Josh "JumpOnStuff" Russo was in a bind: he had qualified for the east regional of NBC's $100,000 Universal Open Rocket League tournament, but then his partner bailed the night before the televised showdown. Unable to locate a skilled substitute who could get to Philadelphia in time, he turned to his father, Nick Russo—a man who had never played Rocket League before this weekend.
Unsurprisingly, the Russo clan (playing as Actually Toxic) didn't put up much of a fight against a pair of pro players at Saturday's regional. G2 Esports' Dillon "Rizzo" Rizzo and his own last-minute sub, Stephen "Stev" Edinger, scored a few quick goals in the first game while Dad struggled with the controls. But G2 soon proved to be good sports about the situation, laying off of the aggression and playing hooky with the ball while the clock ran down.
And then a little magic happened in game two. With Dad positioned near the G2 goal, Rizzo, Stev, and JumpOnStuff gingerly tapped the ball back and forth to line up an easy shot—and after a few awkward seconds of fumbling with his gamepad, Dad finally backed straight up and sealed the deal with a rousing goal. Watch here:
Actually Toxic didn't move on in the tournament, but Dad was an immediate Rocket League sensation. Players, analysts, and fans alike tweeted praise for the father who stepped up to help his son on the TV stage, not to mention the pro players who gave him a shining moment in the spotlight. Dad quickly became a community meme in the process.
Nick Russo might be new to Rocket League, but he knows team sports well: he is a career ice hockey coach at various age levels, and this year led Pennsylvania's Bayard Rustin Knights to the USA Hockey High School National Championship. JumpOnStuff says people have asked if he was concerned that his dad would embarrass him on TV, but there was no reason to worry.
"I knew the winning odds playing with him, but I also know he taught me how to pre/post-game interview," says JumpOnStuff. "So I wasn't worried about him doing anything but representing our community as well as the rest of us."
As for Rocket League Dad, despite the allure of his newfound internet fame and 100% shooting accuracy at a LAN tournament, he's opted to hang up his controller and go out on a high note.
"Being involved in sports my whole life, people have no idea how difficult this is," says Nick. "Considering I have a senior citizen discount, I know it's time to retire."