Footlocker Shirts for the Masses
You may have seen me at more and more Pro Tour type events lately. I was at Pro Tour Amsterdam, skipped Pro Tour Kobe, attended Pro Tour San Diego, and then U.S. Nationals. As I write this, I am sitting in an airport lobby heading out to Pro Tour Seattle. This may be my last one for a little while. I thought with a child at one and at two, they would be old enough for me to start traveling more, but its getting more difficult each event to find people to watch them while I am heading across the world from Pro Tour to Pro Tour, so I may be taking a break.
Not that I’m playing or anything.
No, I am one of those guys in the black and white shirts you know and love. The “footlocker” shirt, as the joke goes. As a level three judge, I apply for sponsorships for most events if I can. Its good practice to work these events, and is pretty fun as well. Most of the time I work the main floor, and I seem to end up on deck checks a lot. I also tend to table judge at least one of the top eight tables, and at Nationals I did the Top 8, Top 4, 3rd/4th playoff, and the finals.
While tiring, that kind of schedule gives you a good feeling. You feel trusted to do a good job at the highest level of play. So when I got this schedule for Pro Tour Seattle, I was a little thrown off.
Friday – Judge Certification
Saturday – Deck Checks
Sunday - Judge Certification
First, I did have some immediate disappointment at not having a top eight table match. Since 1999, every Pro Tour I have ever done I had a top 8 match. The streak is broken!!! Ahhhhh!!!!
I’m really not heart broken, it’s just sad to see a streak end. I have often said that top 8 matches are something I am pretty neutral about. I can do them or not do them, as Wizard’s prefers. Still, when you’ve been doing it this long and it suddenly stops, it feels weird.
But… Judge Certification for two out of three days? Where did this come from? At Pro Tours it has always been my opinion that there are several people who like to do Judge Certification, and I should let them. I am not one of those people. As the only level three judge in all of Arizona and New Mexico, I have a definite responsibility to help educate and train new judges, and I take my responsibility quite seriously. I will train and test anyone in my region and even slightly out of it. I have run a Judge School in New Mexico, which you saw me write about a few weeks ago, and tested people there and in San Diego when I could. In general, I think I do my share when it comes to the Judge Certification process.
But I don’t like it.
Strangely enough, I love teaching. I like showing people new things and educating them. I love it when a judge comes up to me to ask me how I would handle a situation, or why a ruling works the way it does, or what they can do better. Seeing someone into judging for the thrill of being a judge is a wonderful and exciting thing.
But normally, that’s not what I see. Overwhelming amounts of people get into judging for the wrong reasons. While my estimation is likely biased by cynicism, it often feels like most level one judges are judges only so that they can play in a tournament and tell their opponent “No, I’m right, you can trust me, I’m a judge.”
(Of course, anyone that falls for this deserves a good noodle whipping anyways, as you should NEVER trust your opponent on a ruling, but that’s beside the point.)
So, for me to sit behind the Judge Certification desk for two days, having to talk to (and ultimately turn down) person after person who just spent their last dollar on a draft, scrubbed out, and now figure taking the judge test is a good way to waste an hour or two, will mean an exercise in patience that I can accomplish only now that I have two infants.
Of course, I am making it sound worse than it is, but I’m a cynic, that’s my job. The reality is that there are people who come up to the table with an earnest desire to become a judge, and you can see it in their eyes. It is, above all, a matter of volunteerism. You want judges that want to judge because they enjoy judging. They enjoy helping the community. They enjoy learning, and they enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
A very common situation I run into involves new stores. A store wants to start running Magic events, so the owner, or a player comes to me asking to become a level one judge. My answer to this is to make sure they understand that they do not NEED a level one judge to run events. They need a tournament organizer, and only a tournament organizer. Without a higher level judge, their events will never get past 8K, but for a local event that’s fine.
That normally ends the conversation. Only twice have I had the person come back to me and say, “Yeah, but I want to run my events RIGHT. I WANT to know what the right rulings are and to be able to answer questions correctly and give the players confidence in my events.”
Tears swelled up in my eyes, I swear.
This is the attitude to have; a desire to make events the highest quality they can be. This is what I am looking for when I interview a candidate. Someone who has not only drive, but a plan to actually implement. While I still ask the basic question “Why do you want to be a judge?” to every candidate I get, I then follow it up with “Where do you plan on judging?” You’d be surprised how many people don’t have an answer to this question. They’ve prepped themselves to answer they “why” question because they expect it, but when I ask them where they are planning on doing this and how, things suddenly become a lot more blurry.
Even worse is the amount of people that I invariably get after a prerelease. The number of people who see or learn about the pay a judge gets for working a prerelease is astonishing, and suddenly I have a rush of people eager to become a judge because they want to be able to help me run events, specifically prereleases. To these people I normally explain that I have a full compliment of staff right now, and I am happy with them. Unless during their testing process they somehow prove to me that they are leaps and bounds above my current staff, while I am happy to certify them, they will not be working my prereleases.
This seems to do just fine in quelling most of those worth candidates.
So, its now 9:43 AM on Friday and I’m sitting at the Judge Certification table for Pro Tour Seattle, eagerly awaiting my first candidate to come over. Wish me luck; I’m going to need it. The first person I talked to just told me they want to become a judge because “all my friends are judges.”
It’s going to be a long day.
E-mail me at rayp-at-primenet.com.
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