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On August 29th, 2011, an article was published to Gawker Media’s technology blog Gizmodo by intern Alyssa Bereznak titled “My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player”. The article described the author’s recent date arranged through the online dating site OkCupid with a man named Jon Finkel who revealed that he was the world champion of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. The article has received 892,775 views as of September 1st, 2011.
At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? “Yes.” Strike one. How often? “I’m preparing for a tournament this weekend.” Strike two. Who did he hang out with? “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.” Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn’t know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.
The article was submitted to Reddit the same day in a thread titled “What did I learn? That you’re a shallow bitch” and made it to the front page with received 9,967 up votes. This sparked an online discussion about whether Bereznak’s article was in bad taste, and many people came to Jon Finkel’s defense. On August 29th, Nerd Puddle blogger Kiala published an article titled “’My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player’ UGH UGH UGH" parodying the original Gizmodo post. The gaming blog Kotaku, another Gawker-affiliated website, posted an article criticizing Bereznak titled “Alyssa Bereznak Just Reminded Us That Women Can Be Predators Online Too” on August 30th. The same day, a post titled “The 8 Best Reactions To Gizmodo’s Mean OkCupid Article” went up on the viral content website BuzzFeed. The producer for Yahoo’s Trending Now website Mike Byhoff posted a tweet on August 31st commenting on the surprising online reaction to the article:
Gawker’s thorough investigation on Bill O’Reilly did 2/3 less traffic than a Gizmodo intern’s post about dating a Magic player.
On September 1st, CBS News published an interview with Jon Finkel and asked him about how to handle being exposed on the Internet.
My main advice would be to have an army of game-loving fans who remember you from your glory days 10 years ago. Probably also, and this is good generic life advice, “try not to be a [jerk].” If she’d posted about me being a real [jerk], things might have developed differently. But I suppose this sort of stuff could happen to anyone with a large enough Google footprint, even if they are a “Grade D Celebrity.”
AMA on Reddit
On August 30th, 2011, Redditor raffoo submitted a thread titled “AMA Request: Jon motherfucking Finkel” to the /r/IAmA subreddit. The same day, Magic: The Gathering world champion Jon Finkel submitted an AMA thread titled “IAMA Jon Finkel. Ask me anything”, and responded to several questions related to the Gizmodo article.
I felt a little, I dunno, violated. Even though the post itself didn’t make me look bad at all (at least I didn’t think). Still, it’s sort of like someone publishing emails you wrote to your girlfriend, or posting part of your diary – it just feels wrong
Know Your Meme Interview
On September 5th, 2011, Know Your Meme interviewed Jon Finkel:
Know Your Meme: In the AMA thread, you said the article made you feel a little violated. Why only a little?
Jon Finkel: Well I think if I were more violated, I wouldn’t have felt OK about it 2 days later. I think it’s a combination of the following:
1. By the time I found out about it, the Internet had already leapt to my defense.
2. I’m 33 now, and a lot more comfortable with everything about who I am and what I do. It was about age 27 when I realized “Hey, I never seem to think bad things about myself anymore.”
3. The article really didn’t make me look that bad. It basically said “I thought he was normal then learned he played Magic.”
Know Your Meme: Would you have minded as much if she had protected your anonymity?
Jon Finkel: I would not have been a fan but I think it would have been more within the realm of what is considered reasonable behavior. Of course as far as I’m aware there is only one Magic World Champion from New York, and the United States doesn’t have many in total, so it’s hard to tell the story while successfully maintaining my anonymity.
Know Your Meme: To switch shoes for a minute, how would you describe your first impression of Alyssa Bereznak?
Jon Finkel: I thought she was kind of sweet and “nerdy.” Keep in mind I only use “nerd” in a positive context, by which I mean I thought she was bright and interested in using her brain and semi-awkward in a way I find endearing. I found we never really got into a conversational flow – though I think usually those things aren’t entirely one person’s “fault.”
Know Your Meme: Did you know she worked for Gizmodo?
Jon Finkel: I did. She said she worked at a tech blog in SoHo. I knew Gawker media was like 4 blocks from my apartment, though technically Nolita, so I put two and two together and she confirmed.
Know Your Meme: How did you first find out about the article?
Jon Finkel: I went an hour without checking email and found about 100 messages in my inbox.
Know Your Meme: What do you think about the Internet response you’ve received?
Jon Finkel: It’s great to have all of the support, and see that all these younger magic players still remember me. I do think in some instances it’s gone a bit over the line – some of it has gotten pretty nasty. Yes to some extent she brought it on herself, but enough is enough, there are far worse things she could have done.
Know Your Meme: The last game you participated (and won) was in 2008. What’s the next game plan for competitive plays?
Jon Finkel: Well, I just played in Pro Tour Philadelphia this weekend and came in 15th, winning $4000 for our fledgeling charity Gamers Helping Gamers. The next major event is Worlds in San Francisco, where my sister lives, so I’ll definitely go there, and after that is Pro Tour Hawaii, which I’ll go to, mostly because it’s in Hawaii. After that, who knows, but I don’t think I’ll be able to play it as seriously as today’s top crop of young talent is – rather it’ll remain a semi-serious hobby.
Know Your Meme: You definitely are the world champion, but I’m sure there are a lot of other things that you’re into. What else do you do when you’re not in the zone of Magic: The Gathering?
Jon Finkel: For a day job, I work as a managing partner at our hedge fund, Landscape Capital Management. The rest of the summer I’ve been into biking, playing basketball, and hosting a weekly movie club. I’m just starting to get into yoga again, and I’ve been really enjoying it. And of course gaming of all sorts and going out on dates from OK Cupid.
This interview was conducted via e-mail by Don Caldwell on September 5th, 2011.
A Quickmeme page for Alyssa Bereznak was created on August 30th, 2011 and has received 483 submissions as of September 1st, 2011.