Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Debate: The "Oy!" of Tournaments

Oy, indeed.

Sandy has desolated northeast forensics. Granted, that’s small potatoes when juxtaposed against the physical desolation, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

I’m always amazed as I try to chivvy up the Sailors to sign up for tournaments how quickly the season passes, especially for Plebes. There’s a first-timers’ event in October, then there’s one thing after the other, not that everyone goes to all of them, and then, suddenly, it’s President’s Week and aside from a few finals, it’s over. That’s about 4 months of debate, or maybe a dozen realistic debate possibilities. Miss one because you have your grandmother’s bat mitzvah coming up, well, life goes on; miss one because it disappears off the calendar, and what with your grandmother’s bat mitzvah and SATs and PSATs and SITZBATHs and whatever, and the next thing you know, it’s Spring and a young debater’s fancy turns to— Well, we won’t go there.

November in the northeast is fairly quiet. There has been an MHL event forever at Monticello, moved this year to Vassar. And there was Vassar, an attempt to plant another tournament on the calendar on a relatively available weekend. People need as many rounds as they can get, and varsity especially, aside from those on the $ircuit, don’t have much around here that month, so Vassar fits in nicely. Sandy, however, thought otherwise. The Vassar Powers That Be quickly put it into turnaround. It couldn’t have happened, they knew it, and so they said Wait’ll Next Year. And so we will.

I was out of electricity for a full week, and plenty of people in my area are still out. New Jersey schools aren’t back yet, but at least New York seems to be in business for the most part. (Lakeland district is supposed to come back online tomorrow, last I heard.) Even last week, listening to the predictions, I knew that Bump was in jeopardy. There was no way we could get housing, for one thing. We had less than half of it lined up at the beginning of the week (of course, there were still two weeks to go, so no one was terribly concerned), and now most of the housers had no electricity, no email, no phones, no nothing. Housing is an attractive part of northeast debate, because, obviously, it saves money on tournaments; losing housing makes tournaments a lot less desirable. But obviously, housing had to go. That was the first casualty.

So the question next was, would we even have the high school available? For some reason the power on that side of town was steadier than the other side of town, so that looked okay, although good friends elsewhere came forward and offered alternate venues just in case. We were ready to move the tournament to another school as of yesterday, but that proved unnecessary. It wouldn’t have made it any easier or harder for the Bump registrants, it would have just made it different, although it would have been problematic for me trying to provide food and whatnot.

Still, no matter what was done, there was no way to run the tournament on the normal schedule. So we compressed things a little by eliminating the third round on Friday night and starting later on Saturday morning. This will allow people to bus back and forth at reasonable times, or if they’re coming from Manhattan, they can catch the local train to the station about ten minutes’ walk away. That’s not terrible. The only catch is that we go from 6 rounds to 5, but c’est la guerre. Once upon a time almost all tournaments were 5 rounds. We got into this 6 round thing because of TOCs theoretically requiring a 6th round if you had a quarters bid. Why am I letting TOC run my life, especially when obviously TOC doesn’t give a crap about me (witness my pared-to-finals PF bid this year, following the paring to semis in LD a few years ago)? But that’s a question for another time.

Having everyone leave early Friday night means we don’t have to feed them, and I dropped the school fee which pretty much translated to the cost of Friday dinner. Can’t charge people for what you’re not giving them, right? It will be weird getting out early on Friday (normally I’m the last one out of the building, and of course the first one back the next morning, and I’m running on fumes by around lunch time). This means will have the alum dinner Friday night, when I’m actually not too tired to enjoy it. There’s a silver lining for you!

After all the drops and changes, we’re still filling up both buildings. I let schools bring larger contingents, but not crazily so, which means on paper the tournament will actually still look pretty good. But here’s the thing. The tournament is happening because a lot of people showed their support throughout: coaches, the school admin, the team families. Nothing happens in debate because somebody tries to do something. Things happen because the community wants to do something. That’s why I love that debate is part of my life.

Here’s hoping that our friends who were even harder hit get back on their feet soon.

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