You love to hate them, and you hate to need them, but you do: Cheaters add spice, and it makes me sick.

You love to hate them, and you hate to admit you need them. I’m talking about those miscreants who bend, cheese, intentionally misinterpret, and downright break the rules. They’re a blight on the game, but it may not survive without them. It makes me sick — but I might be getting better.

As we’ve discussed before, Magic is a relatively dull spectator sport. If I asked you to name three noteworthy things that happened at US Nationals, and you’re likely to remember Benafel, McCarrel, and Leiher – not Trevor Blackwell’s masterful play in the Finals, or the player who Misdirected a Blood Oath (knowing that the target wouldn’t change) just to save himself six damage — the margin by which he won his game. Therein lies the problem. The bad boys make the game exciting.

Our media-driven, image-obsessed society, where bad is good and good is boring, wants villains. We’re a Christmas turkey so chock-full of self-loathing stuffing that we need someone else to hate. People watch Jerry Springer so they can feel better about themselves.”Gee, Lurleen, at least I’m not sleeping with your brother and his goat.” We’re a planet of little-better-than-apes who watch NASCAR just in case there’s a crash.

Magic society is American society in microcosm. We foster villainy out of some perverse desire for it. Ever since James Dean, we’ve loved our bad boys. The difference is that James Dean embodied rebellion. Today’s soi-disant rebels are nothing more than greedy social sheep. They’re petty criminals who wouldn’t know an original character trait if they mised it from a JSS washout.”I dress the way everyone else does to express my individuality.”

Well, Magic players everywhere, I’m here to tell you that as long as you put up with the”confidence player,” you’re stuck with him. Celebrate him, and he’s the cold you can never shake. So long as you watch him cheat someone else and don’t say anything about it, he’s going to cheat you later. For every misdemeanor neatly chewed, swallowed, and digested, you’re going to get capital crimes jammed down your throat.

To the”I don’t want to get involved” crowd, I say stopping kidding yourself. You’re already involved. What you need to do is get involved in a different way. Stop turning your head. Stop being on their team. Stop drafting with them. Stop putting up with them. As soon as they lose their social acceptance, they’ll change their ways or go away. Either way, we all win.

If you’re worried about losing your friends, I suggest that you consider new friendship criteria. If you’re worried about losing Pro Tour income, you’re the problem.

The DCI is turning up the heat; Collin Jackson was the first one with his fingers on the knob. Rest assured, there are many others of us who are willing to step up to that same stove.

And that’s my Final Judgement.

Sheldon K. Menery