Jon Finkel and the Train

Posted in Event Coverage on May 3, 2002

By Randy Buehler

Jon Finkel might still be the best player who ever picked up a Magic card. He's still got Kai Budde by $40,000 in the one stat that truly matters – career winnings – and that's despite the fact that there was no Masters Series when Finkel was at the height of his powers. However, Jonny Magic is no longer at the height of his powers. He's grown up playing Magic, starting out as a geeky kid with bad hair and several extra pounds playing the Junior division of the very first Pro Tour. Since then he's graduated high school, gone to college, cleaned himself up, turned into a Magic-playing god, won over a quarter million dollars, and (especially lately) developed a life outside of Magic.

Suddenly Finkeltron doesn't win quite as much. He hasn't actually won a single dollar playing Magic this year. In fact, he needs three Pro Tour points this weekend or he'll find himself without an invitation to Worlds! The idea of Finkel falling off the gravy train may once have seemed inconceivable, but it could happen this weekend. No one doubts that Finkel could do well if he applied himself, but lately he just hasn't been that interested in playing with the magical cards. It's hard to blame the guy – this game took up such a large amount of his time for so many years that he wants to do other things now.

But still, I certainly enjoyed watching Cal Ripken play years after his skills were gone. Ripken meant so much to the game that it was nice just to see him out there, taking another victory lap. I'm not saying Finkel's iron man streak (or his work ethic) is as good at Ripken's, but I am saying I'd keep checking off Finkel's name on the All Star ballot even if he hadn't won a dollar in the last five years.

Then again, maybe legends like Finkel should disappear before they show us that they are mortal. Maybe it would actually be sad to see Finkel keep getting beating by kids who were in diapers (or playing Pokémon) when he was winning every title the game had.

Whatever your opinion on the subject, I'm sure I won't be the only one watching to see if Finkel can put up the 4 wins or so today and earn himself an invite to Worlds.

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