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The Poison Ivy League Part 30-Far and No Cigar

May 3, 2011

Marcus and Cassius annihilated Fabius and Kimel in semi-finals. Facing off against two of the best debaters from the previous season, Kimel was bashful when he should have been insistent, unsure of defending his points when he should have been confident, and generally hesitant and disorganized in his sequence of arguments. Fabius was stronger in his speech, but was no match for Marcus out for revenge for the previous year’s Nationals. As Marcus delivered his opinions with increasing loudness and pushy flair, Kimel began to draw concentric circles and googly eyeballs on his sheet of notes, realizing that all was lost. Marcus’s intimidating presence recalled a night a year earlier when, in a misguided effort to be rambunctious, the MIT debater had heaved a glass ashtray at a friend’s head and accidentally drawn blood. As Kimel’s eyes rose to meet Marcus, red-faced and inflamed with eloquence, he contemplated the menacing, crazed intensity behind the sarcastic façade, an intensity that had once even managed to disarm Yale A at their best.

Having lost on a 5-0 decision, Kimel was exposed to the indignity of the final round in which all of the participants were dressed in long, ceremonial robes, which he would have loved to have donned. In fact, the lost opportunity to dress in such interesting costumes was a more bitter pill for Kimel to swallow than losing semi-finals deservedly to his elders. In the meantime, Arianna consoled him in their seats in the audience by emphasizing his strong showing at the tournament—third place at a title championship was nothing to sneeze at. Kimel attempted to return the favor and congratulate her in turn for her success at breaking, but she was so self-effacing that she would have none of it. They both agreed that Fabius had been at his best at the competition and were sorry to have lost the opportunity to see him debate in finals.

As Kimel watched MIT lose the Championship to a significantly more incompetent team from Canada, he found comfort in the fact that he’d at least qualified for Nationals and would now be a half-seed at future tournaments, which would protect him from difficult first round draws. Before everyone headed home, he took Fabius aside and thanked him again for everything that he’d done for him. Unfortunately, this would be the last time that they would debate together.

In the meantime, notwithstanding the results of Northams, the TOTY race was becoming increasingly heated with a host of Princeton teams all battling against each other, to say nothing of Alexander and Messalina and Vergil and his various teammates who had also won a large number of competitions. NYU, Cornell, Princeton, Mt. Holyoke, and Yale were the last major competitions of the year that were expected to decide the outcome.

At the NYU tournament, Sulla A debated with Lucius, a senior from Fordham and the APDA President. This was done in hopes of obtaining his support for APDA Treasurer the next year. Although Sulla had a vendetta against Lucius that extended back to a corrupt decision in a high school debate round, he set his problems aside for the sake of political expediency and broke all the way to semi-finals, where he lost unfairly, having run an excellent case about whether the devil’s advocate, who argues against the canonization of saints, had a place in the modern Catholic hierarchy. Still, even with this loss, he’d obtained Lucius’s support for Treasurer, which is what he was really after, and would later win the title, with Hirtius from Yale as President.

Princeton B and C both fell in quarter-finals. Eventually, Princeton A emerged victorious over Tertius and Hirtius in finals. NYU was a 20 point victory for Nerva and Trajan, since the tournament was so large, but it didn’t make much of a difference to the TOTY race. Princeton B and C were too far ahead of them, and this was the only competition they would ever win. But at the smaller Cornell tournament, when Princeton C defeated Princeton B in finals on a 9-8 decision, it seemed that the TOTY race definitively belonged to Lucan and Seneca. It was at this time that relationships on the Princeton team likely reached a nadir, with Princeton B’s victories shaded in the past, and Princeton A and C in the contemporary limelight. Fame on APDA, as Hadrian and Antonina discovered, could be fickle.

It is to their credit that the three teams from Princeton got along well enough with each other to organize a first rate tournament named, as tradition demanded, for Adlai Stevenson. Still lacking consistent partners with substantial competitive success behind them, the Princeton tournament did not go well for Kimel or, for that matter, the majority of Harvard teams. Neither Sulla C and Porus nor Fabius and Scipio managed to break. Trimalchio and Jason, increasingly inseparable, fell in octo-finals. But Sulla A and B persevered all the way to semi-finals, impressing Kimel more and more every round with how effortlessly powerful and self-assured they’d become as a combined force. In semi-finals, however, the illusion was broken when they dropped spectacularly to a pair from Britain. Sulla A had selected a poor case from his repertoire to face them and, sensing his error, delivered his first speech as Prime Minister in half the time allotted to him in an attempt to take his opponents off guard. The case involved roll-call voting in political assemblies, and Sulla’s points, even if they were often convincing, were successfully brushed aside and mocked by his English counterparts, who knew nothing about American political procedures. Even a humorous speech from Sulla B, perhaps the funniest that he ever delivered, couldn’t save the day. But this would be the last time that the Sullas would fail so dramatically in an out-round.

Messalina and Cato, the Amherst-Cornell hybrid, competed in Princeton finals against this same team from England and lost on a 5-4 decision. Thus, victory eluded Messalina by a single vote, just as it had at Harvard. Having fought her way valiantly to the final rounds of two of the largest tournaments of the year, she would never win a single competition on APDA.

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