The Case for “Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl”

Posted on August 2, 2011


by Matt Sperling

As more and more ballots are made public leading up to the Magic Hall of Fame voting, I’m noticing a lot of things I disagree with.  The most substantial is the lack of mention of Paul Rietzl.

I could talk about stats (3 pro tour top 8s and a better median finish than Steve OMS and Patrick Chapin) or contributions to the game (one of the most common things people say to me at tournaments is “Paul is my favorite writer” and he broke down one of Magic’s color barriers, they said creature decks had to be mono red or green to be successful).  You know all of that.

I’m here to talk about what is truly inspiring about Paul’s success.  You think 3 Pro Tour top 8s is impressive?   Imagine doing all that with the IQ of an average third grader.

What people don’t realize is that Paul Rietzl has lagged behind others his age developmentally his entire life.  Imagine if you learned that a borderline candidate for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame like Tim Raines accomplished everything that he did with a prosthetic leg, or with one eye.  That’s the uphill battle Paul Rietzl has fought in competitive gaming, and he’s winning.

How has this disability affected his Magic career and what could have been?  For starters, he’s made decisions like playing Eldrazi Green in U.S. Nationals.  He also played a WUG Control deck at Pro Tour Nagoya, where everyone knew an Artifact White Weenie deck was the top deck.  Even though Affinity and White Weenie are his favorite decks, he didn’t play Tempered Steel.  I asked him why, but it only made him confused and disoriented and I had to change the subject to “Red Sox baseball” so he could get his bearings.

Paul’s disability has impacted his life in more ways than just Magic.  Paul’s highest level of education was obtained at USC, an institution known for coddling challenged athletes and trust fund babies through an extremely watered-down version of higher education.  At Grand Prix Houston last year, Paul got separated from me and his other friends and was unable to find his way back to his hotel.  He ended up renting a new hotel room, and, not understanding the pricing, he rented a $500 suite all for himself.

I’m not asking that you give Paul a free pass into the Hall of Fame.  He’s never gotten special treatment before and I know he wouldn’t want any now.  All I’m asking is that you consider all he’s accomplished, and all he means to others who struggle without the fully functioning mental capacity that we enjoy.  Others have achieved slightly more with a Ferrari what Paul Rietzl has achieved with a Datsun.  That has to count for something.


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