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The Poison Ivy League Part 56-True Tests of Character

May 3, 2011

The Providence College tournament was exactly well-attended enough to be worth 14 points, in other words, enough for Kimel and Jason to tie Lepidus and Antony for first place TOTY in case of a victory. There was a good chance of this, since the playing-field was relatively thin. As it happened, a large portion of the tournament’s population was composed of teams from Harvard, including Ursus and Attila, sophomores now. Kimel was glad to see Attila at the competition and reminisced with him about their unexpected victory there the previous year. In the back of his mind, Kimel wondered what was underway at the University of Virginia’s tournament. A victory there would likewise allow Pompey and Crassus to tie Lepidus and Antony at 82 points.

That Kimel and Jason would fight their way into the break was only expected. They found themselves against Arianna in quarter-finals and hoped that she might punt to them, since her partner was an infrequent participant, and she was so ill that she was openly lamenting her continued presence at the tournament and threatening to leave. In fact, she had even tried to punt her fifth round to another team, but this irritated the judge, and so she broke to quarter-finals unexpectedly as punishment. Kimel’s hope for an easy time did not go fulfilled, for Arianna very much wanted to win the round. She ran a case Opp choice about whether prescription drug commercials should be legal and peppered her observations with insights derived from her thesis. Kimel intuitively felt that these commercials should indeed be legal, and all of Arianna’s specific knowledge about the issue came to no end. The fact that a doctor’s approval is necessary to take any medicine and that and a list of side-effects is required by law to accompany all airings seemed to mitigate the harms of her case. This sort of reasoning was enough to win the judges over.

In semi-finals now, Kimel and Jason were paired against none other than Ursus and Attila. Sulla A now openly declared that Kimel and Jason should have to throw the round, in keeping with what he and Sulla B had done to help Sulla C’s girlfriend to qualify for Nationals at Dartmouth. Josephus, Porus, and Sulla C loudly took up this preposterous cause, and the latter, newly crowned heir to Scott as President of the team, even threatened not to provide funding for Harvard A’s participation at future tournaments should the round not be thrown. These arguments, however, were petty and unreasonable. TOTY was on the line, which was a more important distinction for the team than an umpteenth person qualified for Nationals; remember, no one from Harvard had ever won the distinction of first place TOTY before. Scott overruled Sulla C’s rash decision, and Kimel and Jason proceeded calmly to their round, running the case about champerty against the sophomores, the strongest in their casebook. They were not about to lose this round.

Again, the case about the legalization of maintenance was as strong as it was boring. In response to it, the sophomores cautioned that corporations would take advantage of gullible clients by duping them into agreements with abusive contingency rates, but Kimel proved why this was not in fact the case. As it stands, lawyers hold a monopoly on the contingency market. More competition could only lower the rates for prospective clients, since now corporations would vie with law firms to entice the most claimants to their offices. This was a subtle counter-response to the argument at hand and deserved to win Kimel and Jason the round, though it was worrisome when one of the judges fell asleep during the PMR just while Kimel was emphasizing its importance.

As it happened, Kimel indeed won the round and now proceeded to finals, where he was to face none other than Scott and Sulla C. They had triumphed over Lucretia in semi-finals, who had in turn beaten Josephus in quarter-finals, inducing him to remove his outlandish woven ski-cap in frustration during the round. Thus, the four teammates who were planning the trip to Amsterdam were all against each other. Lucretia, doubtless overjoyed by her first real success on APDA, could console herself with a first place speaker award. Once more, Kimel was second.

Sulla C now had a sudden change of heart and offered to punt the round, admitting that a TOTY win outweighed the marginal benefit of his potential victory. However, everyone knew what had happened to Arianna during her fifth round. Something like that would be a disaster, so it was decided for the round to go forward, though whether this meant that Sulla C and Scott would not try hard was unclear. Sulla C’s request that Jason and Kimel buy him dinner for his efforts, however, suggested that they would not be doing their best. The topic of the round was secretly known to all beforehand by the arrangement of its participants—the question was whether dueling should be legalized.

Sulla C either changed his tactics when the round started or acted in accordance to a plan he had wrongly assumed everyone had understood once it began. One way or another, he delivered a marvelous speech and made every effort to win the round, probing Kimel with questions during his LOC and, to Harvard A’s horror, winning over the sympathies of the audience, who were still angry that semi-finals had not been thrown. Kimel delivered good reasons that dueling was undesirable in an ideal society. In addition to clichéd arguments about the nature of consent, he offered also more imaginative points about the potentially destructive effects of legalization in an urban context (innocent bystanders killed, the effective permission it would give to the justice of gang violence, etc.) But the audience was unenthusiastic about these points and they thus lost persuasive vigor. No applause meant no support. The speeches of Scott and Jason balanced each other out. Scott delivered his oration nervously, and Jason confusedly. Then Kimel delivered a caustic rebuttal speech proving in exhaustively intimate and graphic detail the terrible repercussions of the policy and the message it would send to the world about the US’ legal priorities. The mood of the room was suddenly uncertain. But then, Sulla C delivered the PMR of his life. The sympathies of the audience were decided, and they were not on the side of the victor—Harvard A, on a 4-3 decision. A great deal of damage to friendships had been done, but Kimel hardly cared. He was now at the top of the TOTY board again, and agreed with Jason that they did not owe Sulla C a meal of any kind.

On the way home from the tournament, a telephone call informed Kimel and Jason that William and Mary had in fact won the University of Virginia’s tournament, meaning that the TOTY race was now down to a three-way tie for first place. Yale and Swarthmore were the only tournaments left in the year, and it looked like they would decide the day. Kimel and Jason had one important advantage on their side: merely reaching the final round of Yale would give them enough points to ensure a sole TOTY victory, while their rivals would actually have to win the tournament to inch ahead.

In his heart, Kimel immediately wondered whether it might be worthwhile to come to an armistice and allow everyone to split the title. Simply put, the marginal benefit of winning TOTY alone, a subtle distinction few people would know or care about in the long run, was not worth the very real risk of losing the award through bravado. Kimel soon learned that he was not the only debater with these kinds of thoughts. On the way back from PC’s southern counterpart, Crassus and Lepidus had talked of nothing else but a deliberate end to hostilities and a declaration of a three-way peace on their own ride home. The offer to split the award was submitted that very night to Kimel by Instant Message, and within a few days, Harvard A had agreed to it. There was only one stipulation: that Harvard’s name would always be placed first in official listings. In the mind of Harvard, this was as a credit to the seniority of its members and their more advantageous position in the race; in the eyes of everyone else, this was a reflection of the alphabetical supremacy of the letter “H.” When William and Mary and Johns Hopkins conceded to this point, there was not much more to say. Diplomacy had won the day, and the closest TOTY race in APDA’s history was over. This course of action immediately drew a storm of strong words, both for and against it.

Ultimately, why did Kimel agree to come to terms with his TOTY rivals? The situation seemed like a classic prisoner’s dilemma, where reason proved that it was in the best interest of all actors to reach an agreement rather than pursue a selfish course of action. Reasonable minded people, like Sulla B, applauded the decision, which Jason left in Kimel’s hands. For her part, Sappho correctly predicted that the result of the race would render it the most memorable in the circuit’s history. TOTY had been seized through treachery in the past, but never before or since had TOTY been reached by consensus, and never before had it been enjoyed as a Triumvirate.

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