WE LOVE YOU TEDDY!
If you’ve paid attention to a minute of U.S. soccer this World Cup, or even scrolled through mentions of it in your social feeds, chances are you’re familiar with “Teddy Goalsevelt,” the stan-turned-meme Chicagoan Mike D’Amico who’s attended each game dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt. Over the course of the tournament, he’s practically become the face of American soccer. As you might expect, his backstory is just as good as his costume. After being laid off in September, D’Amico started freelancing and surprisingly found himself with more disposable income. Then in November, he received an unexpected email from the American Outlaws—the biggest U.S. Supporter group—offering him a coveted spot in their vacation package. He hadn’t even planned on attending the World Cup but, with some extra cash socked away, he jumped at the opportunity.
Coincidentally, the agency D’Amico now works for is called Cavalry, a name Teddy Roosevelt definitely would have approved of. “I hadn’t even pieced that together but their logos are trumpets and swords,” he says via Skype from a hotel room in Recife, fresh off of giving a pep talk alongside Will Ferrell at a supporter pre-party for today’s game against Germany. The list of chance events that brought him to this moment—and to putting together his Teddy Roosevelt costume—runs long. “We could do this interview for hours and I still wouldn’t be able to go through all of the bizarre serendipitous events,” he says. We at least got through a handful of them in our talk. Here, D’Amico explains the inspiration behind his costume, how it’s holding up in the heat, and counting Will Ferrell as one of his fans.
Two buds chilling at the World Cup, NBD.
Photo: U.S. Soccer
MTV STYLE: How was the pre-party for the U.S. vs. Germany game?
No big deal. I just got to hang out with Will Ferrell. Just another Wednesday.
Was he familiar with your Teddy Roosevelt costume?
Yeah, I’m just finding that out from the other U.S. soccer guys. They were in a van with him on the way over and told him I’d be there and he was like, “The guy from TV? That’s the guy I was just talking about!” He was excited and he was so nice. He went out of his way to involve me in everything. We went out on stage at the U.S. soccer party and gave a little pump-up speech to the guys there. It was a blast.
Tell me about the origins of this costume. Did it start out as a Halloween costume?
[Laughs] No, not even. It’s made its debut at the World Cup. I travel a lot for U.S. soccer, at least domestically—this is my first international soccer trip—and there’s always guys at the games that are dressed a little more interestingly than everyone else. There’s always the colonial soldier, the guy in the WWI outfit with the aviators and pilot helmet, and everyone always eats that stuff up. So I thought, If I’m traveling halfway around the world spending all of this money and time, this is probably the time for me to step up my game. As soon as I decided I was going to Brazil, I decided I would do something different. I started thinking about different cultural icons and was also thinking about the fact that I had nine months of beard growth—it was gigantic—so I knew I could dye or carve it into something. One day, Teddy Roosevelt just kind of hit me. I thought it was perfect because I was going to Brazil and was going to be in the jungle. It’s everything that Teddy Roosevelt would have been interested in. If you want someone leading your team and fans into battle in the jungle, it’s Teddy Roosevelt.
He was an OG explorer, going on safaris and hunting rhinos.
Yeah, the guy is kind of like a cartoon character. The things I’ve read about what he did from the Rough Riders to the expeditions to being New York chief of police—he had such an incredible life and it’s all so rough-and-tumble American. It’s perfect for this.
At the games, are you speaking and acting like him as well?
Yes and no. For the photos, I try to get into character as much as I can, but the rest of the time it’s me, because I have my eye on the game and I’m in it as much as everyone else there or I’m trying to get a song or jam going in the stands. That’s kind of hard to do as Teddy Roosevelt.
Today is the day. We salute you, Teddy Goalsevelt. pic.twitter.com/xss0zAFByl— Jacques Pantano (@Jaye_Pea) June 22, 2014
Where’d you find the costume?
Almost the entirety of the costume was assembled through Amazon. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.
What other kinds of things did you pack for the games or was it just this costume?
The funny thing is, I wasn’t even 100% sure about it. I put it together and thought it was interesting but didn’t know if people would think it was kind of weird so I also packed all sorts of USA stuff like my USA suspenders, prescription glasses that have USA lenses, my USA knee-high socks, USA jerseys from the last handful of years, and all kinds of stuff.
Is this your first World Cup?
It is—the first of many. I think this is going to be a regular thing for me. Maybe not necessarily as Teddy Goalsevelt next time.
Have you run into a George Washington or Ben Franklin yet?
Yeah, I’m one of hundreds of people that came and brought something amazing to the games as far as wardrobe goes. I’ve seen George Washingtons. I saw a group of five Abraham Lincolns all together. I’ve seen General Patton. I’ve seen Rosie the Riveter. The list goes on. There’s tons of great costumes. I just happen to be the lucky dummy who got shown on TV.
How’s the outfit withstanding the heat?
Not well. [Laughs] It’s so hot in there. I knew that going in. After I put it together I realized I had managed to cover up every inch of my body and I was going to Brazil. But the reaction has been so good, I knew I had to do it. And once people saw it, I knew I’d have to wear it to all of the matches.
Are you staying for the entirety of the World Cup or are you just there as long as the U.S. is in it?
I’m not in Recife and since I traveled here today from Natal and went to the party tonight, I got back and found out that my job, unbeknownst to me, had started a GoFundMe to keep me here. They said that they’d match dollar-to-dollar every donation up to $2,500 to keep me here for the next round when the U.S. advances. That’s amazing and the fact that people are willing to donate their money to keep me here is crazy and humbling and I’m super grateful. It’s such an incredible experience, getting to see another country and meet so many people. The passion and camaraderie in soccer is unlike anything else.