College debate is funny and weird in how discussions about it go down. Nobody likes to say anything in too public of a setting. It is either because transparency is viewed as a strategic liabiltiy or people are worried about internet opinions getting litigated in rounds. So what is left is saying everything in an adversarial format dominated by technicalities and offense/defense. Then judges may be candid after the round, but they might not. They may tailor what they say to the audience and share more genuine opinions in a more private setting.
This obviously sucks for two reasons. First, people have opinions about what are good and bad arguments and approaches to debate, but they don't refine them by exposing them to a wider group of people beyond their preferred clique. Second, we really can talk about debate in a way where people don't feel awkward or heated, but it is a muscle that requires development.
This is all a long way of saying that I have some takes from the Gonzaga tournament, I am going to say them out loud, this may be outside the norm and I do not give a fuck.
1. Pacific Northwest + Blackbird
I want to thank the Gonzaga crew for hosting a great tournament. The weather and scenery were incredible. I know Harvard is going to put on a good show next year, but Gonzaga may have some natural advantages that are hard to overcome.
One in particular is the restaurant Blackbird right next to the tournament hotel. It is GOOD. Bacon fat popcorn, deviled eggs, cheese fries, pulled pork, brisket, buttermilk pie, peach fruit crisp, huckleberry lemonade. . .they make all kinds of food and they do it all INCREDIBLY.
2. War Inevitable Strategies
These are mostly the AFF's fault for not being prepared. Whether it is through poor 1AC construction or not knowing exactly what to put in the 2AC it is the affirmative team that is making these strategies look better than they are. The biggest issue is when the NEG says a war is inevitable, the AFF better answer that.
I think this gets missed because it requires a different class of "impact defense." Your typical no China war card is not going to implicate status competition escalates. I would suggest adding "peaceful coexistence" to your impact defense run when you go about researching wars with countries the US thinks are adversaries.
Other ideas: care more about the nuclear taboo, don't make your 1AC internal links too narrow, cut cards that say don't trust war mongers, say blowing each other up is not sufficient to resolve the reasons they said war inevitable (kind of like how you say degrowth fails when someone is de-deving you).
3. Shortening Zivitosky to Ziv or Zivy
Hell no, get that out of here.
4. Vertical Debates are Hard for the AFF
When I say vertical debates I mean the ones that are not many pieces of paper, multiple links, some of those links have their own impacts, NEG has more than one card that says "we get offense, but the AFF doesn't." This is contrasted with horizontal debates which is spread out across many pieces of paper and not much is being said on any given one.
This is hard for the AFF. They don't happen as often. They place high burdens on the 2AC and 1AR. 2AC's aren't used to making so many viable threads of argument. 1AR’s are not used to talking about NEG evidence as much as is required in these situations. 1AC construction sometimes hurts the AFF here too with not enough impacts or too many stemming from the same internal link.
Pre-tournament prep is the main remedy. The military topic had a lot of these with deterrence, healthcare topic with economy and blowing up other countries on this topic. AFFs need to pay the necessary attention to detail.
5. Vertical Debates are Boring for the NEG
Let’s be real, your position is not fancy enough or have enough moving parts to justify the block being like 2 or 3 pieces of paper (including talking about AFF advantages). These debates are littered with repetition and cards that qualify as more evidence and not really adding anything unique. One 2NR world in the block SUCKS.
6. Michigan GW and Berkeley FG
They kick ass. They put me on email chains proactively without me asking. There is plenty of room on this bandwagon if other teams want to hop on. If these two teams want to yell at 1A’s they debate to include me on chains that would be sick too.
I will not rest until I am just on every chain without having to ask. I at least have goal to keep striving towards.
7. 2:15 Decision Time
It is good. Through the first three tournaments of the year I think days are ending noticeably earlier. Debaters need to do more to cooperate. You have to use the last minutes of prep to set up emails and stands. Stop taking random bathroom and water breaks, you can manage that better. Put together your post round docs much faster. Some debates by the time I received docs I had 20ish minutes. Other ones I had 30+. So it can be all upside for how tournaments run if people focus.
8. Interesting AFF Choices
Two intriguing set of decisions:
First, UNLV HS. Being the sanctions good team is funny. Coming from the squad that has the “starting wars” team I enjoy a unique ethos. Why the Iran AFF is not being read is beyond me. It is very good. Read it twice, went 2-0. Korea was ok, not bad but not great. China island building sanctions was obviously flying too close to the sun. Can’t win em all. Unless you read the Iran AFF.
Second, UGA AR in the octas of Gonzaga. Debating a trade team breaks a trade AFF. However, UGA AR and RS are something like 20-2 with the NSA’s AFF. AR switched back in quarters against Michigan and won with NSA’s. What was the process behind that octa’s decision I wonder?
9. Trade Sucks. Long Live Deference
Can we please start having deference debates now so the NDT doesn’t get stupid because no one knows how legal stuff works? Please!
10. Why flip NEG?
We flipped NEG against Liberty HT and right after that the question was posed as to why? I said because being NEG is fun. This argument usually goes why would you flip NEG if you have nothing to say. At first blush that makes sense, but doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Framework says there is a good way to debate, the AFF deviates from that which makes it worse than other alternatives. That is an argument about why the AFF is bad. People can flip NEG to say the AFF is bad, that’s the point.
This idea also begs the question of whether the NEG has a link, and of topicality in general. If one could move far outside the topic to nullify ground and no one could flip NEG to call it out, that would compound the advantage by guaranteeing that one team gets NEG debates forever. Obviously debating about degrees removed from the topic and what is reasonable is a better option.
Also, being NEG is fun and shouldn’t be discouraged. The epitome of debate is thwarting the new AFF which can only happen on the NEG. People should flip NEG all the time.
11. Topical Versions of the AFF
I will talk more about this at length another time but for now I have two points. One, people care way more about this on the AFF and NEG than they should. Like way way too much. Two, saying topical version of the AFF or TVA for short makes everything sound dumber. I hate TVA. I hate how mainstream it is. I hate how much it colors people’s thinking. And I hate how it is probably way too late for me to do anything about it.
12. New AFF’s
They sucked. And that isn’t me just saying that. Like they lost a lot:
1. Cal’s conflict of interest AFF lost to Harvard.
2. Harvard’s China NFU lost to BT.
3. UNLV’s China sanctions AFF lost to Berkeley and UGA AR
4. Emory’s consult Congress trade AFF (which I can only assume was new because they lost the file in the preseason and found it before the semi’s) did work against UGA AR but not in the finals.
5. UGA AR’s nondel trade AFF did win the octa’s
6. Michigan GW’s Brand X AFF did win the octas against NU BY.
Pretty mixed bag. 2A’s need to step their game up.
If you have any takes from the Gonzaga tournament I would love to hear them.
I am Lincoln, head coach at UK and coach with Montgomery Bell Academy. This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.