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TeeVee Mailbag XXI: 'Magic' Men

As you've probably gathered from the ongoing navel-gazing, the piercing rhetorical questions and the gratuitous profanity, we're a philosophical lot here at the ol' TeeVee Mailbag. After a hard day's night sorting through your e-mail and showering you with the appropriate ridicule, there's nothing we like better than to repair to the local watering hole, drain our bank accounts buying ridiculously fruit cocktails and pondering the great Zen questions of our time. Questions like, how does a fish regard water? Would it swim the butterfly if ichthyologists gave points for style? And could that fish, technically, compete in the 2000 Olympics?

Yes, most of our Zen questions come back to sports. We're charmingly simple-minded that way.

We love the sports. Take a bunch of behemoths geeked up on adrenaline and societal rage, slap some uniforms on them and tell them to have at it -- we'll watch that all day and all night, even if it's a rerun of the 1982 Holiday Bowl. There's nothing like the crack of a bat against a fastball or the crack of teeth against the boards after a breakaway down the ice.

And apparently, there's nothing like the crack that some of our readers are no doubt smoking when they wrote us to inform us that the too-twee-for-Tolkien card game Magic: The Gathering was not a silly pretend game, but, rather, a sport due our respect and admiration.

Which raises another Zen question: If a horde of nerds writes us, does making fun of them count as a sport?

Maybe you saw the article where failed high school quarterback Gregg Wrenn marveled that, somehow, the world championships of Magic: The Gathering had made their way on to ESPN2. The event, in Mr. Wrenn's estimable opinion, was no doubt the most ridiculous thing ESPN2 had ever aired -- no small feat considering that reruns of "World's Strongest Man" competitions from the early 1980s are a programming staple on ESPN's bastard, buck-toothed sibling.

Funny. Right?

Not if you're one of the few -- the happy, pale-skinned few -- who've forsworn women, conventional approaches to hygiene and contact with the outside world all for a taste of the glory that is Magic: The Gathering. Then Wrenn's playful little jabs come across not so much as a delightful commentary about life in these here United States, but more like a declaration of war against you and all you hold dear.

And there's only one way to respond to such a declaration of war -- with volume after volume of unfocused, poorly spelled e-mail!

Cory Baker offered the first salvo and a glimpse into the awesome analytical powers of the Magic player's mind when he wrote:

What a shitty article.

After that withering riposte, Cory yammered on about other people who may or may not be considered athletes -- Chess players! WWF wrestlers! Bowlers! -- and wondered how come we don't afford Magic: The Gathering players the same respect.

Because they don't send us really lame e-mail, Cory. And the wrestlers might kick us.

But it's when Cory tried to explain the elusive appeal to his silly little card game that he really lost us.

The object isn't to win against your opponent using a funny named card either. ...It is to have fun Same as teams celabrating after football game.

And that's why we have to wonder whether Magic is a sport, as Cory and his brethren claim. You see, most sports teams -- the Cincinnati Bengals being the notable exception -- actually play to win, whether through genuine athletic prowess or confusing the opposing halfback by flinging the Pit Fiend card at him shortly before knocking him senseless. As for the part about having fun, does Cory mean that Magic players and fans celebrate victories by dousing each other with Gatorade or, in the case, of Denver-based Magic fanatics, rioting?

Clearly, we haven't done enough research into the arcane world of Magic. Which more than one reader was happy to point out.

It's City of Traitors, asshole.

That fact-check comes courtesy of husband-and-wife team Rob & Janice, whom we can only assume are the Dick and Babe Zaharias of the Magic world. Also taking us to task for our failure to grasp the subtle nuances of Magic was James Falco. After happily informing us that Magic was "as much of a sport as chess" -- hey, no argument there, pal -- Jimmy then told us how he planned on spending Saturday night.

My freaky, geeky body is going to waddle to a friends house now and watch Star Trek reruns all night. *snort* Maybe we'll tape our glasses up, too.

We can well imagine.

Oh, how exciting life must be when you're a Magic athlete. It's only a matter of time before Dan Patrick is soberly reeling off the drunken driving incidents and paternity suits facing these elite card-players on SportsCenter. That is, when they're not too busy dispelling myths about their mystical sport by doing things which require kinesthetic skill and writing Web sites in a desperate effort to prove they're not anemic weaklings.

Or so UltraDzan would have us believe. He writes:

I play Magic but I also surf, play baseball and swim.

But after looking at his AOL profile -- and AOL users, that is the first thing we check when you send us e-mail, so you only have yourselves to blame -- we can only conclude that UltraDzan is a big, fat liar. Consider these enlightening entries:

Occupation: Part time badass; full time pimp
Personal Quote: "I'm not a drug dealer, I'm a street pharmacist."

Translation: To compensate for my stultifying suburban existence, I've opted to adopt the pose of the thug life. Either that or UltraDzan is the Latrell Sprewell of the Magic circle. And if so, then there's no telling what we can expect next: Imps braining us with an empty King Cobra bottle? Hos and succubi trying to get our Benjamins? An Orc patrol waiting to administer a beatdown?

Worse, as it turns out. More Magic players, like Tony Drew, bleating about how their silly card game is a sport.

Looking at many baseball and football lineman, with their massive guts,I wouldn't call them atheletes or what they do a sport either.

Tony, feel free to tell that to the next professional football lineman you meet. In the meantime, the alphabetically challenged n1ck p@gano proudly continues the Magic trend of atrocious misspelling and simplistic logic when he attempts to deconstruct football and baseball:

Let's evaluate football and baseball, shall we?

Football: throw ball, crush opponent, win game, break bones, lose brain cells, rinse, repeat.

Baseball: throw ball, hit ball, run, sit, rinse, repeat.

Notice how there is no redundency or routine like such in Magic.

By gum, he's right! Every single baseball game is like every other one! Each team has the same members, who perform the same actions, in the same set of circumstances over and over!

It's not like some card game at all -- nobody knows what will happen when the card wafts down to the table surface. Will it generate a draft that causes a monsoon half a planet away? Cut someone's finger as they tease it out of the deck? Nope, baseball and football are bleak treadmills of aimless activity. There's no strategy or skill involved at all.

Besides, after reading reader Anthony Justice's plaint, we're convinced that Magic players have it hard. In describing how "gruling" these tournaments are, Anthony writes:

Preperation for an event of this caliber is a tremendoulsy difficult task. the competors pratice for 8-9 hours daily, in all seriousness that has got to be as much as any other self claimed "sport"

Who knew? We had no idea that Magic was so physically taxing, or that its top players could rival UNLV basketball players in literacy scores.

Sadly, we do know that -- James Falco aside -- only beautiful people play. Beautiful people like the intriguingly mononamed "Jenkins" who opines:

I play the game, AND I'm a model. FUCK YOU!!! I get payed to be adored by people

What more is there to say? Congratulations, Jenkins, on your superior genetics and your fine Magic-playing skills. We know they'll serve you well later in life.

In all seriousness, though, we have the sinking suspicion that many of our Magic-playing readers didn't care for Gregg Wrenn's digs. Call it our intuition. Call it the dozens of letters laced with profanity and comical Olde English spellings. Or call it the plaintive wail of Brian K. Miller who writes:

If Greg Wrenn doesn't appreciate the challenge of Magic:The Gathering, why did he write the article in the first place?

Why, to make fun of people like you, of course!

No, no. That's not right.

For a group of people that pride themselves on their mental dexterity, the Magic Men seemed to have trouble grasping the gist of the article. It wasn't to mock and ridicule Magic players -- that's what this article is for. No, what Wrenn was getting at was that in a world of multiple 24-hour sports outlets that maybe, just maybe, the bar for what can be considered a televisable sport has been lowered somewhat.

And no, Magic players, your card game -- as challenging and orc-filled as it may be -- doesn't pass muster. Where do you draw the line? Televised Scrabble games? The World Championships of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots? Essay writing tournaments? Jerking-off marathons?

We have a feeling that many of the guys who wrote us would be top contenders in that last one.

Try to telling that to Dan Ford who, in his all consuming lust for Magic, nerver learned that brevity is the soul of wit. Our Danny tells us:

I just finished reading the article posted on your website entitle Truly Magical Telivision, and after doing so I now feel the need to refute this article as incredibly insulting to a fairly large number of people

You mean the part where we claimed you're a bunch of over-serious weenies, without the good sense to laugh at yourself when you do something silly? That part?

Never mind. Dan goes on at great length to expound upon the and outs of Magic. Then, capping off an oratory that would do Stephen Douglas proud, Dan implores us:

I hope that you serisouly consider posting this email to your website, and maybe even consider extending an apology to those whom this article may have upset.

An apology? Hmmmmm. Let us think about that one for a moment...


After all, it was reader Mike Klein who crystallized things so perfectly for us.

Your article is very disrespectful

Then our work here is done!

Additional contributions to this article by: Lisa Schmeiser.


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