I know something you don’t know.
That’s the essential narrative of most Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot articles; and to a degree the implicit reason certain members of the community are entrusted with Pro Tour Hall of Fame votes to begin with.
You know, I know something you don’t know.
“I know that so-and-so doesn’t have the numbers to back up a legit Hall of Fame bid, but did you know that he did such-and-such a thing in the across-the-Narrow-Sea community? (I know something you don’t know), so lemme tell you why I am voting for so-and-so (and why you should too).”
“I mean there wouldn’t even BE [this other slam-dunk Hall of Famer] if not for whosits-whatsits. Whosits’s influence on the nascent Eastern Latverian metagame development scene is simply unprecedented. YOU wouldn’t know that, of course; but I know something you don’t know.”
“Look man, I was there. You young whippersnappers and your spreadsheets, your medians and modes, counting your Top 8s like they are pennies around April 15… You just didn’t know, man. You didn’t see it. People just played that way back then. He was in the shit. We were all in the shit. I know something you don’t know: I WAS THERE.”
Because, you know, I know something you don’t know.
It was this reliance on secret knowledge that guided many of my early votes; and to be fair, many of all the early votes of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. I voted in younger years for players like Brian Hacker* and Itaru Ishida. I could spend five or six thousand words on the narrative around my vote.
In my old age, though, I’ve declined more into the hard numbers. There are just too many stories. Call me crazy but I don’t see for inducting someone into the Hall of Fame because he cultivates a local gaming scene. There are tons of store owners out there cultivating their local gaming scenes and we are not inducting any of them into the Hall of Fame. I personally know one store owner who produced a Pro Tour Top 8 player, a key Director at WotC (who came up via the Pro Tour) and arguably the game’s most notable strategist; also a hell of a businessman who has grown a small market community by orders of magnitude over the last twenty years. I know another former store owner who produced not just three Pro Tour Champions, but three Hall of Famers! Who knows if any of them would have gotten out of high school without him? Those are wonderful contributors to our community; but the idea that we would induct them into the Hall of Fame is foreign… Unless they have the minimum requisite number of PT points? Does that make very much sense?
As balloteers we are tasked with evaluating Hall of Fame candidates on five criteria:
- Player’s performances
- Playing ability
- Contributions to the game in general
In my first year as a voter, I tried to come up with a system that celebrated each of these five criteria. That was the last year I tried to do something along those lines, as my ballot came out completely different than I probably would have liked. I knew something others didn’t know (or at least I thought I did); but I elected not to draw on that knowledge, apparently.
Others have not been so shy.
I know a former editor who voted for the game’s most notorious cheater because — gasp — he knew (or at least saw) something the rest of us didn’t. “Mr. Short has really changed,” he told me. “I know he has a terrible reputation as a cheater, but if you had seen how he handled that drunk kid in that one side event you’d have a new respect for him, too**.” I told you he knew something we didn’t know!
For most of the Hall of Fame, the only thing anyone talks about is the first category: Performances.
Even now in my dotage, I am relying on things that I know that other people don’t. It has just dawned on me that maybe they know and just don’t care. Maybe the secret things we think we know other people actually know, but don’t value. In a podcast I did with bdm and Craig Wescoe last week (my Team Ultra PRO teammate who I randomly ran into at FNM) I made some bombastic statement about voting for Shouta Yasooka but not Tom Martell (I noted that it’s fine to vote for Shouta but makes no sense to vote for Shouta and not Tom). Apparently there are plenty of people who are happy to vote for Shouta and not Tom!
From Paul Jordan’s article a few weeks back:
To me this is a clear-cut case. Shouta has more Pro Tours than Tom (but that just means that he has had more at-bats); ditto on Pro Points. Tom has one of the best Median careers on the ballot and the best 15-event Median more-or-less ever. The two are very comparable on most of the other stats (and are certainly more comparable than most of the voters seem to acknowledge)… Shouta has one more Player of the Year Top 10, one more Top 16, and four more Top 32s; Tom won twice as many Grand Prixs and has a second World Championship appearance. To me Tom has had a very similar career to Shouta in half as many tries. We don’t typically vote people in on the differentiating stuff (tonnage of GP Top 8s).
Justin Gary might make for an even stronger argument. One PT difference between the two of them (in Justin’s favor); Justin has a better median, 15-event median, number of Top 8s, Top 16s, Top 32s and Top 64s. Shouta crushes Justin on GPs (which, I assume, is where his PT points advantage comes from).
Here’s the thing about performances only: There is no clear-cut inductee this year. Basically everyone on the ballot except for Saito would pull down Hall averages. Even EFro! (Hall Median Top 8s — the most important statistic for most voters — is 5; EFro has “only” 4.)
That’s a toughie, isn’t it?
Or, from my vantage point, for conscientious voters, it should be.
Two weeks ago I thought I was 50% to vote for EFro; 50% to vote for EFro and Shouta.
Then I had a conversation with Jonny Magic that convinced me that Tom was a better candidate than Shouta, but that EFro was not as much a slam-dunk as I had originally thought (don’t forget, I voted for both of them last year). So I was 33% to vote for EFro, 33% to vote for EFro and Tom, 33% to vote for no one.
But I learned something you might not know:
Someone gets in.
If “someone” gets in, I’d rather it were EFro, who even with “only” four Top 8s, is at least the most powerful Magician in the world right now. It’s rare that we see a Magician at the height of his powers inducted into the HoF. But who knows? EFro might get his fifth visit to the Sunday podium, you know, next weekend.
… Which is how I landed on my ballot.
* In fact, my article on voting for Brian Hacker remains one of my favorite Star City Games articles of all time. An excerpt:
When you swing with a two-drop, you are tearing a page out of a hymnal at the Church of Hacker. When you play a sub-optimal drop because it contributes to the whole of your deck or the redundancy of your deck rather than shining individually as a tier one card, you are tossing your cap in the air and running through the fountains of the graduation ceremony at the Brian Hacker Institute for Technologickal Arts. In the unlikely event that you roll into a club after a tournament money finish and swap tongue-lashings with a blonde with whom you share no other lingual fluency, or perhaps elicit a screaming “Azul!” from a crowd of onlooking Latinas hungry to take in a little spectator Magic: The Gathering, you are clumsily attempting to cram your feet into the worn basketball sneakers of the Hacker of old, the one who broke other people’s games rather than making them himself.
** Paraphrase, but that was his actual reason for reversing his position on, ahem, Mr. Short. I knew something you didn’t know, but now you know, too.