Earlier this year I was the Head Judge of the SCG Modern Classic in Richmond, Virginia. During round one, I was out walking the floor and decided that I would take a call near me. As I delivered my ruling, I thought to myself: “I’m in this shirt for a reason. I know this ruling; I know that I’m correct.”
Spoilers: I was wrong.
After walking away from the call, I was approached by one of my floor judges, Dave Tosto. He asked me about the ruling and whether I was correct. I was still pretty confident that I was. (I was still wrong.) But I told him I would put my head together with another judge and double check. After my sounding board told me that I was wrong, I went back and paused the match so I could tell the player I spoke with earlier some words I hope to never have to say in a judge shirt:
“I was wrong.”
The player was upset, rightly so. We chatted. I gave him the correct ruling. I apologized. After the match we chatted some more, he was still upset, rightly so. He was very understanding and continued to play Magic on Sunday. But I walked away from the call frustrated and grasping for purchase. When I followed up with Dave, he told me that he overheard the call and was pretty sure I was wrong but was afraid to step in. I asked him to say some words on the experience.
There are going to be times when you watch a better and more experienced judge do something that seems wrong to you. A voice in your head will probably say “they know what they’re doing” or “I must have missed some key piece of information here”, but you need to tell that voice to shut it. Even a level 3 judge with 7+ years of experience is still a human, and guess what? Humans make mistakes.
You should always speak up if you have a feeling that something is being done wrong. I didn’t speak up today and it cost a player a game. Even if it’s during a live call, you can say ‘Hey, I have a question about this, can we talk away from the table?’ Assuming that any judge or player involved is a reasonable person, none of them will get mad at you for taking the time to be sure we give the correct ruling.
So Dave learned something from this, but did I learn something? Turns out I learned a whole bunch about the MTR (not going to be wrong about THAT one again). I learned that it is ok to double-check my rulings once in awhile, regardless of what role I’m in. However, most importantly I remembered that from failure we can find feedback.
The inspiration for this piece came from two places: both this experience and a revelation from a very topical fortune cookie: