I’m about to go into the woods for the next few weekends, with varying sorts of trees each time. It’s been a while, and I’m looking forward to it.
Monticello has always been a straightforward event. I started going back when my daughter was a sophomore in the JV division. The tournament then had a semis TOC bid, and Varsity and JV divisions, and offered both policy and LD. It was a big event. When I first started coaching, I used to go up with my debaters on Friday, and a busload of novices would come up on Saturday to watch rounds, and we’d all go home together Saturday night. It was the first opportunity noobs would get to see what the world was like, not just in rounds but in the cafeteria, where the community was really happening. If they liked being there, both in the rounds and in the cafeteria, they were in for the duration. I didn’t start tabbing the thing until one year when the scheduled tabber got sick and I filled in, back when I was just learning myself. I had started tabbing, on index cards, at our MHLs, under the direction of Richard Sodikow. The first official invitational I worked was Newark. Then came Monticello and, well, eventually, everything else.
The history of Monticello’s Kaiser tournament is not unusual. They had TOC bids, and everyone outside of the region whined that the region had too many TOC bids, and Monti got clipped as—there’s no better way to put it—low hanging fruit. Unless a school is politically graced, its bid status is a crapshoot. I could attempt to explain the TOC politics, but that would require more time than I have at the moment, and it is, in fact, the story of LD itself, in many ways. We won’t go there now. The problem is, when a school has bids, people are attracted to its tournament. When a school doesn’t have bids, people are not attracted to its tournament. And this creates the proverbial vicious circle: are you losing bids because you’re not getting the draw, or are you not getting the draw because you’re losing bids? As I say, long story. In Monticello’s case, that’s why I wanted to try the Academy idea (among other reasons), to provide a level of debating that was otherwise overlooked. I can’t say if the jury is still out or not on the Academy issue. The two big reasons Monti will be small this year are the absence of the Bronx, which is still getting its act together, and the absence of Policy slash New Jersey, which are two different subjects entirely, but in a word, Policy is virtually dead in the northeast except for a few major program holdouts, and NJ has been building its own more robust leagues without needing to travel the distance out of state.
Is this complicated or what?
The point is, Monti bumps along, and it’s certainly runnable this year, and I think the attendees will enjoy it. And RJT will probably keep running it, and next year it should perk up with the Bronxians back, and there you are.
The weekend after that is Big Bronx. That deserves its own post, n’est-ce pas?