From Right Field – The Piece I Never Wanted to Write

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It’s a sad day for us here at StarCityGames.com. This will be the last Chris Romeo article for a while. I’ll let the man himself tell you the details, but we all wish him the best of luck, and hope he returns to our front page soon. Good luck Chris, and thanks for the good times!

I have an anecdote to relate to you. I’m pretty sure that everyone knows one of the two people involved: Marilyn Monroe. The other is baseball Hall-of-Famer Joe DiMaggio. For those of you who don’t follow baseball or are from another country (or both), you might need a little background on “Joltin’ Joe” in order for this story to have its greatest impact.

DiMaggio was the first Italian-American superstar in the United States. He preceded Rocky Marciano and Frank Sinatra. For all intents and purposes, he was from San Francisco, but he played Major League baseball for the New York Yankees. He won four World Series championships in his first four years and nine in thirteen total career seasons, all with the Yankees. He wasn’t just a member of those teams, though. He was their heart and soul, their leader, their captain. He was the best player on the best team in the most famous city in America.

Most important, though, was his status as an icon. He was classy, smooth, and suave. You’ll have a hard time finding anything that anyone ever said bad about him, even his on-field opponents. He was the uncrowned King of New York, but he was claimed be every Italian-American family and every Italian immigrant family between his home town and New York. At a time when many immigrant groups were “Americanizing” their surnames, DiMaggio made people so proud of their heritage that they would go out of their way to let people know they were Italian-Americans. My grandfather used to say that “so many people would say that they were Italian ‘like Joe DiMaggio’ that you would have thought that he was related to anyone whose last name ended in a vowel.” He was so popular that it was rumored that he was asked more than once to run for President of the United States if for no other reason than that he would win on the back of that Italian-American vote. Add in the people who rooted for the Yankees and who idolized him simply because he was such a great role model, and it’s entirely possible that he could have been President of the U.S. He was too private for that, even as he played in front of 40,000 people every day.

DiMaggio and Monroe were married for a short time after he retired from baseball. One day, after she returned from a USO trip to entertain the troops in Korea, Monroe regaled DiMaggio with stories about the trip. Monroe, of course, was a film star. She knew what it was like to get fan mail, to be recognized on the street, or to have her picture taken by a crowd of fans, but she had never really played to live audiences before that trip. “Joe,” she said, “When I walked onto the stage, there were thirty-thousand people screaming my name and cheering for me. You have no idea what it was like!”

DiMaggio looked at her with tears in his eyes and replied, “Yes, dear, I do.”

Of course, Joe DiMaggio and I only have a couple of things in common. We’re both males, and we’re both of Italian ancestry. I do know, however, what it’s like to have to leave behind something that you love and for which people cheer you on.

I have to quit writing about Magic. I am simply not physically capable of it anymore. As you know, I’ve been suffering from an inner-ear disease that makes reading, moving, and even playing games a challenge. It’s not getting better very quickly at all. In fact, my doctor and I are discussing brain surgery as a way to move things along. It‘s radical, but I’m not sure I can wait another six months or a year for this to straighten out.

Because of this disease, I’ve not been able to vigorously test and tweak decks like I used to. More important, writing about the decks has become a true chore. I’ve been spending four or five times longer writing articles that are a third as good. To be sure, the act of writing has kept me sane. I’m essentially trapped in my house all day long. I can’t drive. Walking can be dangerous since losing my balance is always a possibility. Escaping into words and cards has kept the cabin fever at bay.

I could keep writing. This column and this site are not about simply getting any old string of words out there for you to read. They are about quality. In the case of the good players, “quality” means getting you fresh tech or teaching you how to play certain decks well. In my case, “quality” is about being entertaining. If you got some sort of Magic knowledge out of it, well, could you drop me a line, and tell me how you did that? I’d be mighty curious.

As I look back on my run here and at the previous two sites for which I wrote, I realize that I’m one of only a handful of writers who has written about Magic for such a long period of nearly unbroken time. I’ve been doing this for six and a half years. Except for a couple of missed weeks for illnesses and my wedding and a couple of months off a few years ago, I’ve put out an article a week every week since May of 2001. If you add in the SCG Daily series, I’m pretty sure that my average is at one a week or more. As far as I can tell, Mike Flores, The Ferrett, Abe Sargent, Peter Jahn, Ben Bleiweiss, and I are the only ones to do that. (Sean McKeown might be in that group, but I don’t know if he had a significant layoff between his old stint and his new one. I also saw several gaps of a month or six weeks in his Star City tenure. Still, it’s not as if he took years at a time off.)

Writing about Magic has been a great creative outlet for me. I’ve enjoyed it more than you could possibly know. If I were still physically capable of doing it, I’d continue. You, however, deserve better than just a bunch of words and a half-tested deck all stamped with “written by Chris Romeo” on it. You deserve quality, which, in my case, means entertainment first and foremost. I think most of us can agree that my pieces haven’t been very entertaining over the last few months. If my deck’s won’t win you a tournament and my writing’s not entertaining, well, what’s the point?

I want to be clear about one thing, though. I am not retiring from Magic, or even Magic writing. I know better than to say those things. Even if I never write a Magic column again, I can’t see giving up the game. It’s too much fun even after nine years of me not getting much better. If they stopped making Magic cards tomorrow, I’d still have thousands of ideas I’d want to try. Of course, they wouldn’t all be Standard legal, but that’s beside the point. However, I expect to be writing again in a few months. Hopefully, Craig and Pete will have me back. If not, well, they know what they’re doing. So, that would just mean that whatever I submitted sucked.

At this point, if we were doing a cable television special, we’d look back on my career highlights and lowlights and then have some testimonials from friends and colleagues. Sadly, I have few highlights, and, in fact, we maybe could even drop the “s” because I’m pretty sure finding a second one would be too tough. The lowlights are so voluminous that I’d simply suggest you go to my archived writings and start at the beginning. As for testimonials, they’d probably all go something like this. “Romeo was an ass, but he was easy to beat. So, it wasn’t a big issue. Besides, he’d make me laugh and then introduce me to a hot chick, and we’d be cool again.” Or they’d say “Well, he stunk at the game, but at least he showered before tournaments.”

Next, I’d come up on stage to thunderous clapping and cheering and a standing ovation. “Okay, you can sit down now. You’re too kind. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Then, I’d give a farewell speech. Let’s not call it “good-bye,” though. Like I said, I’ll try to do this again once it’s not so physically demanding. Let’s just say “so long for now.”

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Give yourself a great big round of applause. You really deserve it.

Chris Romeo

[Thanks for the great articles down the years, Chris. Get well soon, and we look forward to your return. — Craig, and the rest of the StarCityGames.com team.]