Welcome to my all-new, all-daily blog! You might notice that I’ve dropped the second”G” off of”Blogg Fanatic”. Henceforth this column will be known as”Blog Fanatic”, which is a lot more intuitive and easier to look up on Google. I’m sure purists will eventually forgive me for deviating from the correct spelling of Mogg.
Speaking of changes, a grand total of nobody has shown any interest in hearing the story about how I ended up working for StarCityGames.com. With such high demand, how could I hold back this tale any longer?
The tale begins around January of 2003. I’d been doing tournament reporting for The Sideboard for almost a year, working for Thomas Pannell. Thomas was the editor of The Sideboard at the time, and headed up both the content for the site and the tournament coverage of Grand Prix and Pro Tours for Wizards.
I’d assume that very few people outside of the Atlanta area and the Pro Circuit know very much about Thomas. Like all human beings, Thomas has his strengths and his faults. Unfortunately, many of his duties as head of the Sideboard brought out his foibles. I don’t really want to speak ill of Thomas, because this column isn’t about trashing other people. Everyone has their good and bad points, and it’s only human to have flaws. It would not be fair to Thomas to attack him in this forum, and it is not my intent to cast him as a villain. However, this story does not make sense without Thomas, and it is a necessary evil that places him as the catalyst in my hiring at StarCityGames.com.
As I said, I’d been doing work for The Sideboard for almost a year. I covered a ton of Grand Prix, a few Pro Tours, Worlds, and had typed up all the major Constructed decklists for U.S. and Canadian Nationals, States, and GP/PT/Worlds events. I’d had an article published in the Sideboard print magazine.
In January of 2003, I was owed back pay for nearly all of these events. I had a part time job as a typist at the National Center for the Urban Community doing database work, but it was sporadic at that point, as I had dedicated myself wholly to doing work for Thomas. I’m not talking just a little backlog – I’m talking literally six months worth of work that I had not been compensated for in the least. I had to call my dad that January to borrow money for rent, because I was this close to being evicted from my New Orleans apartment for non-payment. Here I was, twenty-seven years old, and I had to call my parent for rent money when I was working a full time job! That phone conversation went well.
Me:”Hey dad, I need to borrow rent money.”
Dad:”Aren’t you working? I thought you had two jobs.”
Me:”Well, I do, but one of them isn’t paying me.”
Me:”The reporting job.”
Dad:”Well, maybe it’s time you got a real job.”
Me:”It is a real job! I’m traveling the world, they just owe me (a lot of money – I told him the amount. Wizards asks that writers not discuss their pay structures as part of their non-disclosure agreements. I honored it then, and I’ll honor it now.)”
Dad:”If they aren’t paying you, you need to either get paid or get another job.”
That went well. Not only did I completely swallow my pride to call my dad for a loaner, but he was essentially telling me that my work was worthless. Considering that he supported himself as a rock musician into his late 20’s, you’d figure he’d be a lot more open to nontraditional employment opportunities.
Either way, something did have to change. I couldn’t start getting into debt when I was owed tremendous amounts of money. Grand Prix: New Orleans (January 3rd and January 4th 2003) was when I finally sat down with Thomas and had”the talk.” It wasn’t very traumatic, but I laid it down on the table – I was willing to commit to full-time coverage to Wizards, but they had to start paying me up front, they had to pay me what I was owed, and I wanted to start having my expenses paid. For Grand Prix, I was covering my own room and board and travel fees. I barely made a profit covering these events, but I did it for both the love of the game, and for the hopes that my hard work would eventually be rewarded by a dedicated job.
Thomas listened, and basically shot down the entire idea. It simply wasn’t feasible or in the budget. He would try to see about getting me paid in a timelier manner and throw me a couple of extra foils, but he wouldn’t be able to commit to me as a full time freelancer. (I’m happy to report that freelance reporters have been paid in a much more timely fashion in the post-Thomas era.)
That really sucked. I had lost my writing position at MagicTheGathering.com two weeks earlier (that’s a story for another day), and had basically been blocked from doing tournament coverage as a full time job. I didn’t want to start doing database work in New Orleans full time, but I really needed to make ends meet.
Enter Pete Hoefling, owner of StarCityGames.com.
Pete contacted me completely out of the blue in late January, 2003. StarCityGames.com had grown large enough that Pete was having trouble keeping up with all the Magic cards on his own, and was thinking about hiring someone to be his full time Magic Manager. Our e-mail correspondence went something like this, and was over the course of a day or two:
Pete, first e-mail:”Hey Ben, I was thinking of creating a position of Magic Card Manager for our company. This person would be in charge of grading and sorting cards, pricing cards, and dealing with the cards. Would this be a position you are interested in?”
Me, first response:”Sounds great. I’ll take the job. Let’s work out pay and I’ll move to Roanoke.”
Pete, second e-mail:”Um….I’m still not sure I’m creating the position, right now I’m just gauging interest. Can I take it that you’re interested in the job?”
Me, on the phone:”Pete, I just got your e-mail. You don’t understand. I’ll take the job. I’m experienced with every aspect of the job, and I know I could do the job well.”
Pete, on phone:”Ok, send me your resume and I’ll look it over.”
Me, second e-mail: I sent Pete my resume, which I had conveniently had updated a week or so earlier. Gee, I wonder why I had done that?
Pete, third e-mail:”Wow, I never knew you worked for Neutral Ground. I think you’d pretty much be perfect for the position. I’ll have an offer to you within a week.”
Pete, a couple of days later:”Ok, here’s my offer. Please don’t show it to anyone else while we’re negotiating.”
Me, accidentally sending the response to The Ferrett and Pete, because I got it mixed up with an e-mail I had been writing to The Ferrett at the time,”Ok, I want this, this and this changed.”
The Ferrett,”Um, I don’t think you meant to send this to me chief.”
Pete,”God damn it! Was I not clear about not sending this to anyone else?”
Me, patching things up,”Sorry Pete, it was a completely accident! It won’t happen again. Blah blah blah explain how I got the two e-mails mixed up blah blah blah Jesus H Christ, I can’t believe I just did that when I’m trying to get this job blah blah blah I am the biggest idiot on earth blah blah blah there goes this job.”
Luckily for me, Pete Hoefling is literally one of the most understanding human beings on Earth. We smoothed that snafu over, and within a week I had packed my belongings and Sir Charles and Xialou into a U-Haul and was on my way to Roanoke to start my career with StarCityGames.com.
Bonus Trivia section: What was my first official task as a StarCityGames.com employee?
A) Grading cards
B) Sorting cards
C) Buying cards
D) Selling cards
E) Pricing cards
F) None of the above
The answer is, of course,”F) None of the above.”
My first official job, as an employee of StarCityGames.com, was to shovel and salt the front walk.
I tell you, I took this job for the glamour and fame.