The day after EVO 2016, when I message Long Island Joe Ciaramelli for a quick quote or two, he’s busy replying to every person who reached out to him on Twitter over the weekend. There are tens of thousands of tweets to get through. He’s replying and retweeting at a rate of three or four messages per minute when I contact him, and has been for the past nine hours. From the flow of replies and retweets that continues even during our conversation, I get the impression that he’s still got a long way to go.
The reason Joe’s inbox is overflowing is that he ascended from gregarious esports everyman to SOLE BEARER OF THE AEGIS OF AMERICAN GLORY this weekend during Street Fighter V at EVO 2016.
He ascended from gregarious esports everyman
Fighting games are defined by the Top 8: get into the Top 8 and secure a spot on the main stage during Championship Sunday, or else wallow in anonymous squalor while the serious contenders duke it out under the dazzling lights. On Saturday, when EVO regulars Justin Wong and Kenneth Pope were eliminated, it seemed there would be no Americans in the Street Fighter V Top 8. And then Long Island Joe came along, snuck past Kazunoko for Top 8, and went on to beat another heavily-favored Japanese player, Eita, in such resounding fashion that the upset landed in the number one slot of ESPN’s illustrious Top 10 and sent the whole venue into an uproar so loud it scattered flocks of pigeons three counties away.
When I speak to Joe, who ultimately finished fifth, he’s still riding the high, and his messages come zinging back in multiple parts, riddled with typos and “hahaha”s. I’ve cleaned up a bit in the reproduction below, while trying to preserve the breakneck pace—Long Island Joe, in victory, is an avatar of fast-talking, ebullient energy.
Joe: Hey hey.
Justin: Hey dude, thanks for taking the time to write me back! First question: did you expect to become this sole representative of American hopes and dreams, and how did you feel assuming that role?
Joe: I mean it is what it is, I was the only American hahaha so I couldn’t run from that or make it something that it wasn’t. I didn’t expect to be top eight let alone the only rep from the USA! It was crazy—I was nervous, scared, happy, worried, stressed—so many things!
Justin: What was the atmosphere like in there with everyone cheering for you? Had you ever experienced or imagined anything like that?
Joe: Close, but not to that scale at all. It kinda amps me up haha I get a rush from it.
Justin: I’d love to dive down into elements of your personal life to get a feel for the person you are. Your Twitter profile mentions movies, music, and food—any specific examples of your favorites, and why you like them so much?
Joe: Music is a pretty rough one because I may not look like it but I listen to the craziest heaviest nastiest sounding metal. All sorts of metal. Death metal grindcore hardcore deathcore hahaha the list goes on—tech metal—blah blah blah. Very big into horror movies and just wild movies in general. Kind of just as extreme as the music. Foreign stuff, underground stuff.
Justin: Would love to hear the story behind your tattoos.
Joe: Tattoos are for Mom; she passed away years ago, but they’re for her. Got them while I was in Japan.
Justin: Right, I read about your mom. Hence the pink backpack, right? My condolences. Was that win over Eita for her?
Joe: Not necessarily. I played for the people. For that entire stadium, and anyone watching at home.
Justin: My favorite tweet from you is on July 16 (before you made Top 8) when you said, “I didn’t play on stream at all / But I’m still here guys.” Which in retrospect looks extremely badass.
Joe: Yeah I have a weird thing—I try my best to not force attention on me while I’m playing. I never tweet like “hey, made it out of this pool, beat this player, now in semis of this pool.” But I know people are curious so I say things like that.
Justin: Trying not to jinx it, maybe?
Joe: I mean if someone tweets me and asks I say yeah I’m in winners or whatever. But I never really just throw it out.
Justin: You seem to be all about replying to people’s tweets. I mean you’ve been replying to like three tweets a minute for the past… basically 17 hours??
Joe: I’m trying [to reply to everyone]… I want everyone to know they are important to me. No matter how big or small, if you play or don’t, whatever, I’m grateful.
Justin: I have a request from my editor to ask how you feel about making America great again.
Joe: Hahaha someone said they said something on ESPN or SportsCenter about me making it feel like America better than Trump.
Justin: Haha that’s great. One other question: how many teams have approached you about sponsorship?
Joe: None. Unless it’s on Twitter and it got flooded.
You hear that, esports teams? SWARM THIS MAN!
Photo Credit: Stephanie Lindgren / @Vexanie