[eDebate] FWD: Not Delivered: Frustration/Forest for the trees

e0warn01 ewarner
Sun Sep 14 00:42:14 CDT 2003

My last note had an ad hom and a reference to race.  I have a love-hate
relationship with this community.  I generally love the individuals which
comprise this community while simultaneously hating the way this community
operates collectively which I find dysfunctional quite frankly and I can't
figure out why so many smart people can't figure out that just as we are
imperfect as humans, this game isn't perfect.  Right or wrong, it is my belief
that this community generally believes that the product produced is above
reapproach whether it is how the game is played or the decisions made
regarding who we play the game with.  My analogy to the Civil Rights movement
is simply a request to consider the possibility that contrary to the hardcore
personal beliefs of most of us in this community, sometimes collective action,
even if required, is a good and necessary component of progress, EVEN IF it
simultaneously has drawbacks.  The "individualistic" and "free market"
mentality is not Mike's alone and nothing in my posts should be regarded as
targeting him personally, but be clear:  I have serious problems with the
recurring demand for evidence before action in a world where I believe there
is a MOUNTAIN of evidence and the only question should be, what is the most
sensible alternative.  That said:

1) I believe that 120 teams in one location and two other locations with 20-30
teams is THE problem because it decreases the likelihood that the smaller
tournaments will continue to exist and that "good" teams who have made choices
to attend those tournaments will continue to attend.  I am NOT blaming the 120
teams going to Ga State because I recognize that their decisions ARE in their
best interest as individuals.  I'm questioning whether their isn't a larger
community interest that gets neglected in the process.
2)  I believe that 4-6 tournaments of over 100 teams is a recurring problem.
The fact that the debate community continues to chase bids at all cost
massively magnifies that problem.
3)  The link:  If the good teams in one part of the world, consistently leave
their world and play elsewhere there is a direct tradeoff:  they LEAVE because
they can become better elsewhere, but the possibility of OTHERS becoming
better in their world is simultaneously lost.  Mike is right:  Programs were
built by traveling to where the best competition is and NOTHING in my efforts
is a challenge to that as ONE purpose of our individual programs.  However, if
each program doesn't simultaneously assume some responsibility to make others
in their geographic world better, they are missing opportunities to improve
their ability to get better without AS MUCH travel.  If all the good District
five teams stay home a few times, it increases the likelihood that
Michigan-Dearborn, a team that can't afford to "go where the good teams are"
will get better.  Their are net benefits like increasing the meaning of
"geographic rivals" something that is always good for public relations value,
another component of what we do that LACKS ANY collective identity.  Mike is
right if the teams that can afford to travel to the good competition stop
traveling to good competition, they will get worse.  But that's the type of
extremist discussion that ignores the middleground of what I'm asking.  Mike
fails to demonstrate ANY EVIDENCE that asking a team to sacrifice the best
competition ONCE or TWICE a semester in the interest of improving debate
geographically. would hurt their competitive abilities, especially given some
would probably increase their number of tournaments to compensate (not being
advocated by me but knowing this community that would be the response of
4) The proposal:  Make a requirement of participation at the NDT that you must
attend say 2 tournaments within a 300 mile radius of your institution and 2
tournaments within 500 miles.  Period.  My argument is that big, national
tournaments would still exist because the community, (not through conspiracy
but consensus which is how the back-room conversations occur that dictate
where the top goes and the rest follow).  Those conversations would now ALSO
INCLUDE what regional tournaments the top teams would attend.  If an area
didn't have two tournaments in close geographically, then an incentive would
exist to create one--going to the NDT.  Good teams might get worse, weaker
programs might get better, dunno and I'm not sure Mike does either.  But what
doess happen EITHER way is that smaller-funded schools CAN compete without
having to travel longer distances.  The value of having that possibility to me
outweighs the perceived UNDEMONSTRATED loss in competiveness.  For others,
maybe it doesn't...Could this end with one region dominating national
competition?  Perhaps, but given that one region couldn't control how the rest
of the nation interacts with them in national settings, a check is built in
place.  Mike's concerns of what make people good are relative:  the community
(ies) are constantly defining and redefining what is "good" and that would
continue, reducing the risk of domination in this world.
5) I don't have any more evidence than what has already been discussed, but I
do have a vision of how this would play out.  Let's take two examples: first,
my alma mater, Augie SD: who left the activity in part because it was a
serious financial burden to stay competitive in the activity.  In the new
world, if Iowa (my 2nd example) wants to find qualify for the NDT they have
got to "find" some tournaments within the geographic requirements.  They have
to attend those tournaments.  They may need to create tournaments or they may
already have them in D4.  These four weekends would have been travel to
outside their region currently, perhaps chasing the bid or perhaps just
chasing the best competition.  Why?  To get to the NDT and be competitive.  So
now they have to host tournaments or support tournaments in their area.  If
Augie wants to restart their program, they will be assured of some decent
competition four times a year, within a drive of their home, something that
hasn't existed in years.  Okay, how badly does this affect Iowa and Concordia?
 Dunno, they may choose to work to persuade others to make the four
tournaments as strong as possible by saying, "Hey, D5 our tournament in Cedar
Falls works for most of your district, you support UNI and we will support
Augie, IL"  Iowa and Concordia can still travel to national tournaments, but
they will not be able to attend all of them.  Communication and persuasion are
required.  They "might" sacrifice some compeitive success at the NDT in the
short term in the interest of long term growth in their community.  However,
their sacrifice is RELATIVE as all must make the sacrifice.  Now regions with
strong debate will have a short term advantage certainly, but that exists now
and over time that would change since they too would suffer from the lack of
others coming into the big house.  Now let's say most of D5 and some of D3 can
use UNI within geographic limit, you still have a strong regional tournament.
Maybe strong enough that it attracts other national and regional competition
not within the geographic limit like some members of D6, like UK or Louisville
in the northern part of the region, maybe not.  But Iowa and Concordia still
get to the NDT, just a different way.  Augie now has more of an incentive to
restart the program on a small budget.  We can compete without national travel
and perhaps even qualify.  At least, we have something to sell (public
relations) if the community wants to grow.

I'm not saying that backroom decisions to dicuss tournament schedules is a bad
thing (conspiracy), it is simply reality explaining the process that has ended
in everyone going to a select few tournaments.  It is the same process that
would continue in my system, only over different tournaments.  So the new
backroom discussions don't just dictate the "national" travel schedule, but
where the "regional tournaments" are going to be, similar to what occurred in
D6 last year (decisions to support Alabama and Pi Kappa), which WAS a backroom
decision to Cap City, Pepperdine, Baylor, Navy and anyone else holding
tournaments on those weekends.  The need to create the incentive to do this is
BECAUSE there is currently little incentive to comply with the agreement (no
one is bringing top teams for example) and a lot of incentive to not comply,
especially in Districts outside of D6 right now.  Iowa and Concordia will
never stay in their weak district currently, which only ensures that it will
get weaker.

Notice that when the decision was made in D6 to support regional tournaments,
everyone "protected" their top teams by not including them in the agreement.
It is EXACTLY those types of decisions that reinforce D6 dominance and it
creates a domino effect.  The top D6 teams ensure that they ALWAYS get the
best competition at less cost.  Most of the tournaments are in our area and
then we can selectively "follow the leader" outside the region.  This proposal
ensures that even D6 makes SOME sacrifice, although not nearly as great as
Iowa or Berkeley or Weber, places where little debate exists. D6 gets more
strong regional tournaments and less opportunities to travel outside.
Ultimately, this emphasis on "growing your own" is superior Hester's
suggestions that D6 attempting to improve debate elsewhere on a consistent
basis is hurt by my proposal.  D6 can't save the West.  They can selectively
participate there.  Just as debating in the East is helping destroy the West.
Regionalization is the only way to make good debate more affordable for more

Growth requires collective sacrifice to help others come up.  Currently, there
is no consistency to that sacrifice.  Gonzaga makes it, Redlands doesn't.
Emporia makes it, Northwestern doesn't.  That's why we need to tie this to the
qualification process.  If everyone makes the collective sacrifices together,
then we all equally make it.  Currently, we have division and hostility
because some do, some don't.

More radical proposals to the qualifying process would also do this, I have
always figured this would be the most modest change that would allow the
free-market to continue, with just a different emphasis.  We would make back
room deals to create regional competition instead of national competition.  We
would make even more choices about where we "all" would attend.  Finally, it
would allow folks a chance to compete at the NDT because they debate better
within their area, ensuring the long-term health of not only others, but of
themselves, even if there are some uncertain costs.

Debate programs act locally all the time.  It just seems that the travel of
top teams to tournaments is the one area where we are unwilling to EVER do it.
 The cost isn't destruction of competitive success, contrary to popular
belief.  A requirment is needed to ensure that everyone makes the sacrifice
because individual interests reduce the likelihood that everyone will, which
DOES create competitive inequalities all around.

Associate Professor/Director of Debate
Department of Communication
Website:  communication.louisville.edu/~debate
fax 502-852-8166

Associate Professor/Director of Debate
Department of Communication
Website:  communication.louisville.edu/~debate
fax 502-852-8166

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