The Ewok Who Played Diplomacy
By friends, fans and foods
As his passing was announced so close to the publication date, we've been scrambling to pull this tribute together. But no worries, if you have a contribution to make, you can still contact me and I'll add it in here. Or you can contact Doug Kent for inclusion in the Fall issue of Diplomacy World.
A tribute to a man with an enormous shadow. And a beard. And glasses. And energy. And knowledge. I was going to add "and pupils", but there's already a dedication page at the university where he was teaching. Here we'll focus on what he meant to Diplomacy.
Jim-Bob was responsible for the Postal section of the Pouch, where he published his Abyssinian Prince Zine (aka TAP). With 384 issues at a rate of once a month, a quick calculation learns that this must span 32 years! That's 1985 for you. What else can we find there?
Praising the foods he taught us. Or the thoughts he fed us.
Larry "The Pear" Peery:
We should not be mourning or consoling each other on Jim-Bob’s passing. We should be celebrating and enjoying his life and thankful for the many wonderful memories he left us; and that’s just what I am going to do.
I knew Jim-Bob for so long I can’t remember exactly how long I did know him. I’m sure we were exchanging publications at least as far back as the ’80 since that was how hobby members kept in touch with each other in the early days. I’m not even sure when I met him FTF the first time but I think it was at one of the early DipCons or other gaming events.
Most of Jim-Bob’s Diplomacy activities were focused on the American hobby and the east coast events (23 events between 1994 – 2015, including 3 in Europe), but he did venture across the pond to Birmingham in 1994 for WDC IV. He worked hard to smooth over the sometimes bitter arguments between the Brits and the European Dippers. The handful of Americans who were present sat on the sidelines and watched in horror while the two sides thrashed out their differences. Looking back, I realize it was good training for BREXIT. Still, Jim-Bob played the role of peacemaker as best he could, adding one of the few calm voices to the bedlam of the moment.
His life’s work was focused on health and health care. A professor at the School of Public Health at Boston University, he was very good at what he did. At work he was still writing and publishing up until a few months ago. Unfortunately, he’ll miss a major international professional meeting at Boston University in July, an event he helped bring to the school.
Over the years we kept up a stimulating dialogue. Sometimes a simple question would bring a long, complex answer; and sometimes a complex question wound bring a short, succinct answer. But the point was that I always got an answer and it was usually a good one.
It was much the same in Diplomacy. He continued working on TAP right up until the end (#384 in May), just as he did with other hobby tasks. He never tired of telling the story of The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia - Wikipedia I still chuckle when I recall telling him that I had met a real Abyssinian Prince named Daniel Gamay, a member of one of Ethiopia’s noble tribes and a direct descendant of the last Emperor of Ethiopia. He thought I was kidding. Seriously.
TAP, his signature ‘zine that resisted all change but consistently attracted some of the hobby’s best writers and most loyal readers on a wide range of subjects. I’m sure everybody has a Jim-Bob story about music; which was one of his interests.; so I’ll defer to others on that subject.
The oldest email I have from him on this computer dates back to April 2009 and was about DW #105. The most recent was dated 21 April 2017 and concerned a hobby project being done by an academic on some of the hobby’s “Old Farts,” of which Jim-Bob was certainly one. In between there were 178 other emails from him that for one reason or another I had saved.
Jim-Bob had a fine, somewhat dry sense of humor and it was always easy to get a rise out of him. I recall him huffing and puffing for a month when I told him that he ought to shave his beard because it made him look like a ewok.
Whenever I “confused” Providence, RI, and Hartford, CT he was always quick to remind me that they were very different; and he was, in fact, very loyal to Brown University where he got his M.A. and Ph.D. That reminds me, I never heard him complain about the hour commute from Providence to Boston, but I’m guessing he used the time to keep up with his academic work and his Diplomacy activities.
The depth of his knowledge and the breadth of his interests was remarkable, probably because of the education he got at Brown. They just don’t teach them like that at Harvard or Yale. He was a man of strong opinions and beliefs, but also a man of fairness and reason.
In FTF discussions he would politely listen and let you have your way regardless of what the discussion was about. Then, when you were done he’d focus his eyes and fix his gaze through those thick glasses and bore a hole into you while he took your comments apart bit by bit, pointing out whatever flaws he could find and find them he did. I remember one time during a debate on some topic or other I thought to myself, “Boy I’m glad he’s not on my Thesis Committee!” Still, he was always fair and quick to praise when praise was called for. And, when a project was at hand he’d volunteer and follow through.
What better legacy could one ask for?
~ L. P.
San Diego, CA
I knew of Jim-Bob Burgess since my earliest days in the hobby, now over thirty years ago. I was blessed to meet and spend time with him a number of times, and while there is so much that I can say -- and that others certainly will -- about his importance to our hobby, what I remember most about him was his genuine interest in, and the true sympathy he showed with, all of the hobby- (and life-)related trials and travails that he, in his unique way, made me comfortable enough to share with him.
He loved The Game, he loved the experience of competing, he loved the chores (and they are chores) of serving the hobby in all the many ways that he did, but more than anything else, I am proud to say that I came to know how much Jim-Bob loved US, his fellow Diplomats. Jim-Bob cared deeply for seeing to it that not only The Game but that all of its devotees were well-served, and we are all so incredibly poorer that he has been called from us to collect his well-deserved reward. We can only hope that the hobby he leaves behind carries him along with it forever, in the depth of the love that he shared with us for Diplomacy, and -- in tribute to him -- in the acts of helping each other, caring about each other, and especially in giving back to our hobby and community, with the serious, constant, and consistent effort that he exerted.
When I first joined our community those thirty-plus years ago, there were a handful of people who I soon came to dream that I might someday be able to successfully emulate. Now, all this time later -- and with that "someday" surely come and gone -- I know full well that that dream cannot possibly come true. My feet don't come close to fitting in footsteps like Jim-Bob's, whose are among the biggest of them all. Let's all be sure that the sands of time don't erase those footprints from our hobby's memory, and that time doesn't allow any of us, or those who will follow us at the tables, to forget the special person who counted this game as such an important part of his life...and who counted us as his friends.
I miss you, Jim-Bob. Stab you soon.
~ M. H.
Edi "The Dip Sauce" Birsan:
Jim-Bob was one of the old timers that I knew from the first day he entered the hobby. He was a cheerful voice and an ardent supporter of trying to get new people into the hobby. His dedication to the old style of the Postal Hobby where the snail mail was the ONLY way to play the game is reflected in the TAP commitment that he kept up. He also introduced delightful puzzles and challenges in his Zine that had nothing to do with Diplomacy but were just another way for players to interact with one another and have fun and make it fun for others. He was a fixture in the hobby running the Winter Temple Con games and will be missed.
~ E. B.
Dorian "The Naartjie" Love:
Jim was perhaps one of the first people I met online when I started playing online Diplomacy around the turn of the century. He mentored me in one of my first online games and over the years we must have traded emails almost every other week, although I don’t think we ever played a game together. He was an inaugural member of the World Cup Council established to run the Diplomacy World Cup Tournaments, and it is a mark of the man that when he signed up for the job he did so as a sceptic. This notwithstanding, with his sage advice and constant nudges to action did more than an any of us on the Council to make the tournaments a success. He was a giant in the hobby and will be sorely, sorely missed both as a leader of our community, and as a man. RIP, Jim-Bob!
~ D. L.
When I read the news on Facebook: Jim-Bob has passed away, it sounded unreal. It was June 28, a Wednesday. At the start of the month he contacted me to help him publish his TAP Zine, but also encouraging me to publish my Zine on time. "We all know that no one will care later what date we came out, the deadline is for OUR pressure." (Love those capitals.) I held off, of course (the privilege of the healthy?), so I changed the subject back to his TAP update.
I asked him for all the back numbers of TAP that were missing since his cancer got serious. A few days later he delivers them. Amazingly he still had kept up with creating one every month to keep his games going. Said he was still working 3 jobs, which helped him get his mind off his health issues.
Working for the University of Health makes him a leading expert in the foremost domestic political debate of the moment, that of Health Care Reform. He is as relevant to society today as he's ever been to the Diplomacy hobby over his long career. That is quite the accomplishment.
So much energy, such a drive to do things and make people do things. And then he drops out. Leaving us to carry on. Don't worry, Jim-Bob, we may not be as industrious, but we are the many, and we have the time. We get things done. Eventually.
~ D. H.