Yawgmoth's Whimsy #128: A Long Rant
It's been a while since I wrote a rant, but it's time. I want to weigh in on the MaRo voting for Mike Long for Hall of Fame issue. Everyone else has.
First, some background. Wizards has created a "Magic the Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame." It has two functions: First, it is intended to honor past luminaries of the game, with rings, plaques, and so forth. Second, it is intended to get them to attend future events, with qualifications, appearance fees, and airfare all provided by Wizards of the Coast.
The criteria to appear on the ballot, per the Wizards of the Coast announcement, are: 100 lifetime Pro Tour points, first major appearance ten years ago, and not currently suspended. Twenty-eight players are eligible under those criteria. A chosen group of sixty-nine Magic celebrities will vote for five nominees, and the top five vote getters will be inducted into the hall of fame. The electors are supposed to base thier votes on five criteria. Those five criteria are, according to the press release, are:
- Player's performances
- Playing ability
- Contributions to the game in general.
Mark Rosewater (a.k.a. MaRo) is one of the sixty-nine electors, and wrote about his votes in his weekly column on Magicthegathering.com. He started off with Jon Finkel, an obvious vote, since Jon gets top marks on all those criteria. MaRo also voted for Mark Justice, even though Mr. Justice was caught cheating later in his career - and apparently had to resort to cheating to continue winning, at least late in his career. As MaRo put it, "Later in his career, Mark did have some dark days. And I'll be the first to admit that his integrity score took a beating."
Where I, and many other people, have a problem is with MaRo's fifth vote. MaRo voted for Mike Long. Here's what MaRo said about that vote:
"Yes, I'm voting for Mike Long. Yes, I understand that he scores lowest on integrity of the twenty-eight candidates. But he scores number one in a very important category - charisma (that falls under player performance for those criteria sticklers). Mike Long has done more than any other player in the history of the Pro Tour to make it interesting. When Mike was involved, everybody cared. Sure they were all rooting for him to lose, but man did they care."
I think the best response is to quote PhoenixLAU on the Wizards boards, responding to the MaRo article:
"People don't hate Mike Long because he has 'charisma'; they hate him because HELLO, HE IS A CHEATER."
Mike Long as a history of cheating. He was well known as a cheater. He was caught cheating several times. Sometimes he was caught, but let off because the judges either could not prove the accusation, or did not understand what he was doing (e.g. the Howling Wolf incident.) In other cases, he was caught and sanctioned.
Mike Long was a master of "mind games" - things like yelling, causing distractions, arguing, calling judges on an opponent when they caught him in infractions, etc. At the same time he was stacking his deck, drawing extra cards, playing extra lands, lying about life totals, etc. etc.
Mike Long cheated. He probably still cheats.
For a sample of his history, take a look at Peter Radonjic's post on page five of the thread responding to MaRo's article. Peter Radonjic describes seven instances where Mike Long cheated, including one which took place in a for fun tourney, with no money on the line.
I have one personal Mike Long experience.
Years ago, when I was young and stupid, I had the misfortune to play at a local store owned by one cheater (Chad Butterfield, now banned for five years) and the home base of a few others. Chad claimed Mike Long as a friend, and Long showed up at the store on occasion.
I watched one eight-man draft with Long, Butterfield and some others. It was unsanctioned, just for fun, and the people were playing for nothing, except maybe the rares. I'm pretty certain I saw Long cheating at least once, maybe more, against "friends" in a fun draft. I'm not certain, because I didn't call Mike on it. Why? Three reasons:
1) I was not involved in the draft
2) I was not a judge then, and
3) I was not absolutely certain I could prove what happened, and it wasn't worth the hassle of trying.
This happened well after all the incidents Pete Radonjic listed.
The point was that Mike Long was, and is, a confirmed cheater. MaRo is supporting him, not only for recognition as one of the first five inductees into the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame, but with invites and payments to play in future GPs and Pro Tours.
MaRo really, really needs to rethink this position.
Cheating harms the game. Cheating steals wins from other players. It steals prizes, rating points, invitations and reputation from other players. Take one example: Darwin Kastle is also on the hall of fame ballot. One of the knocks against Darwin is that he does not have as many PT top eights and PT wins as some of the others, such as Mike Long. However, in the last Swiss round at Pro Tour: LA 2000, Mike Long cheated Darwin Kastle out of a victory, and a T8 spot, and possibly a PT win. (Details are here, in Rob Dougherty's postmortem on the incident.) If Mike Long had not cheated, Darwin Kastle might have won that Pro Tour, and might now be a shoo-in for a spot in the hall of fame. Right now, he is on the bubble.
Cheaters steal prizes, ratings, and invitations. When the cheater wins, it is often at the expense of honest people - people who then do not get the invitation, the prize, and the glory.
Cheating also steals the fun from the game. No matter how you cut it, Magic is more fun when you are winning. It is never fun to lose, but it's even more painful to lose because you were cheated.
It isn't a question of knowing how to spot cheaters. I'm a level 2 judge - I'm supposed to know a bit about that. I can work on catching cheaters. I can also spend a hot July day nailing asphalt shingles on my roof. "Can" is not the same as "want to."
Magic is a hobby. It is what I do for fun. When it stops being fun, I stop doing it.
The problem with cheating is that it steals the fun out of the game, and when the game stops being fun, people stop playing. If even one Magic player quit because of a cheater, that is one too many - but it isn't one player, it is many players who stop playing because of cheaters.
That is why Wizards needs to put a premium on stopping cheating. Cheating harms the game. It harms the Magic community. Even from a bottom line perspective, Wizards needs to prevent cheating, because cheating harms the brand. It cannot condone cheating in any way.
Having MaRo vote for Mike Long has to be seen as condoning cheating. I am certain that Mike Long cheated his way to many of his "accomplishments." Of the rest, given his track record, I could never be certain that he did not cheat to win those as well.
Mike Long is an arrogant, brash, obnoxious thief. He has been caught several times. He has been suspended, and has escaped suspension on technicalities. He is not a role model. He is not a figure to look up to. He is not someone I want back on the Pro Tour.
I have judged at Worlds and the Pro Tour; I hope to do so again. What the heck do I do if Wizards of the Coast puts Mike Long in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, and not only invites him to the next event, but pays him an appearance fee to ensure he shows up? Do I watch him like a hawk? Do I ignore him, and let him get away with cheating? If I catch him, do I really want to get caught between a jerk like Mike Long and an organization that wants him to keep playing?
If Wizards of the Coast pays Mike Long to attend, how can I give anyone else penalties for minor infractions - or even major infractions? What do I do if Mike Long calls for a judge?
Wizards of the Coast needs to state, clearly, that they do not condone cheating. More than that, they need to really mean it. Having MaRo not only vote for Mike Long, but write about why he is doing so, seems to show that Wizards of the Coast - or MaRo at least - doesn't really mean it.
MaRo is a very public, very famous voice of Wizards of the Coast. He has a feature column on their flagship website, a senior position in the organization, and a high-level role in developing future Magic sets. More over, he has a proven track record, both as a writer and a proponent of Magic. He not only has a bully pulpit, but he has earned it. People read MaRo, not because of the Roseanne jokes, but in spite of them.
What MaRo says is important, both because of what it is and because he said it.
People have argued, both here and in the response thread, that MaRo has the right to vote for whomever he wants, and the right to say whatever he wants in his column. Probably true, but he has a column that lets him speak to the public, and the status - if not the title - of spokesman for Magic the Gathering, and that gives him some responsibilities. The fact that he has earned his fame and position makes those responsibilities greater, not less.
Writers have responsibilities to their readers, and to their publishers. I have been a writer for a long time. I have had various columns at various Magic sites dating back to the Dojo, and at non-Magic sites, and in print. I know what I'm talking about.
While it is true that writers can - and should - have freedom to write about what they will, and take whatever positions they want, all good writers understand that there are always lines that you don't cross. When you write for an organization or publication, you don't deliberately harm that organization/publication. It's not just a dollars and cents question - it's that writers have a relationship with their editors and publishers, and a responsibility not to needlessly stab them in the back.
Again, this doesn't mean that the writer cannot be controversial - it's just that certain things are so far over the line that writers won't even consider writing about them.
This really isn't a dollars-and-cents issues. I get paid a pittance for writing for StarCityGames. It has been far less than one percent of my income. However, I like the Ferrett, Knut, and Pete Hoefling and they took me on when the Dojo folded. As a result, I don't screw them over. I don't write about how other sites are better, or other stores are cheaper, or that other editors have more hair. Good writers just don't do things like that, any more than they would write in favor of cannibalism or necrophilia (cough**rotten.com**cough).
Look, in every society, there are things you just don't do, like spitting in other people's food or going naked in public (given the way most Magic players are built, this goes double for them). Transgressing these rules are either deliberate insults, or the kind of joke that only occurs to people when their blood alcohol level approaches infinity.
The point is that all Wizards of the Coast writers have an unwritten list of places they just don't go in their columns, like sexually explicit jokes about dead nuns. Stuff that is just beyond the line. I thought that condoning cheating was also beyond the line. Cheating is immoral; it harms the community and it harms the brand. I thought that cheating was something that no Wizards of the Coast writer would ever write favorably - any more than they would write favorably of the Holocaust or projectile vomiting.
What discourages me is that I was wrong. Wizards of the Coast - or at least MaRo - does not feel that cheating is an evil that must be opposed in all cases, everywhere. He seems to feel that it is okay to reward a cheater - and remember, this is not just any cheater, this is Mike Long, a man who made a career out of cheating. In many respects, Mike Long has no career other than as a cheater.
MaRo's public support of Mike long shows that he does not believe cheating is wrong. He is willing to excuse it in some circumstances. That means that, at some level and in some cases, he thinks cheating is compatible with the long-term future of the game.
I am deeply disturbed by the fact that any high-level Magic employee and policy maker could feel that way. The printing of Cheatyface was bad enough. This is worse.
MaRo's vote also shows that he does not think that a repeated and ongoing history of cheating is enough to disqualify someone from being considered one of the five best people in Pro Tour history.
That does not make me happy, either.
Respond in the forums.