Editor’s Note: In an effort to keep the Star City reader’s finger on the pulse of the game, we’re bringing you the first in what we hope to be a series of interviews with the movers and shakers of Magic. For our first installment, we sent our own resident Judge to Anchorage to interview the most influential member of the city’s growing Magic scene: Himself.
(Say, who typed up that self-congratulatory piece of forewording anyway? – The Ferrett, hoping the Hardy Boys can crack "The Case Of The Phantom Editor")
Reporter’s Note: I was warmly welcomed into the comfortable yet cluttered suburban home that Mr. Menery shares with his wife of eleven years, Lisa, and their three cats, Max, Lars, and Duncan. I was immediately surprised that someone whose Magic life depends on structure and organization could live amidst such disarray. I figured with the money the guy makes, he could at least afford a cleaning lady. Nonetheless, he kept my coffee cup full and fed me some of my favorite snacks. The cats were a joy to have around. For some reason, Lisa kept her distance during the whole process.
Star City: Let’s get right to it. There are more well-known and more colorful people in the Magic community. Why are we interviewing you?
Menery: I’m sufficiently self-absorbed to believe that no one has anything more interesting to say. Plus, the trip fit into Star City’s budget.
Star City: You’re certainly the most widely-published Judge on the net. Why?
Menery: First and foremost is my willingness to work for what is ostensibly a slave wage. I mean, have you seen what they pay us? I’m not just talking about Judges, here. Good writers, like Anthony Alongi, get next to nothing, while any random pro gets twice as much just out of name recognition. It makes me sick sometimes. Second, I know what I’m talking about, for the most part.
Star City: Yet you’ve made some highly-publicized mistakes.
Menery (getting quickly irritated): Hey, one of the conditions on doing this interview was that we weren’t going to talk about that. You promised.
Star City: But the fact remains.
Menery: We can end this thing right here, you know. Breach of contract. No court would rule against me.
Star City: Perhaps we’ll come back to this issue later. You’ve been a Level III Judge for how long?
Menery: Since early 1998. I certified at Grand Prix Antwerpen. It was actually my second try. I was woefully unprepared during my first interview at Pro Tour Mainz.
Star City: Can we expect to see you move into the elite ranks of Level IV soon?
Menery: Yeah, but I’m still working up the courage to sleep with Jeff Donais.
Star City: "Sheldon" is an unusual name. How did you come by it?
Menery: I’m half-Italian, on my father’s side, half-Finnish. My given name at birth was Gabrielle Pisicchio, and I’m distantly related to both Mario Andretti and Tommi Hovi. I changed my name after I saw "When Harry Met Sally" for the first time. That Billy Crystal is a genius.
Star City: Your "Ask the Judge" column here on Star City has generated loads of interest. Why do you think that is?
Menery: Players are generally too lazy to read the rules or think for themselves, mostly. That, and my snappy comebacks. I read a lot of "Mad" magazine when I was a kid, so I have that going for me.
Star City: What’s your favorite part about being a Judge?
Menery: There are so many things… The travel, the people; I’d guess I’d have to say the long hours without evidence of tangible reward.
Star City: What’s your least favorite part?
Menery: Not getting to play as often as I’d like. I enjoy the game a great deal on so many levels. I’m certain I could be a Pro Tour player. I own all the locals who have been/are going to the PT. And I’d certainly do something more interesting than play an all-land deck. (Yes, he could play an all-brag deck – The Ferrett)
Star City: We take it you weren’t happy with Mr. Bock’s decision?
Menery: He made a mockery of the whole process. I blame the American obsession with celebrity. People don’t want to do something good and then happen to get well-known as a byproduct; they just want to make a name for themselves. Well, Mr. Bock can rest assured that a year from now, no one will remember who finished second at Pro Tour: Tokyo, but they’ll sure remember the idiot who played the all-land deck.
Star City: What are you reading right now?
Menery: I just finished "Germs, Guns, and Steel," which was recommended to me by Pro Tour Event Manager Diana Johns, who is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. She makes me wish everywhere was like Utah. I’m currently in the middle of "The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy." Generally, I like to read anything that makes people realize I’m smarter than they are.
Star City: What do you do when you’re not doing Magic things?
Menery: Nothing of consequence. Defending peace in the free world. I’m perfectly happy with the idea that I could die doing my job, for which I get paid relatively little, while Jim Carrey makes $20 million a film. Seems to strike the right balance, don’t you think?
Star City: We’ve heard from several Pro Tour players that you have the reputation for being incorruptible. Surely that’s not absolute. After all, everyone has their price.
Menery: You know, no one has ever offered me a serious bribe, at least one that’s given me cause to think. I’d certainly never take it, but I wouldn’t mind the option.
Star City: Who is your favorite Magic person?
Menery: I’ll preface that by saying that there are a number of people associated with the Magic and the Pro Tour that I enjoy, respect, and admire. That respect and admiration would never compromise my objectivity, which, as we have discussed, is extremely important to me. I make a point of being careful about who I associate with during any major event, lest someone get the wrong impression. I generally just hang around with other Judges or WotC staff. In answer to your question, my absolute favorite person in Magic circles is, without a doubt, me.
Star City: Isn’t there someone who you think stands out, for whatever reason?
Menery: Yep. Still me.
Star City: Don’t you think that’ll come off as a little self-centered?
Menery: You think I’m self-centered? How about any number of self-important little micro-niche celebrities who think that they’re above the rules? I’ll tell you this; you’ll never catch ME with extra cards in my lap. (It’s true; word on the street is that you’re always going to be disappointed when you look in Sheldon’s lap – The Ferrett)
Star City: Alright. Who, other than yourself, do you admire?
Menery: John Friggin’ Rizzo has huge cojones for appearing naked on the net. If Jeff ever steps down, I’d enjoy seeing Rizzo as the DCI Tournament Manager. Think about "clothing optional" Pro Tours. On second thought, let’s not. I’m also happy to see John got those morals charges dropped. I’m always a big fan of Mike Pustilnik’s fashion choices, and I generally approve of what Rob Doughterty does with his hair. Most of the time, anyway.
Star City: What’s been your major Magic accomplishment to date?
Menery: At Pro Tour Chicago 2000, I spent the entire weekend in the Feature Match Pit with Mark Rosewater. I’m very proud of that. The night before PT: LA 2001, I drafted with a bunch of Pros, including Alex Shvartsman. I completely wrecked Mattias Jorstedt. I can put that on my resume.