by Bryant Cook
noun, plural -ties.
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5. Ecclesiastical. a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
I was laying in bed late Monday night, my body still energized from either the music show I had just gotten back from or the amount of caffeine I ingest daily. Being unable to drift off into sleep, I decided to check my phone. I saw a message from an old friend on Facebook. The message was from Matt Kadilak, for those of you who don’t know him or don’t remember, he’s my age (22) and ran a majority of the first Legacy events in the northeast. Before I can even click the message I see a hyperlink below his name, it provoked a weird reaction from me. Knowing what it was instantly, I was unsure if I wanted to click it, but yet I knew I wanted to see the images. Hoping out of bed, I walked over to my computer, sat down, opened the message, and then clicked the link.
Photobucket eventually loaded and there it was: an image of a fourteen-year-old Bryant Cook with a bowl cut, awful barbell earrings, and a mouthful of cookie. The gallery was from the second big Legacy event in Syracuse – The Big Arse II. Looking at all of the old images of dear friends and a lot of forgotten people I began to reminisce. Thinking of what it was like when I was younger got me wondering about the Big Arse II thread on The Source. After spending fifteen minutes digging it up I was sifting through posts and eventually found a few of my own. I had little to no grammar or punctuation and I was typing like an ass, “Oh, to be young and immature” I thought. All of this reminiscing left me one lasting impression before I got back into bed and drifted off to sleep, “I’ve come a really long way over the last ten years”.
I spent most of my Tuesday thinking about the last decade. I had begun playing Magic: The Gathering at age 12 and competitive magic at age 13, but that’s not what this article is about. What I realized is a lot of my closest friends and influences had helped me become the man I am today, and I met most of these friends and influences in the Magic community when I was most impressionable. I’m not claiming to of had a bad childhood or that I have bad parents, in fact, they’ve done a decent job. However, I have a father who doesn’t communicate with me unless it’s about the New York Mets, and an overly concerned mother who “just wants her baby boy back”. It’s rather tough to talk to them about anything.
Whenever I had an issue growing up I talked to the people I could relate to most- people in the Magic community. Now I didn’t just bring up my problems to a random opponent, the Syracuse Magic community has always been tightly knit. I was seen by a decent amount of players as a little brother, and it used to drive me insane. I just wanted to be seen as an equal for so many of my maturing many. I didn’t know what was separating me from my peers, but it’s apparent now. What separated me from everyone else was the level of maturity, real life situations, and problems that everyone has been through, compared to myself. While in my eyes I was just as good as magic as anyone in Syracuse, I hadn’t experienced anything in life yet and was still very naïve.
When I had these growing pains I usually turned to a few people, Adam Barnello was very much my big brother and still very much is. We fought and argued over petty bullshit like brothers, some examples would be whose Hunting Dragon was it or what band was better – I usually lost the latter. Back when I was fourteen I owned about a grand total of ten CD’s
- Blink 182 – Dude Ranch
- Blink 182 – Enema of the State
- Blink 182 – Take off Your Pants and Jacket
- Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
- Sum 41 – All Killer No Filler
- Atreyu – Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses
- Atreyu – The Curse
- Green Day – Dookie
- Alien Ant Farm – Anthology
- The Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape
- The Used – The Used
Alright, I owned more than ten, sue me. My taste in music was barely above abysmal, but to be fair who has good music taste at that age? Adam and Colin Chilbert made it their personal mission to cultivate my musical taste. We were in the middle of one of our first team (The E.P.I.C Syndicate) testing sessions at Adam’s first place on Park Street, when Adam came into the kitchen with a radio and started playing very loud, screaming music. His exact words were, “You’ll learn to like it”, it turned out to be Bane, a band I like so much I’ve seen them live a couple of times. Colin was generous enough to take me places due to the fact that I didn’t have a car and his approach was a little different. He eased me into different music by playing music that was similar enough to the tastes I had, but different enough to expand from. He regularly sent me new music through AOL instant messenger and introduced me to some of my favorite bands.
While at an event at our local store, Adam approached me and said, “We’re going to do something different today, grab your bag, we’re going to a show”. We arrived at the Westcott Community Center, which is barely larger than a school classroom. The headlining band was Path of Resistance, a band similar to Earth Crisis, in that they were an early hardcore band. I was terrified. I can only imagine that Adam’s reasoning or thought process was, “Let’s throw him off the deep end”. The building was shaking from the bass and probably the crowd running back and forth from wall to wall. It certainly was a new experience.
Aside from music and Magic, Adam and Colin were always trying to help me with girls. I was a stumbling, uncomfortable and awkward buffoon, and in many ways I still am. However, I’ve changed for the better because of them: I now have confidence and can casually approach girls and talk to them. After a large tournament when I was seventeen everyone went to Hooters in Carousel Mall where Rick Agiro told the waitresses it was my eighteenth birthday. The girls had me stand on my stool while they danced on and all around me while people took pictures. Once again, I was terrified. It all came to a screeching halt when one of the waitresses asked me how old I was and I said, “I just turned seventeen a few months ago”. While you may hate some of the things your siblings, friends, and family do to you at the time, all you can really do is look back and laugh with them. If it were anyone else in that situation, you would have been laughing along.
While Adam and Colin will always be brothers and a couple of my close friends to me, I met my best friend to this very day at a Magic tournament in Baldwinsville, NY.
The event was Kadilak’s Dual Land Draft III; a heavy set Jewish guy who looked a few years older than me came over and started asking about “The Herbig Project”. The Herbig Project is a four color UGB/x Threshold variant that we had named after our close friend and teammate. The guy’s name was Zach Tartell, and I would have never of guessed that all these years later that we would have a bromance in full effect. We talk daily about random things in code words, phrases, and quotes. All I have to say is good luck deciphering our text messages. Zach may not be apart of the Magic scene anymore, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re friends, walk my puppy, play Frisbee, go to baseball games, and watch television shows and sports together. Our love for Scrubs, Lost, How I met Your Mother, Community, Mad Love, Love Bites, Happy Endings, Modern Family, Heroes, Parenthood, Walking Dead, and Chuck keep us close – and those are just the TV shows we have in common.
A while after the Hooters incident, Adam, Zach, Matt Abold, and I were play testing our new deck The EPIC Storm at Adam’s dining room table. The guys started cracking beers and asked if I would like one. I explained that I had never had a beer before, and Adam jumped at the opportunity to give me my first. He disappears for a minute and comes back with one of Abold’s Coors Lights. I remember being very disgusted with the urine like taste in my mouth Adam once again said, “You’ll learn to like it”. The point here is that a father usually gives his son their first alcoholic beverage, but I had Adam. He’s always been there to push me to try or do something new and experience new opportunities – he does what an older brother should do.
Looking back I’m quite grateful that these people helped me grow and mature as a person. The truth is I was raised more by the community than my parents in some aspects. I don’t have too many of the same morals, values, or views that my parents do. The people that influenced me most were the people I was slinging cardboard with, sad as it sounds. The next time you’re at a Magic tournament, spark conversations with random people, you’ll never know who may become your best friend. Go see a show, throw a Frisbee, see a movie, drink a beer, or some other activity. All of these people that you’ve been playing against could be your closest friends.
For your amusement: