It's pretty shocking that the simple concept of sportsmanship is such a complicated and twisted affair. Maybe it's because I used to play other sports, but it seems like the concept of sportsmanship should be obvious and people need to learn how to lose. What I mean by this is, learn how to lose a match with grace and don't throw a tantrum about somebody's luck or whatever else.
Too often I've been shocked at the public displays of bad mannerisms in public after a loss. Learning HOW to lose is just as important as learning how to play the game. I'll share a story from back when I first started playing Vintage (and indeed, magic itself), without naming names, but I have told this story before so some people know what I'm talking about.
It was my 3rd or 4th tournament overall, and I was slowly getting my Vintage collection together. I had just gotten a Black Lotus and was so excited! However, I had no dual lands and the proxy limit at an event I was going to was 15 cards, and I'd go over the limit since I chose to put my money into the Lotus first! So when I got to the event, I spoke to the person running the event and asked if I could trade my Lotus in for some Dual Lands for the purposes of competing in the event. The organizer was nice to wave me off and tell me not to worry and to go a few cards over the limit since it was obvious I was trying to get down to a zero proxy collection.
I was playing in the last round of the event, but wasn't going to quality for top 8 or anything. I had won the first game and he had won the second. We were in the third game and he had seen my lotus but proxied duals and commented on it lightly earlier. In game 3, I had cast my game winning Yawgmoth's Will. My opponent's expression visibly changed and harshly demanded that I show my deck to the judges to see if I was over the proxy limit or not. This was among my first events so I got scared that I had done something wrong. The judge came over, checked my deck and counted my proxies, then went off to the organizer.
Thankfully the organizer knew of my condition, of course, and said it was fine and to keep playing. I went through the motions, killed him with a Tinker and a Time Walk. My opponent stood up in a huff and left without another word.
It was absolutely shocking behaviour. Not only was he fully aware that I was new and trying to get into the format by buying cards slowly, he had also seen my Lotus and knew that I wasn't just throwing proxies onto everything. More importantly, he had no concerns about my deck UNTIL he saw that he was about to lose when I had cast the game winning spell.
Now, this person is actually a regular in the north east Vintage circuit and is apparently a nice person in general, but this display of behaviour permanently damaged my opinion of this person. I will never look upon him favorably because of the way I was treated when I was a newcomer. It all came down to throwing a tantrum when about to take a loss, instead of taking the loss with grace.
I remember hearing this when I was a lot younger, but I feel it's extremely relevant to this day.
And if should win, let it be by the code
With my faith and my honor held high;
And if I should lose, let me stand by the road,
And cheer as the winners go by.
I think one of the fundamental reasons why people often exhibit bad sportsmanship is because they haven't put Magic in its right place. Magic is a game.
When a lot of us started playing Vintage, we were teenagers, or in our early 20's. Even though the cards were significantly cheaper then, I know that (for me) the money was a lot harder to come by. Buying a Mox in 2003 or 2004 was tougher for me than buying a Mox would be today, and I think that's true for a lot of the people who played back then.
The crux of this was that even though we were working, we weren't making all that much money, and many of us were looking for a way to make a few extra dollars here or there; it would help expand our collections, maybe it meant we weren't strapped for cash that week. In order to buy my first set of Beta Moxen, I had to work out a deal with a store owner who was willing to take $100 a week for me for several months. I couldn't afford to buy them otherwise. When you're in your early 20's, potentially still in college, you're not going to be making the kind of money that leaves much disposable income.
I picked up a lot of shifts working security (graveyard shifts) to be able to afford my first set of power. When I finished my first set of Moxen, I carried them all with me, in toploaders, for a week or so. I would lay them out as I sat in my security booth; I felt pride in having put a set of Moxen together (an aside; Alpha and Beta power will always, always, always look nicer, but Unlimited power will always be special in its own way, as it was what we could afford, and there's a magic in your first piece of power that a gem mint Beta Black Lotus will never have).
Many years later, upon meeting Raffaele Forino, he made a point of noting that if money was an issue for him, he'd just work instead. If you're showing up at tournaments with an expectation of making money, just how much money are you really going to make? Pro-rate that out over the number of hours spent, and then think about how much you'd make if you just spent that time working instead. And if you're not working a job where you can make the kind of money to afford the things that you want, what are you doing to ensure that this is no longer the case in the future? How much do you really want the cards? Are you willing to work a second job for them? Are you willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your life for them? I was broke for the better part of two weeks after I picked up a Mox Ruby from Dave Kaplan back in 2002 (I couldn't have put $20 together). Worth it. The barrier to entry now is obscenely high, and I wish they'd axe the Reserve List, but it's still possible to slowly buy in. If it's important enough to you to do it, you'll do it. And if it's not, it's not; the key is knowing where you stand.
I bring all of this up because it's so easy to look at the prize support, not really have all your priorities in order, go out, play in an event, and maybe take those losses a little harder because your house isn't in order. I don't think I was ever a 'bad sportsman', but I definitely beat myself up harder after losses than I should have back then, when the money was so tight. I could see how that would cause people to lash out, transfer some of that anger that they may subconsciously feel about things, and direct it at whomever they have sitting across from them. It sucks for everybody involved.
Before Magic was anything else, before it was a collectible, before it was about the art, before it was about the tournaments, before it was anything else, it was a game. A game. A recreation that you enjoy in your spare time, and that you play because you enjoy the game itself. Visna Harris is one of the best men I know, and he's having a good time no matter what his record is. He's kind, generous to a fault, and always laughing as he's trying to win with whatever crazy concoction he brought that day. I love this and I wish that everyone was like this.
One of the things that has always bothered me was about players discussing the E.V. of tournaments, and pushing tournament organizers to commit more support than could be reasonably expected. When we all flew to GenCon to play in Vintage Champs, there was the flight, hotel, food, entry costs, etc. Who came out 'ahead' in that calculation? The winner, and...? The tournament isn't being framed the right way by those who would view it through those parameters. The tournament is a vacation. Yeah, I want to win. Yeah, I'm going to test, I'm going to play my best, and I'm going to try to drive you into the ground (while never sacrificing my integrity), but this is a game. The person sitting across from me is a gift, I owe the tournament organizer, judges, and assorted staff my thanks for putting together an event that gives me a chance to play a game I love, I am lucky to be able to play that game and I should be thankful for that. I shouldn't be showing up with an expectation of the 'value' I can gain on the day, because the value I do gain from it all has nothing to do with money, even when I win.
Human beings are complex, and when you show up anywhere, you're carrying things with you. There are always other aspects that factor into how we react to the people around us, how we feel, etc. We don't always react the way that we should. When we don't , we should acknowledge it, own it, apologize for it, and try to be better. Reading about Brian becoming better is heartening. The primary emotion that we should all derive from this game is gratitude.
It's hard to put myself in to every scenario as to why I shouldn't shake someone's hand after a match. So... I shake my opponents hand. It's the right thing to do.
I personally feel a lot of this stems from a long list of excuses. "I don't like people interaction, awkwardness, saltiness, hygiene, germs," etc are just excuses. I will continue to teach my kids to shake their opponents hands after each match. Hell, I purposely make them shake my hand after we play kitchen table magic. The funny part about it is that my kids' hands are probably covered in germs. I mean, they are kids...
Ironically, my kids pediatrician told me to work with my 8 year old on losing (I guess it's a common thing for this age). Kind of caught me off guard. I didn't need to be told that. Common sense to me. Doctors have to remind parents to teach their kids about losing??? Huh. Maybe the results of not teaching kids about losing has transformed into kids not shaking hands after matches...
One of the things that has always bothered me was about players discussing the E.V. of tournaments, and pushing tournament organizers to commit more support than could be reasonably expected. When we all flew to GenCon to play in Vintage Champs, there was the flight, hotel, food, entry costs, etc. Who came out 'ahead' in that calculation? The winner, and...?
This post is one of the best posts on TMD in a very long time. I highlighted a specific point I want to say a couple things on:
First: Does the winner even come out ahead if they want to keep the painting? The paintings have, for the most part, been in the $2,000 - $5,000 range in the past - with certain ones (Looking at you @Changster and @Montolio ) being significantly more... but do you sell them? It's one of best trophies you can get as a Vintage Magic Player. This is our Super Bowl. Do teams sell their Lombardi Trophy?
Second: as a Vintage player, our decks are always going to be worth more than the Prize (I'll exclude Andy here, because his prize is worth more... I would exclude Roland but Alpha power and Japanese Foil Everything makes his more than his painting). So we're spending tens of thousands of dollars on cards, up to a thousand dollars (OR MORE!) travelling/lodge/food/Team Serious Liquor/Etc - You won't recoup this playing magic.
I used to be/still am a huge Salt Monster, but identifying these two aspects has made playing Vintage, and just playing magic in general, a MUCH better experience for me, personally.
Regardless of reason, no one has the right to anyone else's body. Ever. Win or lose, you are allowed to offer a handshake but expecting it in return is an entitled position. The reason behind your opponent refusing to shake does not matter. They don't want to touch you, and you have to respect that.
@jonhammack I think you can feel entitled to a reasonable, polite response, even if not necessarily a handshake. For example "I don't want to shake your hand because I'm not comfortable with it, thanks for the games" is declining a handshake, but nobody should get mad about that.
Handshaking really doesn't make sense anyway, it was originally meant as a sign of peace because you couldn't draw a weapon. As nerds we are resistant to change and must accept the original meaning of the handshake. The opponents are "battling" so there really is no need for a sign of peace, I would prefer waving a white flag or giving your opponent the pick of your best livestock.