We here at Coachean HQ have come to realize that while other websites document the glorious and illustrious history of our wonderful activity, we are usually skulking around trying to find a pen and wondering if we can sneak out and pick up a double latte. Well, no more. Today Coachean Life inaugurates a new feature: The Great Forgotten Debaters. It is our feeling that anyone can recognize greatness in a student who wins the TOC five times in a row in both policy and LD, but what about the great unwashed, the army of little gray debaters who make up the bulk of this incredible activity? While others may sing of arms and the man, we will sing of the common schmegeggie, the Myrmidon without whom Achilles would be just another slugabed. (And to be honest, we’re just happy to see that both Myrmidon and slugabed made it through our spell-checker unscathed.) So raise up your hearts and your minds now as we celebrate our first in a series:
THE GREAT FORGOTTEN DEBATERS
Theodore P. Moon, Valley Hillsdale Mountain Glen Academy, Various locations in the tri-state area
Teddy Moon was born to debate. He never agreed with anyone on anything, much to his parents’ dismay, and is credited by the Guinness Book of Verbal Records as the creator, at the age of five and a half, of the classic rebuttal, “Am not,” which he used in response to unfortunate and regular verbal assaults by his kindergarten classmates. (Crediting Teddy with the invention of the classic turn, “I know you are but what am I?” is still considered controversial; Guinness cites the possibility that this phrase may in fact go back to the childhood of one J. W. Patterson, who overheard it as a second grader at Bluegrass Country Day School and immediately thought to himself, “You know, someday people might come to a tournament of champignons.” Young JWP had been raised by the French and was taught to venerate the mushroom; this changed during the de Gaulle administration.) Although there was a JNFL chapter in Teddy Moon’s school district to which he would have been perfectly suited, Teddy, a Unitarian, understood this to be the Jewish NFL and not the Junior NFL, and thus deprived himself and a waiting world of what would no doubt have been a distinguished middle school debate career. Upon reaching high school, Teddy immediately signed up for the debate team, only to be flummoxed by his first assignment, which was to read selected works by John Locke, John Stuart Mills and John Rawls, whom he hopelessly confused thenceforth. “The problem with philosophy,” Teddy famously announced, “is that every Tom, Dick and Harry is named John.” As his first official competition neared, Teddy, knowing that he was ill-equipped for the event, purchased three cases online, an affirmative, a negative, and a whatever-just-in-case, for the sum total of $23.87, thus depleting his PayPal account. The tournament was held at the school known familiarly as Bronx Science, which moved Teddy to remark, “What’s the difference between Bronx science and regular science?” No answer to this question was forthcoming, and then tragedy struck. Between rounds three and four, at exactly 2:22 BST (Bronx Standard Time, which is forty-five minutes earlier than EST, or any other ST you can think of for that matter), Teddy Moon, at the bottom of the down-three bracket, disappeared on his way to debate the negative position in the Bronx Science Parapsychic Wing. His disappearance was not noticed by his coach or his teammates until two months had elapsed, at which point Teddy was declared lost at sea. He is said to occasionally be seen haunting the hallways of Regis High School in Manhattan, which makes no sense whatsoever as Teddy didn’t even know Regis existed, but then again, Regis didn’t even know Teddy existed, so there is a certain logic to the whole enterprise if you manage to squint at it just right.
Debbie Muckle, Hoopdedoo School, Dallas, TX
Debbie Muckle had not intended to become a debater. In fact, Debbie Muckle had not intended to take up any extracurricular activities at the Hoopdedoo School whatsoever. Come to think of it, Debbie wasn’t all that excited about the curricular activities either. Debbie, who was given the nickname Throckmorton in the fifth grade after an unfortunate incident regarding a Sony Walkman, a calico cat and a package of frozen lima beans, did her best to get through life without being bothered by anyone, which anyone would agree was the best situation all around. But in 9th grade Debbie Muckle met Bruce (“Not That One”) Lee and instantly fell in love. Bruce, a student at the all-girl Hoopdedoo’s brother school, Upsydaisy Prep, was the opposite of Debbie in many ways, a straight A student and a member of practically every team and club and society the elite school could come up with. For reasons no one could explain, the two were smitten at first sight. And for reasons no one could explain even less, or more, the beginning of their relationship also marked the beginning of Debbie’s Goth period. The young freckle-faced all-American girl suddenly dyed everything she could black, and spent most of her time away from Bruce maintaining her temporary tattoos and patiently waiting to be old enough to get real ones, despite the fact that her mother kept trying to get her to take up knitting, or for that matter any activity that was not quite as obsessed with death as Debbie’s preferred Gothicness. But Debbie was unshakeable. In order to spend more time with her beloved Bruce, who soon became the star novice on the Upsydaisy debate team, Debbie joined Hoopdedoo’s own legendary debate squad and, to the surprise of one and all, sort of took to the activity. It was not until her sophomore year that Debbie was banned from the CFL for sucking all the light out of any room she entered and, according to the court papers, “an unremitting commitment to Satan and his black minions.” The NFL, not to be undone by the CFL, banned Debbie for “not displaying body piercings in keeping with the Ripon standards.” The final blow to Debbie’s debate career was the Texas Forensic League banning her for inadvertently downloading an Abba song, which the state board considered “conduct unbecoming to Goths everywhere.” After graduating high school, Debbie went on to Vassar, where she became a member of the Catholic Sisters of Charity and finally married her longtime love, Bruce Lee. Debbie now teaches earth science somewhere in Kansas where, as she puts it, they have a lot of earth.
She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian, Edema HS, Edema, MN
Despite being one of the hardest workers on the legendary Edema HS debate team, She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian, known familiarly to her teammates as Varaswamariakulliarumian, had perhaps the most depressing record of any debater in her home state, which, given the weather there, is hard to imagine. If a tournament broke to double octos, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the thirty-third seed. If a tournament broke to octos, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the 17th seed. If a tournament broke to quarters, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the 9th seed. In fact, at one tournament, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the only person in her division due to an accounting error in the physical education department, and she still didn’t break. Rumors abounded throughout her debate career that Varaswamariakulliarumian’s lack of success was directly attributable to the tab rooms’ fear of having to announce her name from the podium to accept an award, but no proof was ever offered to support this claim. In any case, Varaswamariakulliarumian spent four years of heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss, but this had no effect on her acceptance into Harvard, where she immediately changed her name from She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian to Tiffany Varaswamariakulliarumian, and where she went on to graduate with high honors, provided she didn’t show up at the ceremony and make the dean have to pronounce her name from the podium.
Benny “The Flash” Sparks, Heimlich Maneuver Tech, CA
Benny Sparks, better known as The Flash, has been long celebrated in debate circles as probably the slowest talker in the history of the activity. While many judges, especially parents, appreciate a reasonable rate of speed when trying to adjudicate a round, as this occasionally allows them to understand at least some of what is being said, Benny Sparks let out all the stops when it came to not being too fast, driving all of his judges, parents and coaches alike, into states of often irreversible catatonia. Whereas some students are known to spread, running dozens of lines of argumentation in a six-minute presentation, Benny was known never to finish even one line of argumentation, much less multiple arguments. In fact, he was often known not to finish even his opening quote before the timer went off marking the end of his speech. Needless to say, Benny’s greatest dread was the 1AR, in which he would have to cover both sides of a round in only four minutes. Benny was usually unable to even find his notes in four minutes, much less argue them. As a general rule, judges tended to write up their ballots, giving Benny the loss, and twenty speaker points max, somewhere halfway through his first speech, regardless of which side he was defending. Losing every single round of his career did not deter Benny Sparks, however, who ran for debate team president in 1997. As far as anyone knows, he is still somewhere in the middle of his initial campaign speech.
Look for more exciting Great Forgotten Debaters, coming soon!