Our special feature on our beloved Regional Coordinators continues, and this week the spotlight falls on the RC for the US Northeast region, Shawn Doherty!
Where are you from?
When did you become a Judge?
Why did you become a Judge?
I was interested in the rules of the game and thought it would be fun to help out at PTQs instead of playing.
What advice would you give to members of your region?
What advice would you give to a Judge growing up through the program?
Judge level isn’t the only way to measure growth as a judge. There are many ways to get better as a judge without changing levels. Don’t get hung up on advancement. Focus on personal growth.
Could you recognize a few outstanding members of your region?
There are some wonderful Level 3 judges in the region, including our newest one, Casey Brefka. However, I’d like to recognize a few Level 2 judges that have been impressing recently.
Paul Baranay, Mike Noss, and Rick Salamin have all be busy at Grand Prix and other large events while also contributing to the judge program outside of events (photos, conferences, other projects). I see big things in the future for these guys.
What’s the farthest you have ever traveled for a Magic event?
The longest individual flight I have taken was when I flew from Chicago to Japan for Pro Tour Nagoya in 2005. The longest trip I have taken was earlier this year when I flew from California to Prague between GP Oakland and GP Prague.
Does your family travel with you?
My wife doesn’t travel with me for events. (When we only had one car, she would drop me off at local events, but that was as close as she wanted to get to a group of Magic players.)
How do you not lose your mind as a RC?
I see the role of the RC as a person that talks to people and helps them out. I care about my judges and I want them to succeed. This makes the job rewarding, since I get to see many great people improve as judges and people. That feeling helps me get through the times I have to deal with the more difficult parts of the position.
What has been your best experience in the Judge Program?
For Pro Tour San Juan, a bunch of judges rented a house in San Juan to stay for the week of the Pro Tour. We had some great times hanging out at the house, playing Magic, and eating and drinking as a group. On the day after the Pro Tour, some of us took a trip to a nearby rainforest and spend the day walking around the forest checking out all the plants and animals. It was a great trip from start to finish, especially the people.
The people. I think that most people will have the same answer. I like to say that I haven’t been a judge for 13 years because I love doing deck checks and pushing in chairs. I do it because I get to hang out with interesting people from all parts of the world.
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I like to play board games when I have a chance. I also like watching movies. My main hobby is cross-stitch, but it may be considered Magic-related, since most of my projects have been based on Magic artwork.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
I don’t follow the Magic storylines, but if I had to pick a character, I’d say Fblthp. I don’t really have a good reason why.
How often do you travel for Magic?
I have tried to cut back to only two events per month, but I haven’t done a great job at that so far this year.
What’s one thing in your region which makes playing Magic special?
My region is interesting because it has the most states of any US region, but the smallest geographic area of them. Many judges in the region live close to other regions (I’m a 15-minute drive from 2 other regions) and often judge in other regions as much as their own. This requires collaboration with judges from other regions, even for local events.
Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
Way back in 2001, I flew to my first Magic event away from home. It was US Nationals at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. When I arrived at the Orlando airport, I was ready to head to my hotel. However, I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel. Not only that, but I didn’t bring any sort of paperwork that listed any information about the hotel. Since I didn’t have a smartphone (or mobile phone), I had to figure out what to do. I figured that I would recognize the name of it if I saw it, so I found a pay phone and looked in the phone book for hotels. The only tidbit I had was that I thought the hotel “started with the letter H”. Once I opened the phone book, I realized the futility of my effort. There were hundreds of hotels in the phone book and pages of hotels starting with H. Needless to say, I didn’t find my hotel that way. At this point, I had to swallow my pride and call my wife on the pay phone, so that she could give me the hotel information. After that trip, I was much more careful when packing for a trip out of town.
Magic has broadened my horizons and allowed me to travel around the world. Before becoming a judge, I had never left the United States. Now, I feel comfortable flying to different countries and have traveled more than I could have imagined (going to fly 100K miles this year). I have also met people from around the world. Many of these people are now my good friends.
Who are your role models within the Judge Program? What are the qualities that drew you to them?
When I was coming up in the judge program, my judge mentor was Aaron Matney. When I started, I was great with knowing the rules, but needed to do a better job interacting with players. He taught me how to improve in this area, which allowed me to become a better judge. Today, I am impressed by the hard work and dedication of the Level 4 and 5 judges. The judge program would not be a success without them and I admire all that they do to help the program thrive.
How do you have fun during events?
I love to talk to people at events. I will joke around and tell stories. During downtime, I will play Commander or draft, if others want to, but that’s usually just an excuse to hang out and tell more stories.
What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
The easy answer would be to say it was the day I certified for Level 3. However, that was over ten years ago, and I’d like to think that I have had something more to be proud of since then. So, my answer is when Casey Brefka certified for Level 3. When I took over as Regional Coordinator about two years ago, one of my goals for the region was to certify a new Level 3. When he passed, I felt proud that someone from our region had reached that point. (And I’m ready to feel that again when the next ones get there.)
What is your favorite “after event” story?
On the day after Pro Tour Geneva, I had planned on doing some sightseeing. I had convinced Rashad Miller to also stay an extra day, so that I would have some company. We were rooming together at the same hotel, just outside of Geneva, but due to some poor planning, the hotel was just across the border in France. Before we set off for Geneva, we decided to buy some snacks and drinks. There was a small local market within walking distance of the hotel, so we headed over there. As we were walking, we realized a potential problem. The only money we had was in Swiss francs, but the market was in France, where they use Euros. At the store, we picked up some candy bars, bananas, juice, and other snacks, then headed to check out. When got to the checkout counter, we noticed a sign on the wall, written in French, which neither of us can speak nor read. We did see an image of a credit card next to “10€”, which we interpreted as the minimum purchase to use a credit card. I did some quick math and realized that we were only at ~7€, so we went back and got more candy and bananas. When we returned to the checkout, an older woman with a full cart of groceries was the only person in front of us in line. She turned around and said “Would you like to go in front of me?” Well, I *think* that is what she said, since it was in French. We thanked her as best we could and moved in front of her. The cashier began to ring up the groceries and I tried to keep a total in my head, since I thought we were still close to the 10€ minimum. About half way through I decided that we were still short, so I sent Rashad back to get more items. Unfortunately, the cashier finished before Rashad returned. I couldn’t see the total cost and didn’t understand what the cashier said, so I silently handed her my credit card and hoped for the best. She processed the transaction without another word, so either we met the 10€ minimum, there was no 10€ minimum, or the cashier felt sorry for the ignorant Americans and let us go. About this time, I realized that there isn’t anyone bagging our groceries, which I wasn’t too surprised by. However, I was more surprised when I saw that there were no bags at all available. Luckily Rashad had his laptop bag with him and the laptop was back in the hotel room. So we did our best to stuff all of the candy, bananas, drinks, and other snacks into this bag, so that we could escape this store without further incident. We left the store, returned to the hotel to drop off the excess snacks, and then headed to the bus stop for the ride into Geneva.
As we headed into town, we didn’t really have a plan. We were just going to walk around, check out some museums, and have some food. The weather was rainy, but not too bad. As we walked we got to see some of the architecture of the city. When we came upon the first museum, we tried to enter, but the door was locked. There were hours printed on the door, but next to the spot that appeared to be Monday, there weren’t times, just a word. We realized that this museum was closed on Monday. Bummer! We continued walking until we came to another museum. Again, I tried the door. Locked! Again the times posted on the door seemed to explain that it was closed on Mondays. We were starting to sense a trend. As we continued throughout the day, we continued to find buildings closed on Mondays. We weren’t disheartened. In fact, it began to be comical as we arrived at each successive attraction. After walking most of the day, we finally made it back to the city center/train station/tourist trap. At that point we were starving and we resorted to eating at the Burger King in the square. (How American.) We ended up finishing our day with a little more sightseeing, and then returned to the hotel (in France). The next day we headed to the airport to return to the US. We had to dump many of the snacks, including most of the bananas, since we couldn’t bring those back to the US. It was just a single day and not much happened, but it is still one of the adventures that I talk about most to this day.
Postscript: When Rashad returned back to the US, he had to pass through customs. The officer had a dog that was sniffing all of the bags as passengers entered. The officer stopped Rashad and asked, “Do you have any bananas or hamsters in your bag?” It seemed like an odd question, but Rashad explained that he had had bananas in his bag earlier, but had thrown them all away. The officer searched his bag anyway and didn’t find anything. However, when Rashad got home and unpacked, at the bottom of the bag was a lone banana. So what is more puzzling: the fact they weren’t able to find the banana in the bag or that the dog couldn’t distinguish between a banana and a hamster?
What is the worst tournament you have judged?
The worst tournament I judged was a Grand Prix that I judged about 7 years ago. Back then, the compensation for judges wasn’t as standardized as it is now and it wasn’t usually published. If you want to judge a Grand Prix, you asked the TO to be on staff and hoped you’d be taken care of. Up until that point, I hadn’t had an issue, since the other TOs provided good compensation, including a hotel room and product. However, for this event, no hotel rooms were provided and the compensation was about ½ of typical. While this was frustrating, it was compounded by the fact that there were not enough judges on staff for the event. This made the judges have to work extra hard. Nothing terrible happened during the event, but it taught me an important lesson: Make sure that you know what you are agreeing to before working an event. If you make assumptions about what you are going to receive as compensation, you may be pleasantly surprised, but other times you will be very disappointed and the bad feelings will last longer than the good.
And with that, we thank you Shawn for all of your hard work and for taking the time to speak to us!