Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jason Reedy, Southern Gentleman

My very first exposure to Jason Reedy was just before Grand Prix Atlanta 2008. I no longer have a record of the very first interaction, but I recall him reaching out to me prior to that event that we were both on staff for. This was somewhat unusual because he was from Virginia and I was from California and the event was in Georgia. Who was this guy asking me for advice and to work with me at the GP?

It turns out that he was from Roanoke, Virginia, home of THE StarCityGames, and our fates would become inextricably linked by that store. He didn't work there yet; he was just a local Magic player interested in judging, and happened to hear great things about me from the two upstanding citizens who did work for SCG, Jared Sylva and Nicholas Sabin, whom I had befriended at separate events in the past year. I was intrigued. Any friend of theirs was a friend of mine, so I fired off an e-mail to GP Atlanta Head Judge Seamus Cambpell asking to be teamed up with Reedy (no one I know has every called him Jason).

There are a few details I remember about our interactions in Atlanta:
* Reedy was an L0, and my instructions as his floor mentor were to stick to him like glue and make sure he had adequate support on rulings. I abandoned this plan after 2 or 3 rounds, telling Seamus that "he doesn't need any help."
* Reedy drove us from the staff hotel to the venue and vice versa. At one point we got seriously turned around and had a Labyrinthian moment where we could see our destination from the highway but couldn't navigate the proper off ramp to get there.
* We also got a ride from the TO, Jeff Williams on one of the trips in his yellow sports car that we nicknamed Bumblebee.
* At one point on the floor, we were competing to see who could get to judge calls first. I bent over to pick up some trash, and the match right next to me called for a judge. I stood up and took the call. From Reedy's perspective a few rows away, he said that I "appeared out of thin air" further cementing my legendary status in his mind.
* We stayed up late in the hotel lobby drinking, playing EDH, and talking the night away. At one point we ran out of booze, and we bought some from a group of players that had a bucket of cheap beer.

Over the next few years, Reedy and I crossed paths several more times until our stars collided. In 2010, I moved to Roanoke to take a job with SCG and help spearhead the fledgling Open Series, which had grown out of a 5K Series. As a local judge, Reedy was a pretty consistent face at those events, until a few months after I came aboard, the realities of running such an expansive tournament series caught up with us and we hired a few more people to join us on the road, including one Jason Reedy.

Riding in a van with Reedy to a random city is a great experience. Look no further than the Driving with Judges podcast for the great stories and songs that can result from this. Rooming with Reedy is also quite the experience. Just make sure that you have powerful earplugs.

The World Championships in San Francisco 2011 will be remembered for a lot of things. It was the last "public" Pro Tour, with a full expanse of Side Events that GPs are just starting to catch up to. It was also Sheldon Menery's last event as an active Head Judge. And players might remember this event as Planeswalker Points farming central. This was the very brief period when you could qualify for the PT via PWPs and the side events at Worlds were offering some ridiculous multiplier (8x?)

But for those us from SCG and the Mid-Atlantic, this was Reedy's show, the event where he passed his Level 3 panel. I can't tell you how impressive of a feat this was. I mean, sure, becoming an L3 is quite impressive in general, but Jason Reedy had previously struggled to pass the L1 exam, taking it three times.

I guess that's why nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to Reedy. A few years ago, he started to ask me questions about Japan, and made a couple of job/judging related forays to the country. So up and moving his family there? Sure. Sounds about right.

And to be missionaries, no less. That's the other thing about Reedy. He loves his family and he is deeply devoted to his religion. We've never really talked about it, and I consider that to be a shame. I myself am not a religious person, but I have a lot of respect for those who are, and who walk their path without feeling like they have to drag me onto it. Still, if it's that important to this great friend, this rock of integrity, I feel like I missed out by not getting to know that part of his life better.

Then again, our story isn't over. It turns out that I make semi-annual trips to Japan. This is just the next evolution of our saga. What's the saying? This isn't "so long"; it's just "until next time."

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pass the Salt

I hate Exemplar Salt.

(Nuts and bolts for people not closely associated with the Judge Program. We have a system via which we recognize each other's great deeds. Many of us receive additional gifts as a result of these nominations. This is called the Exemplar Program.)

Some people seem to be complaining about the system because they didn't receive any recognition. They compare themselves to others around them that do, and rather than turn the fire inward to find ways to be even better, they resort to jealousy and calls to cancel/overhaul the entire system since it is clearly broken.

There are also accusations of what have been dubbed "circles of bros" by some, essentially meaning that we all just keep nominating each other. In a similar vein, some deride the entire enterprise as a popularity contest. I'm popular. I have a close-knit group of friends among judges that some number of nominations both ways comes out of. Am I part of the problem?
Reading this type of stuff makes me sad. These people are so negative about something that has brought me so much joy, both in the giving and the receiving. There is usually one nomination per wave that brings a tear to my eye, and I've had people tell me the same about my nominations of them. It drives me to be excellent and to stay worthy of the esteem that is written in the nominations. I also use my own nominations to try to drive my friends to greatness as well.

I know that I work hard, have an impact on the lives of many judges, and I deserve the nominations I've received, but it sucks to be told that it's just because I'm popular or because I know so many judges. It can really take the wind out of your sails. My reaction is to blow harder. (That sounds weird.) I didn't use all of my nomination slots this past wave. Partly this was because the nomination window closed on a Sunday when I was at an event. I had given this feedback in the past, and it got changed to something like a Wednesday, but then it changed back. I don't know why, but it took me by surprise, and I didn't have the energy to put in some more nominations.

I now regret that. If my words and nominations have power, I should seek to use as many as I have. Even on a reduced schedule, I go to more events than most, and I spend more time than all but a handful of people reading Tournament Reports. I see greatness all around me, and I will say so. This extends to Judge Center reviews as well. With the advent of Flash Feedback reviews, I feel more comfortable just entering a review that says "This thing you did was great. Thanks." These might be placeholders for future Exemplar nominations, or they might not, but at least the thing was said to the person.

To that end, I've also been entering nominations more proactively. As a newly-minted L4, I get 15 nominations. I've already entered 3. I intend to use all of them, and if I run out of slots, I will reach out to my RC as I have told others to do.

This dish has too much salt for my liking. Complaining about the complaining is just adding more salt. Time to double down on the sugar. I acknowledge that the system is not perfect. But I refuse to believe that the answer is to take it away. It has brought me too much joy for me to believe this.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fear and Restrooms in Charlotte

What this blog post won't do: it won't answer your burning questions about Grand Prix Charlotte and what is going to happen there. Why? Despite the fact that I work for SCG, I don't make all the decisions. However, the people who do make the decisions are aware of the issue, and they are in discussions with WotC. That's all I can ask for in this situation, and as is my way, I will wait patiently. I ask you to do the same and have some faith in the leaders of our community who have, in my opinion, always shown sensitivity and respect on topics pertaining to inclusivity (if "exclusivity" is a word, why isn't that one, spellcheck?)

While I can't tell you anything meaningful about GP Charlotte, I can share my personal thoughts. I'm upset. I've heard the reaction in our community to the situation in North Carolina referred to as "fear mongering." I think that's partly right. People are afraid. The climate in America seems to be shifting to one of intolerance and hate. The fear is that this type of intolerance will gain momentum in breadth and in depth. The fear is that the people who hate will feel emboldened to hate more, to hate bigger, and to act upon their hate.

I don't understand that fear myself on a visceral level, but I absolutely respect it. I've had people look at me a little too long, probably because I'm Asian (or maybe because I had blue-colored hair!), but I've never been afraid that they would beat me up, or even kill me. So I consider myself to have lived a pretty safe and privileged life in that regard. Others aren't so lucky. They read news stories about cops shooting people who look like them. They hear about people like them being groped by TSA agents because they don't look like they are supposed to. Humiliation. Fear. It's real.

I don't feel the fear, but I will not belittle others for feeling it. I will try to ease their fears. I will support them. I will stand with them on the Internet, I will stand up for them in person, and I will say that this is not okay.

Ultimately, I think this Tweet sums up my feelings best: