Wednesday, December 12, 2018

In which we discuss MJP (again)

The thing to remember about running your tournament is that it is, first and foremost, your tournament. You can do whatever you want. You can let in whomever you want to let in. You can have whatever divisions you want, and set them up however you want to set them up. Of course, this must be viewed in the context of giving your guests/customers what they want. It doesn’t make much sense, for instance, to offer only policy in a region that has one policy school and a hundred and fifty nine PF schools. And you want to treat your guests well, even if it is more expensive to hire lots of good judges and provide edible food. But still, given a baseline of reality, it’s your tournament and you can do what you want.

Ridge has an interesting history with MJP. It was one of the first regional tournaments to embrace the idea, to some extent at my urging. We wanted to see how it would play out with mostly local judges and local teams. Over the years we’ve adjusted it every which way in terms of how many (equal) tiers (because unequal tiers, aside from a smaller number of strikes, is a deception). Last weekend, we had the full 6 tiers, and put out a lot of pairings that were both mutual and respectably on the low side. Yes, given the size of the pool, by the time we got to the 0-3s we were a little less persnickety, but then again, we were doing the best we could with the resources at hand.

About a month ago, we did the Scarsdale tournament, which is single-flighted, and which offers strikes but no prefs. The only oversight on our part was to keep the obviously inexperienced judges from the important rounds. Our take-away was that a lot of judges got to see debates they might not otherwise see if MJP was in full swing, and that the end result was quite satisfactory. After Ridge last week, we agreed that the MJP, while mostly working, wasn’t really that great an idea for that tournament. Our overall agreement was that smaller, regional tournaments are better served on a technical level by random judging (with, as I say, a tad of oversight) rather than prefs. Of course, there are those who prefer random assignments, period. I sympathize with their viewpoint. I’ve always maintained that a good debater can pick up any judge, provided the debater is armed with enough information on that judge. (Even a paradigm stating: “I have never done this before” can be useful.) Public speaking IRL is about persuading people who need persuading. Debate, in its most competitive rounds, is often something else, a battle of narrow parochialism adjudicated by parties inculcated in that parochialism. There is nothing wrong with that; after all, the Supreme Court is mostly concerned with deciding arcane legal issues based on arcane legal reasoning and evidence. Ultimately, there is room for different kinds of debate, even in the same activity. LD here doesn’t have to be the same as LD there. Regional styles can be applied.

So should you have MJP? I guess the question is answered by what kind of tournament you’re running, and where you’re running it. Would I suggest eliminating it at Big Bronx? Absolutely not. People attend a national octas-bid tournament with certain expectations that MJP enhances. Would I recommend it for most regional tournaments without a high bid level, or with no bids? Probably not. Unless you have pretensions of becoming a big bid tournament (and good luck with that, because I can’t imagine a less worthy and less likely tournament goal), there’s no point in pretending to be something you’re not. More to the point, you’re eliminating an important aspect of debate by removing the randomness of judging. The further it moves away from education in good speech techniques, the less relevant it is to a greater number of people. After all, if that doesn’t explain the popularity PF, what does? The day MJP comes to PF is the day the NSDA needs to come up with a new category of debate for the rest of us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

In which we reminisce about the old weekend

Back when I first started debate, Hendrick Hudson’s Malcolm A. Bump Memorial Tournament was on the second weekend after the Thanksgiving break. It had been there since forever, and forever would it remain there. Or so one thought. Before I was involved in coaching, my daughter was a debater there. As this was the era of housing, the chez would fill up every year with folks from far and wide. The very first year, snow invaded at the end of the tournament, and we had to house some kids from the Carolinas an extra night. Segue to “I Never Has Seen Snow” from "House of Flowers"…

Snow was always a threat. When I took over, that was all I could think about. I’d start checking the extended forecasts roughly three months before the event. I was lucky, overall. One time we got hit with a major blizzard on the Friday and had to cancel, but with enough prior warning that we didn’t lose any money on food. That was the year I learned the idea of not putting dates on the trophies. (Eventually I didn’t put much of anything on the trophies except the level, i.e., semifinalist or whatever. I didn’t even put the division. Who knew how many of what one would need? I mean, I was doing this as policy ruled, then LD ruled, then PF ruled. Sign ‘em up first, then decide the allocations.)

When Newburgh gave up its second weekend in November, I was there like a shot. Ridge, which was in deepest January, took over the Bump weekend. (Baby Bump is now in February, and Scarsdale has the old Newburgh weekend.) Ridge has, I’m afraid, not had my luck on those dates. We’ve scooted out of there two times out of three, chased by hurricanes and lightning, to say the least. But this last weekend was cold but clear. And all of Ridge ran with nary a flake (at least of the snow persuasion).

Some thoughts and ideas did arise, however. I’ll talk about them tomorrow.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday Arts

It's been a quite week.

Woodstock, Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon — I'm not against Joni Mitchell, and while I was listening to this album I marked on Spotify to follow her. But in terms of music to enliven a tab room and with which to sing along on the ride home, she just isn't working the right side of the road. But if you're going to have CSN&Y do it on the playlist, JM ought to have her shot at it too.

Available Space, Ry Cooder, Ry Cooder — Yes, slide guitar. I am a sucker for slide guitar. This album is pretty good, but I only found one song to add to the playlist. But this is very early in Cooder's career, and the first of his albums I'm audited. There's plenty more opportunities to come.

Born to Rock and Roll, So Long & Circle Song, Roger McGuinn, Roger McGuinn and Band — I was always a Byrds fan, and I saw McGuinn once or twice in his early post-flight days. He's another of those musicians I simply can't assume I won't find anything. He deserves my respect, and I'm happy to give it. This time out, there were three cuts. Not bad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

In which we are no longer obligated in PF

[Cross-posting to the Toolkit Fb page]

We tried partial obligations at Princeton for PF. With 7 rounds, the steps were 3/2/2/3/2/2. Or put another way, one team = 3 rounds, two teams = 5 rounds, etc.

It wasn’t worth the bother.

First of all, as a general rule, there are more PF judges than one can shake a stick at for most (if not all) tournaments. It’s the nature of the beast, where even in your worst-case scenario, you have a lot of parents. Additionally, at least at universities, you have a lot of student judges, because any Parli person will make a suitable PF adjudicator. So when all is said and done, if you’re paying attention and distributing your judges fairly (something that tabroom didn’t do, once upon a time, but which it seems fine at now), no one is really being worked to death. Add to this that since there are no prefs, it’s not like the highly preferred judges are being run ragged, because there are no highly preferred judges. All PF judges are created equal, until one of them comes into tab unable to speak English and starts asking you so many dumb questions in Khwarezmian that you immediately find the “inactive” button for the sake of all that is good and moral.

On top of that, people just didn’t understand it. I mean, it’s not that hard, and they got the gist after a while, but I spent a lot of time firing up the old gmail in the run-up to the tournament explaining what was what, plus I had to go in often and poke around the wrong numbers people had entered. There needs to be some serious warrant to go through all that trouble. 

So, you ask, what would have been the gain? Well, when we originally decided to do it, it was mostly for the sake of normalizing the back end. If you did it for LD, why not for PF. Plus, since there were strikes, it seemed better to know that you were striking someone with 7 rounds rather than someone with 2. But again, given the even distribution of rounds, nobody really has 7. So it’s more the appearance of making choices rather than true meaningful choices.

So we won’t try it at other universities. As I say, it wasn’t worth the bother. We’ll keep it for LD, of course, but that’s a different animal altogether.