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The Poison Ivy League Part 9-Feeling Out the Harvard Team

May 3, 2011

Considering how many teams have debated on APDA, are debating on it now, and will debate on it in the future, it is remarkable how many memories of long car rides, horrendous “banquets,” and nights spent on sofas and floors will die over time. Next will disappear the recollection of old friendships and rivalries, and finally, the activity in all its colors will blend into the muted pastels of the half-remembered college experience itself. It’s unfortunate that every team doesn’t have a Kimel to record its ups and downs. Sometimes as he wrote, he thought about Cornell, so far away from the other schools, and the dedication of the senior members of that team, who nurtured Licinius (who was NOTY), Titus (who was not), and Cato (who perhaps should have been), three of the best debaters in the 2004-2005 season. There are certainly a thousand and one anecdotes for every individual one recorded here.

Sulla A and Kimel went to the Wesleyan tournament together and found that their dynamic as a two-person team was less magical than they would have hoped. Sulla was invariably nervous before rounds, and Kimel afterwards, so that there was a constant tension between them. Sulla consistently delivered good speeches in his polished, deliberate style, but when he slipped up, he did so with melodramatic flair, like during a round where he casually mentioned the mentally handicapped children who once lived in the attic with Kimel and thoroughly confused the campus judge. Kimel’s style, more extemporaneous, fast, and lively, consistently showed him off to the worse advantage in terms of their individual performances per round. Still, they did well enough to break, hitting MIT A in quarter-finals. Sulla was also fifth speaker, not a mean accomplishment for a sophomore.

As Government, Harvard ran the case “Opp choice” (letting the Opposition decide on their stance), whether the Brothers Grimm should have sanitized their fairytales of the grizzlier and sexier aspects of the oral and textual traditions from which they drew their stories. Sulla and Kimel lost the round deservedly, but this was a great case that would serve Kimel well until the end of his senior year, as was one that argued the Catholic Church should repudiate excommunication due to its lack of Christian spirit. Gallus did not perform as well in the round as Marcus. Both had evidently begun the activity as stammering failures, but gained cocky confidence over the years, so that Marcus was an intimidating force by 2002-2003, and Gallus was equally formidable, at least when he was on. As the Romans put it: they are able, who seem to be able.

Harvard was thrilled when Scipio reached the final round of the tournament with Cynthia, the Singaporean Vice President and Comp Director, beating out Cyrus from BU in semi-finals. Cynthia had a crystal clear, veddy British accent. Claudia, Agrippina’s usual partner (when they debated at all), was also from Singapore, so it was unclear why their ways of speaking were so different. Claudia was a brutal debater who thought quickly on her feet, but Cynthia, gossipy and sweet, was more pleasant company.

It’s clear that Scipio enjoyed a very promising start to the year, appearing in two final rounds in almost as many weeks. He was a unique debater—not rhetorically impressive, but a brilliant thinker who made one excellent point after the next. He only improved over time. Fabius was more consistently eloquent, but often not as incisive. On the topic of Fabius, at the following week’s Vassar tournament, he and his girlfriend, Messalina, placed second. Pallas, the be-spectacled senior, placed fifth with a sophomore on the team who had served in the tabulation room of the Harvard tournament, virtually dubbing him the next Vice President and Tournament Director (there were two Vice-Presidential positions on the team then): Jason Wen. Kimel and he decided to debate with each other at an upcoming competition, since none of the people in their class had consistent partners yet and they’d both seen early successes. First, they competed as Harvard E at Brandeis and went 3-2. Luckily, they decided to give it another go at Bryn Mawr, and here was the future Harvard A’s first success story.

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