Jim Davis had a few words to say last week, and I have a lot to say in response. So let’s dive right in. Here are Jim’s thoughts on fans criticizing John Rolf’s play at the Pro Tour Top 8:

Magic is a game of mistakes. You can never hope to play perfectly; your goal is to simply try to make fewer mistakes than your opponent and hope to come out on top. And pressure doesn’t always need to be a Pro Tour Top 8. Your first PPTQ Top 8 or even your first FNM can bring the weight of competition down on you. As a player, it’s your goal to push through the pressure as best you can.

And to anyone spectating, take a moment to empathize with whoever you are watching. Talking about games afterward is fine, but be constructive rather than destructive. A useful conversation can come from “I think John could have played that game better by casting Lightning Strike on a Servo,” but nothing helpful can come from “What an idiot!”

Sometimes great players make mistakes, but a Top 8 finish in a Pro Tour should be defined by the accomplishment, not the mistake that ended the run.

Jim wasn’t the only one to voice this opinion after the Pro Tour. Here’s a similar sentiment from Pascal Maynard, who defeated John Rolf in the semifinals before ultimately losing to Seth Manfield in the finals:

You can probably file this under “unpopular opinions,” but I disagree with Jim and Pascal here. Sure, John played great to get as far as he did and nothing can take away from that, but he also punted his match against Pascal in a pretty painful way and fans of the highest level of competition are free to react to that as they see fit.

Competition is tough, there’s no two ways about it. Whether you’re competing in the top table of a Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour, or a League of Legends championship event, or your local nursing home’s bridge competition, it’s a stressful experience that you need to prepare for mentally and physically.

But like, did you see how badly John and Mike (Sigrist) punted their final matches? Yikes.

Thousands of Magic fans tune in to watch Sunday’s competition at the Pro Tour and they expect to see the best of the best going head to head on the final day of these events. For the most part they weren’t disappointed. In fact, I think from a fan experience perspective the punts that John and Mike made only added to the allure of Pro Tour Sunday.

That said, here’s the bottom line: If you are going to play at the highest levels of competitive Magic, you put yourself on the line in front of thousands of Magic fans who are going to scrutinize every single play you make. Every land drop. Every scry decision. Every attack step. Every. Single. One. So my advice to pro players and aspiring pro players is this: Grow some thicker skin.

Maybe that seems harsh, and to be fair, I think John and Mike took things really well—this isn’t about them, and it’s not even really about Pascal, but mostly about Jim Davis’s commentary. Fans are under no obligation to be kind to you. They’re under no obligation to acknowledge how much work it took to get somewhere. You simply don’t get to tell people how they get to be fans of professional-level Magic events. End of story.

To close things out, let’s go back to the last part of Jim’s article from above:

Sometimes great players make mistakes, but a Top 8 finish in a Pro Tour should be defined by the accomplishment, not the mistake that ended the run.

Remember that New England Patriots team that went 16-0 and then lost the Super Bowl to the Giants? Their season is defined by that Super Bowl loss. How about last season’s Atlanta Falcons club that had a 28-9 lead going into the fourth quarter? Their season is defined by the fourth quarter that they punted away.

And here’s the bottom line: second place shouldn’t be good enough for Pascal Maynard, and fourth place shouldn’t be good enough for John Rolf, and the top eight shouldn’t be good enough for Mike Sigrist. They’re competitors, and they want to win. As fans we should expect them to want to win. Every single one of them will tell you they’re thrilled to see Seth Manfield walk away with the title because Seth deserves it, but they all wish it was them. And they’ll all use that as motivation for the next time.

So acknowledge the accomplishment, sure, but that’s not what defines their Pro Tours. Their Pro Tours, like most top players’ experiences, are likely defined by the fact that they didn’t walk away with the title. Suggesting that finishing in the top eight is good enough undermines the nature of high-level competition.

So go ahead and acknowledge how hard it is to compete. But don’t tell fans how they should be fans, and don’t tell pro players they should just be happy with the result they got.

Rich Stein thinks it’s a bit harsh to call someone an idiot for punting a stressful game of Magic but we’re not here to coddle pro players, we’re here to watch them play Magic under the most stressful conditions in the world. When you play on the highest stage of competition, not all criticism is going to be constructive. Fans aren’t there to make you feel better, they’re there to be entertained.

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