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The Poison Ivy League Part 24-Victory and Defeat at Brown

May 3, 2011

The debate season hadn’t been going very well for Kimel. He was still partnering with a different person every week and didn’t have a chance to develop an effective two-person dynamic. Still, he enjoyed the experience of getting to know a number of different teammates. But his reputation as a debater was somewhat ambiguous among them. No one could deny his past achievements, such as they were, yet since sophomore year, he was perceived as a greater oratorical than analytical success. This reputation was honestly not deserved; in order to be successful, debaters who typically played the roles of Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition, as he did, needed to excel both logically and rhetorically. The perception was mostly based on Kimel’s less than conventional case-book and the jealousy of the people who perpetuated the stereotype in their conversations. It was certainly the reason he’d been given a demoted judging ranking at the tournament and why Fabius had preferred Jason to him as his partner at Nationals the previous year. It was a problem that could only be remedied with competitive success and time. More than anything, he hoped to begin winning outrounds.

Kimel was excited to be partnering with Jason at Brown, since they’d had such a good time at the Bryn Mawr tournament the previous year. The competition was held over Halloween, and Kimel dressed up as the nation of Turkey, wearing the enormous, phallic fez of a whirling dervish and a sign around his neck that said, “Please let me into the EU.” They were disappointed to be hitting Cato and Titus from Cornell the first round, a difficult draw. In his speech, Titus explained to the campus judge, “Our opponents were very good and definitely deserve 26s, but we deserve 27s.” Imagine his surprise when the judge followed his advice but reversed it, giving Harvard the win and the recommended speaker points, which were in fact much higher than anyone in fact deserved that round.

Jason and Kimel made an exceptional partnership. Kimel tied up opponents with multiple rapid-fire responses to their points. Then, in his speeches, Jason patiently fleshed out Kimel’s generalizations with a healthy mixture of logical extensions and new analysis. His calmness was the perfect complement to Kimel’s high energy. This dynamic worked splendidly, and the team broke to out-rounds as the most successful contestants (the top seed). Unfortunately, they lost on a close decision to a pair from Fordham on an Opp choice case that Harvard ran about whether the use of sweatshops was justified in developing countries. Scipio and Fabius ultimately made it to finals, hitting this same team. Harvard ran the case: do you love someone because they’re special, or is somebody special because you love them? Fordham chose to defend the latter possibility.

When the audience was asked for floor speeches, Kimel spoke on behalf of his teammates. Hobbling to the front of the room and speaking in a heavy Greek accent, he declared that he was Socrates resuscitated from the Elysian Fields to allow the room to “succor from the supple teat of Logos.” Then he explained that something which is portable is portable because it is able to be carried, not because it is being carried. In the same way, that which is lovable is lovable because it is able to be loved, not because it is being loved. Hence, that which is lovable is intrinsically so because there is something special about it which makes it worthy of love, not because someone happens to be in love with it. Kimel presented these analogies very eloquently and won strong applause for his efforts. This was matched when he was later named the tournament’s top speaker, an unexpected honor. Jason was third, just behind Cato.

Scipio and Fabius beat Fordham in finals and caught up to the Sullas on the TOTY board a week later when they also made it to the final round of Brandeis, losing to Sempronia and Gracchus from Brown. When Scipio went on to make it to finals of Middlebury the following week, Sulla A was clearly no longer the only dominant player from Harvard on APDA. It was then that the team’s current and former Presidents suddenly began to have an awkward rivalry between them. Scipio latched onto the Triangulars controversy as a lightning rod for his objections to Sulla. Making things even more awkward were Sulla’s inept interactions with Aemilia, Scipio’s girlfriend, at board meetings. “Did you get that, Aemilia?” he would ask her as she took notes, speaking with mock aggressiveness that accidentally didn’t come across as mocking. “Yes Sulla, I did,” she would say mournfully, and then the room would descend into silence for a while. There always seemed to be trouble between them, and with every new anecdote and subsequent tear, Scipio became all the more jaded.

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