Tuesday, 08 June 2021 09:00

Kai Budde, the Pro Tour, and a (literal) eaten hat

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In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Magic: The Gathering had a Federer-Djokovic/Yankees-Red Sox/Coke-Pepsi type of rivalry going on between two of its professional players: German Kai Budde and American Jon Finkel.

Name a tournament during that period, and at it seems like at least one of these two made the final in those tournaments. While at first it was all well and good, within a few years, many pros and casual gamers kind of wanted to see others go up and win. But, just like the board game market, it was still largely American- and German-controlled.

During Pro Tour New York in 2001, pro Magic player and Wizards of the Coast employee Randy Buehler said that the next tournament would decide once and for all who is better, predicting a Budde win. But this didn't sit will with everyone.

So, during the Pro Tour New Orleans in 2002, the winner of the 2002 Milwaukee Grand Prix, Eric Taylor, announced that he was so sure that Kai Budde would lose this year that he would eat his hat. Literally. As in he would bring his fedora and eat it in front of cameras if that happened. Well, what can we say - the days of dial-up internet was hard on everyone.

Well, as you can probably surmise from the title of the article, Budde won, shocking Taylor.

But, credit it where credit is due. Taylor made it to the next PT that year, this time in San Diego, and brought a hat and some ketchup. While he could have brought an edible hat or some other shortcut way away from it, Taylor brought a real hat. In front of the press, Taylor then cut up part of the hat with scissors and ate it piece by piece, at one point drinking ketchup to make it all go down. By then end, with the mission accomplished, Budde himself asked how it was, with Taylor responding "I feel sick".

The hat incident turned out to be the peak of Budde's success, as he slowly wound down Pro play, leaving the scene in 2004 and only making sporadic pro appearances ever since. Finkel did about the same, and never caught up with Budde's all time pro record. As Pro Magic play is set to end in after the 2021-22 season (Probably. Nothing is definite), Budde will probably remain the all-time winner.

And to remember that we will have his Magic Hall of Fame entry, lots of prize money, and one unfortunate hat that was eaten in San Diego.