[eDebate] A different kind of elephant

Gary Larson Gary.N.Larson
Tue Apr 18 11:29:58 CDT 2006

While we're talking about elephants, let me identify another one that
adds immensely to the costs in both financial and human terms.

Every part of the tournament debating experience from pre-round
preparation, in-round speaking and preparation, post-round
decision-making and disclosure to all-night online research has
inexorably increased over the years.  Once upon a time, tabroom
activities were the biggest cause of tournament length, often leading to
pervasive lagged-paired rounds.  But even though those tab activities
have been radically shortened so that at CEDA Nats we only take about 5
minutes from the receipt of the last ballot to the release of the next
round pairing, the overall length of the day continues to increase.

At the NDT it takes us four full days to complete 13 rounds.  At CEDA
it takes 4 very long days to complete 15 rounds.  At most national
circuit tournaments it takes 3 unbelievably long days to complete 12 or
13 rounds.  Each of those days are so long that travel almost
necessarily consumes a full day on either side.

While the time limits haven't been increased for years, everything
still takes longer.  At CEDA we identified 2:45 from the announced start
time as the drop dead coin-flipping point for a decision.  Just a couple
of years ago we expected all decisions within 2:30.  But even with 2:45
we bumped up against or exceeded it almost every round.  So where did
the time go?  With a continuously running clock a debate should consume
92 minutes (yeah right).  At the beginning of the round, perceived
coaching demands delay the start time with delays inevitably cascading
through the tournament.  In-round activities also keep getting longer. 
As a tabroom person who has to predict when ballots will start coming
in, it's remarkable that 2:00 after the announced start time, the doors
start opening and rounds start ending.  And then once the round ends,
it's almost a badge of honor to be the judge that deliberates for
30-45-60 minutes on the decision in an important round.  And once the
clock starts slipping from scheduled times, the delays often start
multiplying.  Once pairings get released, teams now have a pretty strong
expectation that they should have at least 45 minutes and preferably an
hour to prepare for the next debate when once we thought we were hitting
the mark with 30 minutes.

On the last day at CEDA Nats, it was not that long ago that we believed
that the final round could confidently be scheduled between 6 and 7 PM. 
This year's final round decision came well after midnight.

So days routinely last 13-14 hours for four debate rounds.  And that's
without formal breaks for any meals so squads are still finding
restaurants that will serve at 10:00 PM.  Once teams are back in the
hotel rooms, the day has only begun for some of our coaches and

It's one thing to say that tournaments should be careful about fees,
food and hotel costs.  I agree that they should.  But the five-day
gauntlet is the principal source of financial cost, not to mention the
enormous human toll that it takes on all of our participants.

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