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The Poison Ivy League Part 18-Kimel’s Second 29

May 3, 2011

Sulla A’s Presidency began with some gossip. Rumor promptly magnified it to undeserved proportions. Yale, Harvard, and Princeton participate in an annual “Triangular Tournament.” Each college fields a three person home-team to meet an opponent and sends out a three person away-team to debate at one of the rival’s schools. Cash prizes are given out to participants, regardless of success or failure; at Harvard, about 5000 dollars are split between the two top-ranked speakers out of the six total. Sulla seemed to be inviting criticism when he appointed a casual acquaintance of his as judge of the preliminary rounds to determine the winners of the money. A student at the Kennedy School of Government, he was probably as good a person as anyone to judge the round. But when Sulla was named one of the two victors (Claudia was the other), it sparked widespread annoyance. Scipio was particularly up-in-arms at the rumor that Sulla had been the only person to deliver his speech by heart after informing the inexperienced judge that the main criterion for evaluating the round should be how thoroughly a speech was memorized (!) Of course, Sulla was likely innocent of any wrongdoing, but the fact that this sort of story was sincerely believed by not a few perceptive people proves the degree of bad-feeling his victory caused.

Kimel came in fourth in the contest and was sent off to debate Atticus, Germanicus, and Tiberius at Yale. They ran the case that the British Government ought not have banned child-sacrifices in colonial sub-Saharan Africa. The round was messy and not very memorable. Harvard lost. As usual, Kimel was impressed with Germanicus, and disappointed that this was his first and only opportunity to experience a round with him. By contrast, Kimel was glad not to have to face Tiberius again. Once, when asked in an interview what Shakespearean character he most identified with, Tiberius had answered Iago. Certainly, he enjoyed his reputation for deviousness, and when it came to intimidating other teams or poking holes in careless arguments, he was a sort of genius. Although Tiberius was physically disabled, it says something important about the nature of APDA that this inspired neither shows of pity nor condescending admiration. On a playing field of minds, it was more often than not others who seemed handicapped by comparison with him. In many ways, there are few competitive venues more truly level than a debate-round.

Agrippina caused one last bit of trouble before graduating. After Jason and Kimel successfully ran Incest-Fest (the ribald in-house tournament that ends the year), in accordance with team tradition, Sulla A was subjected to the traditional initiation ceremony for new Presidents. Everyone poured freezing beer on his head, which Kimel most enjoyed. Then, old and new officers on the team were invited to go out to a restaurant together. Cynthia carelessly invited Josephus to come along, though he’d lost every election. Once everyone was in the restaurant, Agrippina began to complain. Why was Josephus there? Sulla made a split second decision and asked Josephus to leave. He melodramtically swept away, furious with insult. Sulla probably didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. But adept at obtaining power, he evidently still had lessons to learn about its exercise. When Kimel sent Josephus a letter apologizing for the confusion, Sulla Emailed him not to undermine his authority again.

The final event of the debate season was the annual Hybrids Tournament, a tongue-in-cheek competition at which debaters from different schools partner with each other. Kimel was teamed with Cyrus from BU. He had just lost quarter-finals of Nationals to the University of Virginia the week before and was eager to leave the circuit in style. Kimel stole the show, however, by speaking his second 29 in a round in which he mentioned “The Great White Devil.” This was, by miraculous chance, the secret word the tournament directors had chosen before the competition began as a gag, promising whomever spoke it an automatic 29. Kimel thus became the top speaker at Hybrids and the only participant in the history of APDA to speak not one but two 29s, a pleasant way to end the season.

Kimel’s last round of the year was semi-finals. He lost by a single vote to Livia from Yale and Sempronia from Brown. Livia didn’t even uses notes in the round, speaking off-the-cuff. One of the judges later told Kimel that the reason she voted against him was “politics;” for personal reasons, she said, she didn’t want to see Cyrus in finals. Unhappily, this wouldn’t be the last time Kimel would hear the eight letter word mentioned as a reason for a judge’s decision. But against Livia, lethally capable and haughty to the end, who can say what the most just ballot should have been.

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