One Sunday not long ago, as I was mowing the lawn, my mind was percolating over the David Williams incident at Worlds. Not knowing David Williams – and indeed, never having been to the Pro Tour – I could only absorb what information I could from the Internet and draw my own conclusions. In my mind I created a backstory for David, correct or not, but that backstory disturbed me.
By many accounts David Williams is a good guy; I even recall maybe a year or so ago him being referred to as an Ambassador to the game. His previous reputation makes his DQ from Worlds initially seem like a miscarriage of justice. The Magic community has long been clamoring for a crackdown on the persistent cheating problem – but along with that crackdown is sure to come the collateral damage of innocent bystanders taking a hit. This is how it seemed at first.
But then I started thinking about it some more. Through the haze of memory, David Williams always lurked in my mind as a Pro Tour regular who never caught that big break, the good guy who always fell short of the ring.
Then things changed. David Williams became a blazing meteor on the Pro Tour circuit, placing high, winning big bucks, and finally getting his day in the spotlight. Chalk up a victory for the good guys, right? But it struck me as odd that David’s rise to the top seemed to correspond with his affiliation with a certain team of dubious character – AlphaBetaUnlimited.com.
Which leads me to wonder – did David come to the conclusion”if you can’t beat ’em (i.e. the jerks of the game), then join ’em?” I’m certain his prize winnings justify this conclusion. In the modern day Pro Tour, Nice Guys do finish last (or at least 9th, Mr. Price).
After clamoring for the DCI to do something about the blatant cheating that some unscrupulous players employ, they finally decided to do something about it. The recent heavy hands that came down on players at US Nationals and Worlds are a step in the right direction. Dishonest Magic players need to be very aware that when weighing the costs versus gains of cheating, the costs are too severe to contemplate. We’re getting there.
But there’s more the DCI needs to do. Lots more. The next step is to crack down on unsporting behavior.
John Shuler wrote an article on Neutral Ground detailing his team’s unpleasant encounter with the jerks of ABU – namely Ryan Fuller, Chris Benafel, and Noah Boeken. Each of these guys has a history of shady behavior and unsporting conduct. None of them sound like pleasant opponents in the least; just imagining having to face the three of them together sounds like pure torture. Shuler’s report is the latest in a long line of reported problems with these guys. In all honesty, I’m completely flabbergasted that the judges aided and abetted this travesty; honestly, all appearances point to ABU paying off Colin Jackson and the PT judging staff. How else can you explain why the judges issued zero warnings to ABU after constant and continued unsporting infractions, and yet, when Brian Kowal makes a single, relatively small mistake, he’s given a game loss that just so happens to be for the entire matchup? Doesn’t this seem fishy to anyone else?
From the DCI™ Universal Tournament Rules:
42. Unsporting Conduct
Unsporting conduct is unacceptable and will not tolerated at any time. Judges, players, spectators, and officials must behave in a polite, respectable, and sporting manner. In addition, players who use profanity, argue, act belligerently toward tournament officials or one another, or harass spectators, tournament officials, or opponents, will be subject to the appropriate provisions of the DCI Penalty Guidelines and will be subject to further DCI review.
Let’s look at that first line one more time.”Unsporting conduct is unacceptable and will not tolerated at any time.” Is there any ambiguity here? If you screwed up as a kid and your parents sat you down none too gently and proclaimed your behavior as unacceptable and not tolerated, did you have any doubts as to what they meant? How can judges on the frickin’ Pro Tour not understand what this means?
These sorts of inconsistent rulings by the judges make the Pro Tour anything but professional. When it comes to unsporting behavior, it’s obvious that the DCI not only accepts and tolerates it, but also actually encourages it. The DCI obviously wants juvenile jerks with”win at all costs” attitudes to rule the circuit, and is happy to toss loads of cash at them as a reward for their behavior.
I’ve been playing Magic for seven years. I’ve seen a lot of players learn the game and come to love it. Then there comes a day when the competitive spirit drives them to participate in a Pro Tour Qualifier, or Regionals, or a Grand Prix. In the first few rounds they have a good time; maybe they win, maybe they lose, but usually their opponent is gracious and sporting.
Then they hit the Jerk*. The Jerk* ignores them when they sit down across from them. The Jerk* gives a limp fish handshake if he can’t ignore the extended hand. The Jerk* rudely talks to his buddy as if he’s already won this match, ignoring the”scrub” across from him. The Jerk* tries mind tricks, rules lawyering, sleight of hand and just about every dirty trick in the book to try and seal a victory. The Jerk* offers no closing”good game” or”good luck” or”it was nice to meet you” when it’s all over. Win or lose, after meeting up with the Jerk*, a player feels like he’s been dipped in manure. A player begins to question whether the game is worth having to deal with these scum.
Depending on their Jerk Tolerance Level (JTL), some players will give up the game completely, or drop out of the competitive circuit. They’ll retire to casual play or some other game altogether. So basically you’re left with a bunch of Jerks* and guys with a high JTL. Is that what the DCI wants their player base to be? Let’s profile the Jerk* for a second:
Magic Player – Jerk*
Young. No steady job. Lives at home and mooches off his parents. If he were to spontaneous combust into a pile of putrid ash, no one would miss him except for maybe his pathetic parents. His greatest desire is to win at all costs, even if it means lying, cheating, stealing or bullying to do it. When he buys cards, he buys them online for the cheapest he can find, but he prefers to beg, borrow or steal them when possible. Drives newbies and veteran players from the game.
Magic Player – Good Guy
Young – Adult. Steady Job. Steady relationships. Lives on his own, has responsibilities and commitments but still makes time for his passions and pastimes. If he were to spontaneously combust into a pile of ash, his funeral procession would hold up traffic for hours. His greatest desire is to be a good, competitive player and most of all have fun. When he buys cards, he gets them from the local game shop to support them the best he can. Enjoys teaching newbies how to play and encourages veterans to keep playing. May or may not have a high JTL.
Now, I ain’t no accounting wizkid, but it seems to me that it would make good financial sense for WotC to have the DCI promote more”Good Guys” rather than”Jerks*” in Magic. Judges, you need to start enforcing the Unsporting Conduct rules. Do it!
In the interest of helping out the judges out there like Collin Jackson, here are a few definitions to help clear up some ambiguities:
adj. Not adequate; unsatisfactory.
adj. Impossible to tolerate or endure; unbearable
Guys, if you don’t understand the big words in those rules, please consult a dictionary.
Cracking down on cheating is a wonderful thing, and I appreciate the DCI’s efforts in this regard. But in the greater scheme of things, Cheating affects a relatively small portion of us Magic players. If you really want to make Magic a professional sport and a game to be enjoyed by a wide audience, you’ve got to punish unsporting behavior.
* – The”Jerk” is just a polite way of saying what I really mean. These guys aren’t just jerks, they’re a**holes, but this a family site afterall…