIS -- Jimmy Staley already has demanded a recount. As the campaign manager for #Deo4President, Staley is convinced his candidate was robbed.
Amedeo Della Valle, after all, only had two platforms in his hastily convened campaign for Ohio State student government president:
That he would officially declare snow days via Twitter.
That he would teach people how to spell his name properly, via a video tutorial where he went letter by letter with single sheets of paper to spell out all 16 letters.
“The whole video was about spelling his name right,” said Staley, whose day job is Ohio State basketball student manager, “and the official results come back and his name is spelled wrong? C’mon.”
Added fellow campaign manager Kyle Davis: “I think they counted people who were dead or something.”
Chances are, if Staley gets his wish for the recount, Della Valle would now win in a landslide.
The Alba, Italy, native, previously best known for his moppy hair, scored 12 points, pulled down six rebounds, blocked three shots and was, in Thad Matta’s estimation, "the difference in the game," as Ohio State rallied from 18 down to beat Nebraska in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.
“I definitely would win now,” Della Valle agreed.
Truth is, Della Valle is a reluctant politician. OK, he’s not a politician at all. That’s all the byproduct of a late-night inspiration from an old episode of "The West Wing," a video concocted on the road in lieu of a few beers, and an Italian goofball’s willingness to put himself in a video wearing a variety of ridiculous outfits.
But more on that later because for these purposes, we first must discuss Della Valle’s other job -- being a basketball player. Prior to the Nebraska game, Della Valle, who came to Columbus by way of Findlay Prep in Nevada, averaged just 12 minutes and 4.1 points this season but earned the 21 he played against Nebraska with hustle plays, a big 3 and defense, including a critical snuff of a David Rivers’ layup that set up the last push in Ohio State’s rally.
The idea that Della Valle’s defense could save the day would have been laughable two years ago. When he came to Columbus, he was your typical European player, sweet on offense, not so much on D. But two years in the gym and early morning workouts paid off to the point that Matta even used the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder (up from 170) in the post for part of the game.
“That was a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work,” Della Valle said. “And it paid off. I was just thinking, ‘Finally, finally.’”
He said that in the locker room after leaving the more formal press conference setting. There, under the bright lights and microphones, Della Valle had been asked about his ability to hit 4 of 4 free throws in the final 12 seconds after clanking two badly only minutes earlier.
“Yeah, I think I didn’t release the ball well at all on my first two free throws,” he said. “And to be honest, I don’t really like the ball. I hate the ball.”
The ball here, it turns out is a Spalding, not the Nike version the Buckeyes practice with and Della Valle said it felt smaller and "weird" in his hands.
Of course, such honesty could very well doom his political future if Staley can resurrect it.
Not that there’s much to resurrect. Della Valle’s dive into American politics lasted just a few days, begun when Staley, inspired by a 3 a.m. rerun of "The West Wing" decided one of his players ought to run for student government president. Obvious choice Aaron Craft is a senior and no longer an option, so Staley went with option two, Della Valle, a popular kid on campus who, he said, "loves Ohio State."
There was some initial concern about his eligibility -- “Could an Italian really be the Ohio State student government president?" Davis asked -- but Staley and Davis figured, why not roll the dice?
Della Valle agreed and one night on the road at Indiana, instead of going out for beers, Staley and Davis made a video. They’d seen the other candidates' pitches filled with big promises. One promised to fight the administration’s decision to eliminate the tradition of jumping in Mirror Lake prior to the Michigan game; another vowed to do something about the price of textbooks.
“Student government has no real power,’’ Staley said. “So we always find out about snow days a few hours ahead of time. Amedeo was going to have an official Amedeo snow day.’’
Splicing together the theme song from “Rocky” (Italian Stallion, get it?), Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” game highlights and random pictures of Della Valle in everything from a whirlpool to a banana suit, Staley and Davis submitted a video to nominate Della Valle as a write-in candidate.
He finished fifth overall, with 479 votes but the election was the best voter turnout since 1972, when current Ohio governor John Kasich won.
Staley and Davis call that the Della Valle effect.
And hey, there’s always next year.
And more, there’s always Saturday, when the Buckeyes play hated rival Michigan for a shot at the Big Ten Tournament title game.
If Della Valle plays like he did against Nebraska, they might as well call off the election next year and crown him king.