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The Poison Ivy League Part 50-Another Championship Lost

May 3, 2011

To the shock of almost everyone, Kimel and Petronius’s opponents in semi-finals were Sulla C and Porus. They had by some miracle outlasted every other American team in the competition. Lepidus and Antony and the Sullas had fallen in octo-finals, and they themselves had defeated Piso and Plancinus in quarters. Sulla C was, in fairness, an orator of great capabilities who defeated Kimel on more than one occassion, but Porus had never progressed especially far in the activity and had rarely ever broken to outrounds. Their success at the competition suggested to many observers how surprising at best and arbitrary at worst even the largest and most well-judged competitions could be. Whatever the case, now Kimel, Petronius, Sulla C, and Porus were left to fight it out for a ticket to finals of the Championship. They knew that at stake was the opportunity to represent their nation, since the other round, interestingly enough, pitted one team from Hart House College, a Canadian institution, against another.

Finding themselves on Government on the motion that “this House would curb political extremism,” it was recommended to Petronius and Kimel that they run the case that homosexuals should be put into a special political class that mandated heightened scrutiny against discriminatory legislation, similar to what was once done to protect against unfair laws penalizing gender or race. The framework of the case was strongly grounded in American constitutional politics, which no one on either team knew especially much about. At the same time, the topic was perhaps inappropriate for a trans-national tournament judged in large part by Canadians. Pleading ignorance about the nuances of the case but with no better suggestions of his own, Kimel surrendered his position as Prime Minister to Petronius and crossed his fingers, badly underestimating the degree of bad feeling that the case would promptly cause. Indeed, some evidently felt that it scarcely fit the resolution.

The round, which was played out before virtually the entire APDA community, can best be described as a long sequence of mediocre speeches. Livia reigned over a panel of judges with a look of impatience and disgust on her face, evidently knowing more about the laws in question than any of the speakers. Her cool attitude was likely further chilled by the fact that her two old enemies from Fairfield were arguing it out against each other; perhaps she humored herself that they had little improved since their freshman year. Vipsania copied her older counterpart’s scowls, and they shared wry looks until the end of the round. The Canadian judges rolled their eyes from moment the case was announced. In fact, only Cato, Titus, and a third debater from Cornell seemed well-disposed to the proceedings after Petronius’s first speech.

In the estimation of many people, Kimel’s effort was the best of the round. He spoke at length about the responsibility of a nation to allow its citizens to undertake their respective life-projects in a supportive and non-discriminatory environment, and openly mocked Sulla C’s hastily-made point that pro-gay legislation might encourage more people to be gay (this at least sounded like what he was suggesting). But all of Kimel’s efforts were largely forgotten by the end of the round after eight long minutes of Porus’s complaining and a succinct, elegant rebuttal from Sulla C that more than made up for the inadequacies of his first speech.

The consensus of the spectators seemed to be that the round was a mess, but that Kimel’s speech was enough to give victory to the Government. Certain members of the audience, such as the dignified Antony, even took the time to preemptively congratulate Kimel on his success despite the disappointment of not making it deep into outrounds themselves. Unfortunately, Livia, Vipsania, and their Canadian counterparts did not agree with these sorts of opinions, and despite the strong opposition of Cato and his entourage, gave the round to Porus and Sulla C on a 4-3 decision so surprising that Fabius was forced to loudly confirm it with Livia before announcing the breaks to finals. Kimel was greatly irritated. After privately commiserating with Petronius, he asked Cato to destroy his tape of the round and flew off to sulk rather than help Harvard prepare for the finals. Sulla C and Porus were now to be Government on a motion defending moral relativism.

Fighting their way to finals of the North American Championship was perhaps the pinnacle of Sulla C and Porus’s careers as debaters. In the last round, they more than availed themselves against their counterpartsm two Canadian women who seemed like a low-key pair, giving unadorned and unmemorable speeches. That one of the participants would one day go on to win the World Championship was unbelievable to Kimel. Throughout the round, Sulla C insisted that moral obligations did not exist, giving all of the usual arguments for moral relativism. His Canadian opponents only asserted again and again that society was bound by common codes of decency. Kimel, along with a large portion of the room, considered Harvard the rightful winners of the round, but a panel led by Livia reached an almost instantaneous consensus decision that Hart House had won—the results came so quickly that the floor speeches which were scheduled to occupy the deliberation period were cancelled. Porus and Sulla C must have been bitterly disappointed at this hasty indifference on the part of the judges, but Kimel secretly rejoiced in their failure and took quiet comfort in the dubious honor of finishing third place two years in a row at Northams. At least he was consistent. Besides, he was still TOTY, though he was soon to learn that thrones collapse more readily than more humble seats.

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