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Earlier today Mark Rosewater tweeted this out:

There was immediate blowback:

That’s a lot to unpack, so let me break it down. Tom, Paulo, and Christian are taking issue with a representative from WotC taking a side, and bringing morality (the right thing) into it. They have a point. Mark has spoken about his thoughts on the Hall of Fame for years, which I’ll get to shortly.

Patrick Sullivan goes a bit deeper, and bringing up an issue back from when the Hall of Fame was new:

http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/it’s-long-story-2005-06-27

That’s probably the screed Sullivan is talking about. I say “probably” because Rosewater had written something earlier about his support for Long, but that wasn’t nearly 3,500 words. Let me note what the qualifications were for the MTG Hall of Fame:

“Voting shall be based upon the player’s performances, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, and contributions to the game in general.”

That gives us five criteria to weigh. Mark admitted Mike lacked integrity and sportsmanship, but considered those among the least important categories. In other words, they were neither necessary, nor sufficient. Player performance was paramount, as was playing ability. Except, that’s not the true crux of his argument either. What it really came down to was this:

“But where Mike blows this category out of the water for me is in what I called charisma last week and today will call “star power”. You see, I spent almost ten years working on the Pro Tour. My primary job was star building. I’m the guy who came up with the idea for feature matches. I’m the one who chose who was featured. It was also my call who was put on camera during the final rounds on Sunday. And I had input into how the Pro Tours were covered in print and online.

In short, my job was to make the Pro Tour interesting and exciting. I had to make all of you care about it. And in the history of the Pro Tour three players blew everyone else out of the water. Interest in them dwarfs all the other players combined. Those players were Jon Finkel, Kai Budde and Mike Long. (Notice I voted for Jon as well and I vow right now to vote for Kai in two years.)”

As much as I want to ignore “Notice I voted for Jon”… I can’t. You don’t get any fucking credit for voting for Jon, any more than you get credit for voting for Kai. Not voting for Jon would have been an absurdity, and impossible for Mark to defend.

Was Mike Long famous? This was covered in The Three Amigo’s.

Mike Long was El Guapo. He was an infamous cheater and Mark loved him because Mike brought eyeballs. He was also absolutely terrible for the game of Magic. Let’s go back the 1998 US National Championship. Mike Long was found to have a Cadaverous Bloom in his lap. After much discussion Long was given a match loss (it may have been a game loss that ended the match, but I think it was an actual match loss penalty). There were a large contingent of players that wanted Long to be DQ’ed, Pikula chief among them. Rosewater did not feel Long should have been DQ’ed, and in the end head judge Donais agreed with Rosewater. Pikula went ballistic, with chants of “When will it be enough?!” Long ended up losing in the finals to Matt Linde, and was part of the eventual world champion Team USA.

Amazingly, Rosewater had the balls to write:

“I Do Not Condone Cheating” and “I think it is a blight on the game” in the same article as:

“When I was asked to pick the top ten best Pro Tour finals, Mike Long vs. Mark Justice in Paris topped my list. Mike had the ability to make any match he played in compelling. I was the “star building” guy for so long that it’s impossible for me not to recognize the value this added to the Pro Tour.”

That’s the crux of it. Mark valued what Long brought to the game (eyeballs). Pikula valued the integrity of the game. Those were the two incompatible worldviews some two decades ago. Mark fought for drama (think of wrestling with heels and heros). Pikula fought to clean the game up.

Let’s look at the Hall of Fame:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic:_The_Gathering_Hall_of_Fame

Yes, numerous cheaters got in during the early years, but it has gotten much better since then. Saito saw his invite revoked when he was suspended. The fact is, Mark might have won the battle, but Pikula won the war. The integrity of the game was more important then… charisma. I’ll come back to this in a second. Players revolted against lax enforcement of the rules. That led the pendulum to swing too far, where honest errors led to severe punishments, which led to angle shooting and rules lawyers. Eventually, they found the right balance, although a case can be made that the penalties once caught red-handed are still far too lenient. That’s an issue for another time. Now, let’s talk about charisma:

http://icametogame.com/2011/mark-rosewater-on-mike-long/

Some highlights:

“I felt like my job was to build up celebrities.”

“One of the things that saddens me, the fact that Mike isn’t in the Hall of Fame is the fact that we actively played him up as a bad guy because that made sense for the Pro Tour.”

Note: This isn’t true for the players who were there. Mike was a savage cheater, and an incredible asshole to boot. He was a pox upon the game and we collectively wanted him gone. Mark didn’t make Mike the bad guy. Mike made Mike the bad guy. Mark just tried to capitalize on that.

As for “The speech” that Mark refers to… “If this happens again, that would be bad.”

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??? elnkgrgnlewrnkgnk45wnk4hlnk54wnkehnlk4w5rnlkhkldnklbwetlknhblknerlkngnkleqra

 

 

Sorry. It’s just that in the case of Mike Long this meant “If this happens again, we’ll get more viewers, so please keep cheating/winning.”

Seriously:

“How did Mike fare at star building? He’s the best I ever had. If I put him in a feature match or on camera, people showed up. In large numbers. The best example I can give of this was the PT Los Angeles won by Trevor Blackwell. Mike got into the Top Eight after a controversy with Darwin Kastle in the last round of the Swiss. Now normally the quarterfinals are low turnout as the event starts at 9:00 am. But in Los Angeles, the room was packed. It was at the time the best attendance we’d ever had for a quarterfinal match. Mike wins and advances to the semi finals. Even more people turn up out of the woodwork to watch. In the semi finals, Mike loses. The finals was the lowest turnout we’d ever had. Everyone came to see Mike lose. Once he did, they left.”

To Mark, Mike Long was the hand that fed. To Chris Pikula, Mike Long was a scourge to be eradicated. Amazing side note: The year Rosewater wrote this article, Pikula fell one vote short of making it into the Hall of Fame. There’s no way anyone could have known that at the time, but Rosewater held the power to elect Pikula in his hands. He chose to use it instead to promote Mike Long. That makes today’s tweets truly surreal to me.

I don’t have the time to write about how much Pikula did to clean up the game. He started local, cleaning up his own gaming group, and then worked to change the culture in and around NY and the East Coast. He worked tirelessly to move the Overton Window on what was and was not acceptable behavior. In retrospect history seems immutable, but it’s possible that without him the game would have developed completely differently. At the Pro Tour Rosewater could promote a feature match between white hat Reid Duke and black hat Stephen Speck. Then again, Gresham’s Law might not have been so kind. It’s possible players like Duke would not want to play a game where cheating was tolerated, if not encouraged. We’ll never know.

What we do know is that Pikula’s vision won out. For that, I am profoundly grateful. I wish he had made the Hall of Fame year’s ago, and I hope he’s enshrined one day in the future.

My NFL preview won’t come out until late August, but I took some time to calculate the current numbers for the rosters as they stand. Of note to me:

  1. The Patriots are monster favorites to win the AFC. Only the Steelers can be considered a credible rival, and the coaching disparity makes it highly unlikely that Pittsburgh knocks off New England.
  2. The Jets roster really is the worst in the NFL. Well done gents!
  3. Baltimore’s roster has begun to decay. I wonder how soon they’ll be in rebuilding mode.
  4. The Texans still desperately need a quarterback if they don’t want to waste their window via their defense. Just going by the rosters it looks like it’s time for Tennessee to surpass them.
  5. Dallas has the weirdest roster in the NFL. I’ll go into this in more depth in a few months, but they had better stay healthy.
  6. The Giants have a scary offense… if Eli has time. Cincinnati has a similar situation.
  7. Pray for the Redskins defense. Ditto for the Lions.
  8. The Bears are very bad, but just looking at their roster, they aren’t in the Jets/Browns/49ers tier.
  9. The Packers are going to put a lot of pressure on Rodgers to carry them. Their GM has done an awful job extending his window.
  10. Imagine if the Falcons had run on second and third down, and kicked a field goal. We could be looking at a potential repeat champion with a loaded roster. Instead we see a team that has gone through an overhaul on the coaching staff, and a team that will be dealing with a SB hangover. Best of luck Falcons.
  11. All of the confidence on the Saints roster rests on them having an elite offense, just below Atlanta’s.
  12. Seattle would have led the Talent Wins standings had they signed Kaepernick. Just kidding 😉
Team Talent Wins “Vegas” Wins
Buffalo Bills 6.83 6.38
Miami Dolphins 6.53 7.28
New England Patriots 10.96 12.31
New York Jets 3.19 4.06
Baltimore Ravens 7.62 8.55
Cincinnati Bengals 7.88 8.33
Cleveland Browns 4.74 4.24
Pittsburgh Steelers 11.19 10.57
Houston Texans 7.37 8.62
Indianapolis Colts 8.27 8.28
Jacksonville Jaguars 6.58 6.53
Tennessee Titans 9.74 8.67
Denver Broncos 8.43 8.23
Kansas City Chiefs 8.24 9.17
Oakland Raiders 9.76 9.52
Los Angeles Chargers 9.32 7.19
Dallas Cowboys 8.82 9.57
New York Giants 9.55 8.74
Philadelphia Eagles 7.54 8.03
Washington Redskins 6.24 7.38
Chicago Bears 6.16 4.99
Detroit Lions 6.97 7.40
Green Bay Packers 8.89 10.18
Minnesota Vikings 8.26 8.38
Atlanta Falcons 11.23 9.52
Carolina Panthers 8.58 9.22
New Orleans Saints 9.96 7.78
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7.23 8.28
Arizona Cardinals 8.51 8.08
San Francisco 49ers 4.14 4.64
Seattle Seahawks 11.27 10.47
Los Angeles Rams 6.01 5.43

 

Nate Silver & 538 are confident that the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers. Their official prediction has the Warriors at 90% to win the series. As such, they are risking 64% of their bankroll on the Warriors.

Team Risked To Win Result
Pacers 20155 143300 -20155
Bulls 8800 33000 -8800
Wizards 34900 16619 16619
Trailblazers 2867 86000 -2867
Thunder 8462 27500 -8462
Jazz 13845 28520 28520
Raptors R2 41958 160280 -41958
Rockets R2 9247 20990 -9247
Jazz R2 3313 53000 -3313
Spurs R3 2765 23500 -2765
Celtics R3 43351 240600 -43351
Warriors R4 64000 24615 0
-95777

No, a win won’t get them back to parity, but it would trim the damage of constantly shorting the Cavs. Still, as confident as 538 is, that’s nothing compared to ESPN’s BPI:

Team Risked To Win Result
Pacers 8720 62000 -8720
Raptors 15340 3854 3854
Bulls 11333 42500 -11333
X Warriors 4-0 4450 4045 -4450
Rockets 5000 1333 1333
Jazz 12359 25460 25460
Raptors R2 33126 126540 -33126
Celtics R2 5480 3079 3079
Jazz R2 1188 19000 -1188
Spurs R3 9471 80500 -9471
Celtics R3 35090 194750 -35090
Warriors R4 75200 28923 0
Current Tab -69651

 

They are risking 75.2% of their bankroll on the Warriors. They have the Warriors at 93.2% to win the series. That’s roughly 13.7-1. At the time when I recorded their wagers, they only had to lay 2.6-1. The current vig-free price is a hair under 2.6-1, so we can get a reasonably estimation of how far off market ESPN is.

Let’s run a thought experiment. I want you to imagine a world where you could bet into ESPN’s BPI. Yes, I know Ben “10,000” Alamar is risk averse, but that’s not relevant to the experiment. Let’s give ESPN a vig of 4%. In that case, you’d have to lay 19.8-1 on Golden State, and you’d get 10.4-1 on Cleveland. In that case, Pinnacle would make this bet:

Team Risked To Win Result
Cleveland 69243 717614 0

Yes, that “To Win” column is accurate. That is the kind of thing we’d be seeing if Pinnacle and ESPN’s BPI were to play “The Green Knight” test against each other. In the long run, it would not be pretty for ESPN’s BPI.

Of course, there are those who believe in Cleveland:

 

Have fun and enjoy the games. This is a bit what it was like when the Lakers and Celtics battled (although the East was always reasonably tough).