Perhaps you remember them differently than I do. I remember a herd (and I don’t think it’s ungenerous to describe them thusly) parked at a table in our library. Bad skin, weight issues, nearsightedness — three-dimensional representations of a Far Side cartoon, hunched over the table in deep meditation. Wisecracks that weren’t wise at all bubbled up from the corners of the action. These were the jesters of this unfortunate royal court. And then suddenly! Action! One of the herd leaned over and subtly, but deftly, turned a stack of playing cards ever-so-slightly to the right. MAGIC!!!!!!???
Magic: The Gathering appeared at my high school seemingly out of nowhere. It appeared, to these eyes, to coalesce the scattered nerdery into a tight circle of “fun.” Lunches were now solemn affairs, after school was now not just a wasteland of sports and athletic enterprise. Time was filled with a card game that combined all the sexiness of Dungeons and Dragons with all of the mental dexterity of Go Fish. Pre-internet, you have to understand, this must have seemed like a godsend to those whose dance cards never involved dances.
And so it is that Magic: The Gathering reappeared on my radar this weekend as the New York Times ran a piece about its continuing popularity and recent beneficence. Specifically, the dorkiest game of all time is doing its part to make law school more affordable for the few, the proud, the Poindexters…
The New York Times article, “Tuition Aid From A Zombie Elf,” was ostensibly about how a dumb game that has engendered slavish devotion from the nerdiest people on Earth has started giving out college scholarships. The scholarships are being awarded by Gamers Helping Gamers, “a nonprofit organization founded by a group of successful young New Yorkers to assist a very specific group of students: those who play the fantasy trading card game Magic: The Gathering.”
First, a primer on the game for those who had sex in high school:
A cousin to role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic pits two players in strategic combat, each armed with colorful cards representing creatures, spells and magical lands.
Each armed with colorful cards representing virginity, acne and crippling awkwardness.
This card game, which has birthed a fervent following of dorks and a professional series of tournaments, has now decided to give back to its unfortunate enthusiasts. The first scholarship nerd mentioned is Douglas Johnson, a sophomore at SUNY Oswego. His spazzery is described like so:
He won his scholarship — $5,000 a year for college — after writing essays about playing Magic in his small-town high school cafeteria and about his favorite card: Glissa, the Traitor. He said he knew about [Gamers Helping Gamers co-founder Jon] Finkel from watching him play in tournaments streamed online, never suspecting that the champion’s winnings would soon pay for his own education.
“When a group of your biggest role models gives you a bunch of money, that motivates you to do really well,” Mr. Johnson said.
“I totally agree.” — Jerry Sandusky, NAMBLA scholarship award winner, class of ’64.
“So when are you getting to the law school part?” — You, NAMBLA scholarship award winner, class of whenever.
Another dweeb who won a Magic scholarship is named Dylan Fay. And he ran the gauntlet of law school applications last year. And his geek grant helped him through what is often an expensive process:
The awards are not limited to those whose promise has been overlooked. Dylan Fay, last year’s other award winner, was already excelling at the University of Florida and applying to law school. “I had to buy study books, practice tests, visit all the law schools, and the applications cost about $100 each,” said Mr. Fay, who used his $5,000 award to cover those costs. “Without this scholarship I don’t think all that would have been possible.”
I visited one law school, and only because they required an interview. But I suppose my lack of preparation in this regard is unusual? I don’t know. All I know is my academic career is a model for anyone who wants to rack up a quarter-million dollars of debt without anything of substance or reward to show for it. I apologize for the digression, but my hate expresses itself wholly independent of me, its very own neuroses just screaming to be heard.
Guess where Mr. Fay is going to school! Guess! Do you have a school in mind? Nope, better:
Mr. Fay started Yale Law School last week after graduating with a triple major in English, classics and history. “I’m probably never going to have time ever again to devote to it like I did in high school,” he said of Magic, “but I think I’ll always go back to it from time to time.”
As a young David Lat once did, Dylan Fay gazes upon the ivy-covered walls of New Haven and dreams of a better future. Unlike Lat, Fay ain’t cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. He is a nerd. God bless him and good luck.
In the comments, state the most embarrassing thing you would do to help defray the cost of your legal education. I’ll start: gay for pay.
Tuition Aid From a Zombie Elf [New York Times]