TOC Reflections

Below the fold are some of my thoughts about the TOC, the good the bad and the shout outs.

1.)     Registration went incredibly smoothly- this hasn’t always been the case- but it was simple, painless and quick.  This is definitely something that’s been significantly improved upon

2.)     The weather is always horrible.  On the news that Friday I heard a crazy statistic in the 130something running of the Kentucky Derby it has rained 46% of the time.  I did not consult the farmer’s almanac (although I considered it) this seems astonishingly high.  In the 10 or so consecutive years I’ve gone to the toc I’m pretty sure it has rained at some point during all of them.   There are many reasons the toc should not be on derby weekend the weather is another reason why.

3.)     Many of the toc elim panels had younger judges and or judges who had judged less on the topic (we were extremely happy with our panel all 3 hs coaches).  I’m not one to judge other people’s preferences but it seemed interesting at how that happened.  These judges are obviously preferred highly by people (not making a value judgment here) but is it because they know and have been judged by these people or because in order to fill spots in their pref sheets they needed to move people up.  This leads to #4

4.)     We need to consider a strong and enforced version of the NDT “Lupo” rule.  I’ll admit that as a director I am guilty of this, and so are many others.   The Lupo rule sets a hard minimum (4 in the case of the NDT) for judging rounds required of any support staff etc.  The TOC website says it asks for 2, but anybody who looked at the pref sheet knows people either judged less than that, or weren’t on the sheet at all.  I was fairly satisfied overall with our judging (we got all 1s and 2s and our elim panel was 1,1,1,) but I think that in general we should strive to have people in the back of the room who we most prefer.  It seemed like a lot of the rounds had judges in them who are potentially very good critics, but who have spent less time judging HS debates then others.  In a world of the “Lupo” rule everyone has to judge a minimum of 3, but is not necessarily going to be put in for 3, so your college support staff might not get preffed as much and be available to cut cards, while a director or consistent hs coach does judge 3 full debates.

5.)     The elim debates seemed to be really close, or at least there were a lot of split decisions.  5 out of 8 octos were 2-1s, 3 out of 4 quarters debates, one semis, and the finals

6.)     The aff lost a lot.  Like seriously a lot in elims.  There were 15 elims held on Monday, the aff won 4 of those elim debates.  3 of those debates were won by Westminster (QT, Sem, Finals) and one by Kinkaid in the octos (2-1 over GBN SS).  There are obviously lots of factors as to why this happened, topic bias etc but that’s a pretty bad stat for the aff.  Bill’s showed some initial results of new affs, it doesn’t seem to bode well for the aff.  Is it because affs were unprepared to break new affs (see ndca podcast)?  Neg args were too good, the 2ns are better than the 2as?  I don’t know all the reasons but this is just a reflection post

7.)     What happened to the courts as an aff mechanism?  I thought this was going to be a huge aff area.  Were affs afraid to read a courts aff and deal with all the various internal process stuff?  We spent a good amount of time preparing a courts core but it seemed like courts aff didn’t happen.   Maybe some of the teams that lost early had courts affs they didn’t get to break but I felt like that area was ripe for the aff.

8.)     Crazy stuff happens at the toc.  I’m not sure what it is, but the competition really kinda levels out.  Teams that you didn’t expect to do as well do really well, some people lose prelim rounds where you’re like no way.  Is it that people some people step it up?  The pressure gets to some people?  The different judging dynamic makes that happen?  I don’t know , but you always see stuff happen at the toc that doesn’t happen at earlier tournaments

9.)     4-3 cleared at the toc.  I don’t think it has happened since I’ve been going.  It also set up the possibility of something crazy happening.  If Westminster DM had beaten GBS TD round 7, the #1 and 2 baker teams would be debating each other in the octos.  That being said GBS didn’t get it much easier with Bronx, but both sides would have known that debate was going to happen in the AM.

10.)  The rooms are hot.  Not Paris Hilton hot, but like actually warm.

11.)  Can we do the awards banquet the night before?  The breakfast started at 8am and Octos did not start till 11:30.  There were a lot of important things that were talked about in that breakfast.  Roger Solt retiring. The Julia Burke Award.   Jim Schultz’s excellent speech.  I think those things lose some of their importance when everyone is solely stressed about elims, and it isn’t fair to have debaters have 16+ hours off from debating before they jump back into the octos.  It also means the final round ends way later then it should, preventing people from watching it.  Even if there is a runoff debate, doing an awards then would be better for the group then making 300+ people wait.

12.)  Lets post ballots online like the NDCA and St. Marks does.  Tim Mahoney is great about this.  If you do it with a 1-2 round delay, it prevents “shadow pairing” the tournament.  It also helps fix mistakes.  At the NDCA it helped fix a Woodward PP mistake, and had it been done at the TOC it would have fixed a mistake that prevented Matthew Pesce from getting a speaker award.

13.)  TOC intel was pretty good.  That shared document worked fairly well.  It did occasionally come up with some big mistakes though.  I thank all the people who contributed to it, and wonder if the people who added data incorrectly also work for Citi group on the side.

14.)  While the finals had no seniors, this senior class was exceptional.  Some shout outs. I will have forgotten some people, and this is not comprehensive but it discusses seniors that come to mind. In no particular order, except for the last one

Layne Kirshon- Your intensity is awesome.  I enjoyed giving you a hard time about almost everything, but you have a special fire to win and the skill set to back it up.   Despite the fact that you are going to NU (which I do hold against you) you will have a great college career.

Zach Elias- Wasn’t sure who you were at the start of the year.  You are incredibly smart, pretty funny and other then loving the Jets a pretty good guy.  I can’t say you were most improved cause I didn’t know who you were, but you were damn good by the end

Reid Ehrlich-Quinn– Your skill set and talent is pretty incredible.  You had an incredible last couple of years.  You might have lost the fire some by the end, but everybody knew that if you wanted to bring it, there were very few people who could stop you from doing so.  It doesn’t seem like you are debating in college, but if you ever do people should worry

Will Thibeau- Your 2nc vs Damien round 4 of the ndca was phenomenal.  In the post round discussing the strategy behind why you kicked the CP (which I thought was questionable at the time, along with others who watched the debate ) showed that you really had some serious higher level understanding of the game.  Your ability to recover after what was a disappointing first couple of tournaments showed the perseverance you have.  I don’t think anyone ever said a mean thing about you ever….

Richard Day- Not exactly like Will- You were a pain in the ass, literally and to deal with as a coach.  You weren’t the prettiest sounding debater, and it often took the first 30 seconds of a speech to get you going, but you gave pretty incredible 2acs and 2ars.  Your research skills were obvious as was your understanding of the arguments.

Matt Rosenthal-  Not the best debater, not the funniest debater, definitely not the fastest debater but overall pretty awesome.  You seem to have a really level headed approach to the game

Jeff Zhang-  So tall.

Bamm Bamm Ball- I learned your name was actually Ian at the toc.  You had moments of brilliance in some debates, and not so much brilliance in others.  I mainly liked the name and your funny attitude.

Helen Gomez- You found a way to rile up and make max angry in debates that no other debater could.  You all had an exceptional TOC.  Congrats

Ira Slomski Pritz- So slow, so smart.

Dylan Carpenter- So fast, not nearly as smart.  Made the funniest joke I’ve seen all year in a debate.  He still lost.  At one point I had eliminated you from 4 or so consecutive tournaments.   That was kind of funny don’t ya think?

Andrew Markoff- You are damn good sir.  The negative block vs GBS TD in the semis of the NDCA was probably the best negative block I’ve seen all year and maybe one of the best negative blocks I’ve seen given in HS.  Your 2ncs and 2nrs were not just filled with cards, but smart analytical arguments, ways of framing the debate, and sophisticated spin.  Your ability to adapt to new affirmatives and new arguments was spectacular.  Probably the most refined 2n this year.

Matthew Pesce- Yes you are last on this list. I would not pick any debater on this list instead of you to debate for Woodward Academy.  It is really tough for people to know how hard you truly worked who didn’t see you in the basement of Woodward Hall over the last 4 years.  You had to deal with a lot this season.  A new and less experienced partner, doing double 2s, and dealing with me day in and day out were no easy challenges.  You sat there tirelessly often with your feet up (to my dismay) and kept working.  I am not sure there is a HS debater in the country who loves debate more than you do.  Not just the winning part, but who loves learning about this game and who takes such a rational and pragmatic approach to it.  I don’t think I ever saw you really nervous before a debate and even when I asked you to get fired up your response was always, “Why, I don’t think it will make me debate better.”   Despite that I know how badly you always want to win debates.   You have had an incredible career at Woodward Academy and definitely put up Hall of Fame numbers.   A couple of funny things come to mind when I think about your 4 years at Woodward.

1.)    You loved messing with everyone and knew I was the only one who knew you were doing it.  From the mash potatoes, to the constant broadband updates you managed to drive them all crazy and I loved it

2.)    9th grade- I’m sitting in my asst coach table when a conversation comes up about debaters not showing up to practice- Seaver asks something about sports practice sessions, You as a 9th grader chime in “Seaver, I think they practice everyday.”  I look up see everyone looking at you.  You have to get the dynamic of Woodward Debate 4+ years ago to get the importance of this comment.

3.)    Your Africa progressivism aff right after your frosh year.   Yeah….

4.)    Glenbrooks on the Africa topic, either because you didn’t know enough or because you still listened then, we sent you into 2 consecutive debates versus teams a lot better then you telling you one thing “Go for ASPEC in the 2nr”  You did, and you won both those debates.  The days you listened… those were the days

5.)    Post Woodward Tournament on the Africa Topic- we found out you wrote your own aff to read there.  You were aff in the elims and didn’t read it.  When we asked you why you didn’t tell us about the aff you said “Sorry, forgot”  when we asked you why you didn’t read it in your aff elim you said “Sorry, forgot”

6.)    Greenhill RR/ Greenhill Junior year-  You had an affinity for reading the petro impact as the terminal impact to politics, we told you that you couldn’t read that card anymore.  Octos of greenhill you read a prolif impact in the block which Damien impact turns and wins on a 2-1.  When asked why you didn’t read petro in that spot you answer with “You told me I couldn’t read petro anymore, I did what you said”

7.)    Octos of Harvard 2010- You double turn yourself in the 2ac.  You win 2-1.  You come outside and have 2 thoughts on this.  1.) I’m good enough to recover from Max’s mistakes but not Pesce + Max.  2.) “After that 2ar, I just sat down and said, wow I’m awesome”

There are obviously many other funny moments.  You always knew when I was talking/ yelling at you for something even if I didn’t say it explicitly.  I will not miss the wins and losses, anyone can win and lose debates, but I will miss the pre round discussions which really were more discussions then lectures.  Your higher level understanding of debate made talking to you about debate incredibly easy.   I know winning the toc was your ultimate goal but nobody can say you didn’t work hard enough to do it.   In your letter of rec to Emory I told them how strongly I felt about you being the type of person that Emory wants representing them.  I have no doubt you will do awesome there, much like I have no doubt we will keep in touch through your career at Emory and beyond that.

7 thoughts on “TOC Reflections

  1. Bill Batterman

    This is really cool. I just want to add that I can testify to Matthew's work ethic; in my decade-plus of doing this, I've never seen any debater work harder than Matthew. And that's not hyperbole: I mean literally never have I witnessed a debater who worked harder, period. I didn't need to suffer through the sleepless nights and total exhaustion that comes with high-level TOC preparation this year, but I *wanted* to… and the only reason was Matthew. He deserved it, and I don't say that lightly. Congrats on a great career, Pesce—it's been an honor.

  2. Srinidhi Muppalla

    Any discussion of exceptional seniors should definitely include Alex Resar and Patrick Butler.

  3. Roy Levkovitz

    Thanks for clarifying that Hirn-

    I did forget you and Misael. You all had an incredible season. During the year I wondered if you thought you were Samson and that cutting your fro would hamper your success in debate.

  4. Tara Tate

    In regards to #11 – banquet. I do agree the length of the banquet is problematic. This year, we did not start the speakers until 9 am…an hour after the advertised start time. Just having people speak while the rest of us are eating our eggs is not rude (in my humble opinion) and gets things going.

    Aside from that, the tardiness of the banquet means that I owe Roy $10 after a stupid bet over the start time. Yes, I will pay up when I see you.

    In regards to #14 – ditto on the talent that this year's senior class had. Ditto on Richard being a pain in the ass to coach.

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