a : a keen sense of ethical conduct : INTEGRITY
b : one’s word given as a guarantee of performance
An easy word to define, honor. A hard word to pin down, honor. An even harder one to research in any meaningful way.
Is there honor in Magic? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.
a : conduct (as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport
Sportsmanship is honor’s bastard cousin; it’s the application of honor in contemporary times. Something which we read about, talk about, emote about, and write long-winded articles about.
I believe in both, and sometimes I feel as if that makes me a minority in the modern world. I honor my friendships, I honor my commitments, I honor my opponents, I honor the game of Magic, I honor the sports of which I am an avid fan. I believe in rules of conduct, I believe in ethics, I believe in the concept that you have to at least TRY, in the spirit of the game, to win.
Those of you who have read my articles know that I believe in putting forth my best effort. Run down to first base every time and you’re on my team, pal. Remember that article on Perseverance? If not, read it. Your actions are a direct reflection of what you choose to manifest, what you tell the world about yourself. "This is me."
What do you choose to be?
Insert cutting-edge Internet ad here.
If you choose to be a Type A personality, then be it. If you choose to be a slackass, then be it. That’s your choice; I don’t have to agree with it, or like it. What bothers me the most are people whose actions contradict, who seem to be victim to the whim of circumstance or have no essential raison d’etre for doing what they do.
There’s something that exists beyond The Game. I don’t mean the metagame ("the strategic analysis of the environment used to guide deckbuilding, playtesting, and skill development," says Mason’s internal dictionary). I am referring to the essential integrity of every organized competitive entity – the omnipresent spirit that embodies the games, whether it’s baseball, football, chess, or jai alai. It exists innately.
What is integrity? It means wholeness, soundness, or completeness. From a personal development viewpoint, it means being true to the highest and best manifestation of self. Therefore, integrity of life and action is closely connected to fulfillment of purpose. Living and working with integrity is living and working in harmony with yourself, with your values, with the people in your life, with the world around you. It requires honesty and authenticity.
What higher measure of success is there than to authentically fulfill your own possibilities, and to guide your behavior towards its most positive existence? Integrity is the practice of conforming to a value system that is an integral part of our higher being. The quality of our life and work is ultimately determined by the integrity of our actions.
Living, working and contributing with integrity is critical for success in life. It generates a state of being in which all the parts are brought into a harmonious unity. It is a way of life, in which a set of principles is used to guide one’s behavior. It’s a type of wholeness, in which the total is greater than the sum of its parts.
You can take those statements above, wrap ’em up real pretty-like, and apply them to more than personal development.
You can apply them to The Game.
As an entity, The Game has its own imperative to be true to the highest and best manifestation of self. Again, this applies to baseball, football, hockey, lacrosse, and Magic – but maybe not Pokemon. That’s just a nutty concept.
This imperative is the Integrity of the Game that you may hear spoken of in grandiose terms by middle-aged men in barber shops, or may be murmured quietly in your own thoughts while reading about the Ed Fear controversy.
Guide your behavior towards its most positive existence.
That is what Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community should strive to do, for any deviation from it results in the impeachment of said integrity and the degradation of its spirit.
So, have you heard about Dan Bock?
By now, most people who follow Magic have heard or read about his Pro Tour: Tokyo decklist, and if you’ve read the article he submitted (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/expandsub.php?Article=1283), then you even know his professed reasons for doing so.
It was originally 20 of each, but he discovered he needed to draw the mountains.
Har har. Insert knee slapping here.
I’m thinking you might be able to figure out already that I’m on the other side of this issue. Mad props to your intuition – listen to it, and trust it, and if you’re on the side of "that’s hilarious," feel free to bypass this article completely.
When I first read the featured match report on Sideboard, I paid close attention to it. I will freely admit my personal bias in this matter: I watched Dan Bock win a 122-person Qualifier, eliminating my friend and teammate Scott Forster in Normal, Illinois, home of the first Steak ‘n Shake. You can read about THAT here:
I thought Dan seemed to be a good player, as he certainly made a number of intelligent decisions with a very difficult deck. He also seemed to be a pleasant fellow, and I didn’t have a negative thing to say about him. Even now, I don’t have a problem with him personally as much as I disagree vehemently with his actions.
In short, his Pro Tour: Tokyo deck was ludicrous.
It’s disturbing – very disturbing – to see people glad-handing him and saying, "That was so cool! That was so ballsy! I admire someone who sticks it to them," I shake my head sadly, because they don’t seem to CARE about the integrity of the game.
This isn’t fifth freakin’ grade, peeps, where you’re sticking your tongue out behind the teacher’s back and sniggering because you weren’t caught smoking the cigarette that you sneaked from your mother’s purse that morning, deluding yourselves with fantastic concepts of fighting "The Man" and defying authority for the noble cause of stubborn immaturity. There’s a fine line between bravery and foolishness.
There’s some gene that exists in humans that I don’t quite understand, which essentially dictates that if an action is disrespectful or pisses someone off, it is validated as "cool." I’m all about being your own person, defying expectations, and making your own niche in the world. That doesn’t make all defiance spectacular or particularly noteworthy; some of it’s just plain silly. There’s no inherent quality of "coolness" there. I’ve been cursed with the dynamic of aloofness contrasted with caring strongly about people’s emotions. I may not possess any need or inclination to interact with you, but I’m not going to deliberately upset, offend, or hurt you.
Would it be "ballsy" if I played you in a game of poker, and upon winning your money, tore it up in front of you?
Would it be "hilarious" if I applied for your dream job and competed against you for it, diligently interviewing and outperforming you on the hiring tests until I was hired – and then a month later told you that I really didn’t think I’d do well at the job and decided not to take it?
Keep laughing, and if you want I’ll do it again.
See, apparently Dan believed he wasn’t much of a Constructed player, and that he was "terrible at playtesting, terrible at constructing, and terrible at tweaking." He decided, therefore, not to participate in the Pro Tour, and flew out there intending not to play.
Yet, he also wanted Pro Tour Points. For some reason, the concept of either playing in a Pro Tour or earning points on the Pro Tour was very important to him. Now, he’s decided not to play, right? So he’s going to sacrifice those points because he doesn’t feel up to snuff.
Nope. Getting those points had to be of paramount importance, because Dan sought ways to achieve those points without playing. Rightfully denied those points for "just showing up," they were still of enough importance to him for him to create a parody deck.
And to register it.
And to play it for a round.
Because he couldn’t play combo?
Because they made him register a deck to receive the point reward?
Was this some sort of revenge? If the points were so important, why didn’t he prepare a deck? Even more curious, why would he consider those points important and then be satisfied with the manner in which he ascertained them?
"Aha! I showed them. I have two Pro Tour points. Sure, it was bogus, but I have them, they’re mine, and I’m proud of them."
I don’t get it. Were those two points earned? Are they meaningful? Is he going to wear ’em like a badge of honor?
If he decided he didn’t want to play, I can live with that. I don’t profess to understand it, but I can accept it. What I can’t accept is that the Pro Tour Points were so vastly important to him that he resorted to registering All-Land Deck because he had to have them. Yeah, way to stick it to The Man and get those two points, that’ll show them. They should have just given ’em to you for showing up. You shouldn’t have had to play at all. I don’t GET that. I hardly know Dan Bock, but it just doesn’t seem logical.
He may suck, though I doubt it. He may sincerely have little faith in his abilities. Strangely, he had enough faith to compete in a Qualifier. He had enough skill to WIN a Qualifier. He had enough savvy to choose a deck – from the Net – that he could play and win with.
After the victory, however, he had his heart set on playing a combo deck in a non-combo environment. And when he couldn’t, he decided was going to take his ball and go home. Except he didn’t go home – he went to Tokyo and deliberately registered a noncompetitive deck.
Rather than playing something other than a combo deck, he decided to make a mockery of the game by building a deck that was dubiously legal and obviously a sham.
Why the hell did he bother trying to win the Qualifier? I could be mistaken, but I believe it was common knowledge that IBC was the format of PT: Tokyo. In recent weeks, there were numerous IBC decklists – even some posted by myself – floating around the Internet in case he didn’t feel he was able to create one himself. If he was comfortable taking a version of Full English Breakfast, which was the netdeck du jour for awhile, why the sudden inability or reluctance to find a deck to play? There were a hundred and twenty-one other people who played their hearts out trying to win the invitation, and I bet that the majority of those would have gladly switched places with him.
I know I sure as hell would have. There’s that personal bias again. Of course, I don’t pretend here, and don’t do things halfway. *I* didn’t earn the invitation – Dan did. It’s his, and he can do what he wants with it.
I recognize that. And this is where human behavior becomes tricky, because we enter the nebulous realm of ethics. Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the evaluation of human conduct. I believe that deliberately building and entering the All-Land deck was unethical.
Dan competed against a hundred and twenty-one people at the Qualifier, won what they were there to win, and then threw it in the dirt and said, "Ah, I don’t really want this."
You can’t stop people from deciding not to participate. Money concerns, life concerns – these often understandably get in the way. Perhaps it’s all about principle, and all this is extreme personal bias. If I had the chance to go to a Pro Tour, what would I think my chances would be? I think I’m a good player. I think I could perform well. But I’d have to have some set of cajones to walk in there and think I was going to win the thing. I’m bold, but not THAT bold. I would want to go and perform my best and let the chips fall where they may. God pounds his nails, baby.
If someone said to me, "We’ll give you two free Pro Tour points if you register a deck of all land and don’t play any more rounds," how could I justify doing so? What part of me would be comfortable with that?
None. I’d want to justify earning them. If I wasn’t confident enough to play, then I wouldn’t play–but then, I probably wouldn’t try and win a freakin’ Qualifier in the first place. If you want to vacation in Japan during the Pro Tour, that’s great. Have a freakin’ blast, and drink some sake on me. Vive Tokyo. But don’t insult the efforts of everyone who attended the Qualifier and everyone who attended the Pro Tour. Maybe it’s just foolish to me to fight for something and decide that you don’t really want it. Then why did you fight in the first place?
Seems simple, really. If you don’t want to play, then don’t.
Why did he want the Pro Tour points?
And, worse, why is Wizards allowing him to have them?
"I have no problem with someone winning a slot and not going because he couldn’t afford it. But to go and not even try? Imagine Marion Jones going to the Olympics and then deciding to do cartwheels down the track… Imagine the Yankees getting to the World Series, then pitching underhand the whole time. That’s what this feels like to me." – Scott Forster
As an avid sports fan, I witness a lot of questionable actions. I see individuals in all sports chastised by the fans, by fans that care about the integrity of the game.
Randy Moss is a supremely talented receiver, but when you see him going through the motions on a route that’s not tailored to his specifications or resulting in him getting the damn ball, we don’t applaud his selfishness – we condemn it.
Ken Griffey, Jr. is the consummate star of our generation, and if he jogs out a ball to first base or watches his pop-up float lazily into the shortstop’s glove, the fans slam down their beers and say, "He’s a hell of a player, but he just doesn’t have respect for the game."
I don’t care how many goals Alexander Mogilny scores – when he slackasses his way up and down the ice and decides he doesn’t want to put forth the effort to catch the guy on a breakaway, the fans are going to bring it.
I won’t even go into basketball.
Do the fans support this? Do they cheer and call these players’ actions "ballsy" or "hilarious" or "cool"? Hell, no. It’s a discredit to the game. It’s a direct insult to the spirit of competition. It is degrading to the integrity of the game to have individual actions contribute towards the lowest and worst manifestation of purpose. It guides the sport towards its negatives, not its positives.
Dan Bock is probably a hell of a nice guy. But condoning actions such as his is unhealthy. Rewarding them is unhealthy. Mimicking them would certainly be unhealthy.
Why was Jeff Donais part of this? Did Mark Rosewater know about this deck when doing the pairings for Feature Matches? To the former, according to the Sideboard, yes. To the latter, I hope not, for this sort of exposure is more damaging than amusing to the image of Magic: The Gathering.
If someone registers an all-land deck at a tournament to get a promo card, if someone tries to repeat Bock’s actions to get a laugh, if another freakin’ article applauds his "innovation," a bad trend will have started. If you don’t think the possibility of duplication exists, then please start paying attention to the world around you. Thank you. Sportsmanship needs to be a serious issue, or else this type of situation WILL recur.
Anyone here want Magic to progress beyond a third-rate sport? Want more Pro Tours, more money events, more sponsors, more anything? If so, this crap needs to stop. In professional sports, making a mockery of the game is grounds for ejection or suspension or banning. What happens in Magic? Hit me, Scott: "We submit feature articles about people who went to a qualifier, denied other people the opportunity to attend one of our highest-level events, and then mocked the spirit of competition by making no effort whatsoever to compete."
Shame on us.
It’s pathetic. I see people supporting this sort of behavior and it disgusts me; it taints the love of competition, the spirit of the game, what integrity Magic has managed to piece together through its trials and tribulations. I look at the people heaping accolades on Dan Bock and wonder if they’re going to think of him next time they criticize someone for not trying or not giving it their all, if they even comprehend the hypocrisy that supporting unethical behavior presents.
If Wizards and its consumers–peeps, that means us–are serious about trying to enhance Magic’s image and increase its standing amongst international mind sports, then this needs to stop, and stop NOW.
Can you penalize bad sportsmanship? Not really. There aren’t many guidelines – and it’s a bitch to qualify in writing.
But we can stop condoning it.
-m / 00010101