The very first time I met Sheldon Menery, I was convinced that he was the most terrifying person I'd ever met in my life. A stocky man with a gruff exterior, brooking no nonsense, Menery didn't just command respect, he taught it to do tricks. With the demeanor of a man who had clearly spent some time in the military, Menery took to cleaning things up in the Wild West days of Magic, earning himself the much-deserved nickname "The Sheriff".
Getting to know him a little better my years doing coverage, I realized that everything I thought about him when I first met him was true. He does have a sense of gruffness to him. He doesn't brook any nonsense. He is terrifying...if you're on the wrong side of him. But there were other things as well. He is a man who deeply values and respects those who earn it. If you want to improve and care about what you're doing, Menery wants the same, and gushes with the desire to help. He enjoys the fine things in life, and a desire to keep things that way is why he is the way he is. He doesn't want to see the things he cares about destroyed, abused, or neglected. That is what has made him such a good Sheriff.
This tough love that he has shown has made a tremendous impact on those around him. It's hard to see someone give so much to preserving the sanctity of something important without absorbing some of that yourself, without wanting to make that person proud. From the other Magic judges to players to the multitude of friends he has made during his time on the Pro Tour, Menery has made an impact on them all. With this World Championships signaling the end of his run as the Sheriff, the last event before his retirement, many of those who he has impacted shared their memories and stories of Menery's legacy and impact on their lives.
Level 4 judge Chris Richter
"To say that Sheldon has had an impact on my judging career would be a huge understatement. Sheldon was the head judge of the first Grand Prix I went to in Minneapolis in 2001. I remember and appreciated the attention and consideration he gave to everyone on staff, including me as a new L1."
"One of the most significant things Sheldon has done for me was when he handed off the 'Ask the Judge' job at Star City Games to me. Right before I tested for level 3, he briefly mentioned that he was considering retiring from that job and that he would like me to be his replacement. I was awed and scared at the same time. Little did I know that 'considering' meant two weeks later. It was something I gladly did for five years and didn't dare screw up. Sheldon has recommended me for other writing jobs, taken risks, and given me chances over and over again."
"Giving out roles and sharing opportunities has not been all he's done. At times he's given me the necessary feedback I've needed to hear. It's an odd feeling knowing he is retiring, as I know he will still be present at events in other roles and involved in the judge community, just in other ways. Knowing he won't be as involved as much as he has is mitigated by knowing all he has done in the past. Having Sheldon around meant we were in good hands. Knowing we are on the right path because of his efforts makes him retiring from events acceptable and in fact joyous."
Level 2 Judge, Tampa native, and Armada Games owner Michael Fortino
"If I was going to describe Sheldon, driven and focused are the first things that come to my mind. I would definitely call him a great leader as well, and not just a leader by himself. He builds other people up to become the leaders that they should be. He also does an amazing job of recognizing that some people don't want to be at the forefront, and he is always able to get them into the perfect position for themselves, whether it's leadership or not."
"Sheldon's the one who tested me for both my L1 and L2, back when the floor judge community was very sparse. His outlook and the way he approaches inclusiveness between the floor judge community and players has really influenced me and in recruiting new judges. He's very adamant that we have fun whether we are judging an FNM or a PTQ, and that the players know that we are. If we're having fun, and we always are, it can really foster a desire to contribute to judging in any players that see us. Sheldon's responsible for that."
"I will admit that I was extremely intimidated the first time I met him. When I heard he was moving to Tampa, I completely avoided him because I was so intimidated. When I finally did interact with him, he was able to break down the barrier just by being a normal person. You know how sometimes you just have it set in your mind about how a person is going to be? He just does a wonderful job of opening himself up and making himself available to people."
"Commander wouldn't be the same without him, either. We sat down and talked about the first Commander league that we would run and came up with the whole structure. We're currently in the 12th iteration that we've run. Our approach is being used in over 30 stores right now, and we're getting about a request a month."
Level 5 Italian Judge Riccardo Tessitori
"I've been judging for ten years, and Sheldon has always been one of the examples to follow, like a lighthouse is to the ships at sea. The judge program today has been shaped under his influenced, and his legacy will be beneficial for us for a very long time."
Pro Player Dave Williams
"Even though he's a high-level judge, I view him as a friend. He comes around and talks with the players, jokes with them. He goes out of his way to make sure you know that he's just one of the guys, really laid back. He can come over and make a ruling against you, which he's done to me before, but you never feel like it was something personal or that he were just there to make a ruling and fade back. Five minutes later, you can be talking and joking with him about things."
"But that isn't to say he's a lax judge. He's still the boss. I've never heard him give a ruling that I disagreed with. People understand that he's in charge and they have a large amount of respect for him. The fact that he knows he's in charge, but still stays personable is one of the big reasons there's so much respect. He's not like a school teacher, who you know is in charge, but you don't really want to interact with at all. He's the kind of guy who is capable of being the guy in charge, but is still capable of being your friend. He's like a father figure to the Magic community."
Over his long tenure as the Sheriff of our community, Sheldon Menery has sculpted the way we play the game, the environment in which we compete. He's done wonders for increasing the numbers, capabilities, and confidence of the legions of judges that oversee our game. More than that, whether judge, player, or friend, Menery has touched the lives of those around him, leaving an indelible mark, and serving as the ideal example of what a member of this community should be.
Without his influence, the Pro Tour, casual community, player base, cadre of judges, the way we enjoy the game...none of them would be the same. It's time to find a new sheriff. After all, knowing the example he set, everyone he has affected will be striving to follow the example he laid out for them...lest he return, guns drawn.