1. The field is wide open?
So far three different teams have won majors (Wake EF, Cal FG and Kansas BD). Not only that but there have been six different teams in finals (Cal NR, NU JW and Emory GS being the other three).
Six different teams in the finals of the first three majors hasn’t happened since 2003-2004 (the vaunted Europe topic which was a hodge-podge list of orders of magnitude worse than the one we have now). MSU Stahl and Strauss lose to Harvard Klinger and Tarloff at GSU, Berkeley Shalmon and Singh beat Northwestern Branson and Gottbreht and Emory Phillips and Wolmer beat Georgia Ramachandrappa and Watson.
This could be one of the most fluid Copeland races in quite some time. A lot on the line at the Shirley!
2. The Harvard Roast
Was very funny. Particularly brutal in places from what I recall about past roasts. But I say everyone’s args are bad as clickbait and I get CPD dumpster fired. Sigh, Harvard exceptionalism strikes again.
3. Zahir is overrated*
I judged Zahir from Emory for the first time. Some people say he is a legend. I don’t see it. Sophist is more accurate. Maybe it’s the hair. Maybe it’s the fact his partner does all the work and he gets all the credit. But the guy is a hack.
4. Were policy debates boring?
I am moving more and more into K land, but I still like perusing all the docs.
Generally because Harvard clears to octas people really want six wins. So they break a lot of new arguments. Did that hold for this Harvard? Historically Harvard feels like a mini-NDT.
The best back and forth docs of the tournament were Michigan PR vs Kentucky EH. Michigan breaks a new aff (their second of the tournament so they win the badge for trying the hardest) and EH breaks multiple new arguments in response. Good shit.
Wake KM broke an aff about cyber…and that was it on the new Aff front I think. Everything else new was just modified versions of old stuff (Emory PD, NU LOAC, Kentucky lasers).
Maybe the topic’s fault. Lots of area overlap + the topic is wide on mechanisms but narrow on terminal impacts and things that can actually answer CP’s so stuff feels the same even when it’s somewhat different.
5. A real difference between K debates and policy debates
Here is something people may not appreciate about K and policy debates. Policy debates are easier to digest efficiently. This is because you can read the evidence from a policy debate and have a pretty clear idea about the range of things an opponent can get away with.
The same cannot be said for K debates. This isn’t because of shiftiness of character but just by the nature of the arguments. K stuff starts at a higher level of abstraction, it has to be applied, it has to be analogized, it has to be unpacked etc. This all comes about in the explanation part of the debate you have to see to fully understand. Or you have to track folks down and play a game of telephone which is suspect. Both are time consuming endeavors.
This has two implications. One is that it obviously privileges teams with more bodies to dedicate to becoming specialists. I can’t imagine a one-team and one- or two-coach operation being fully up to speed on everything that happened at this tournament.
The second is the transaction costs for figuring shit out are high and people just ignore it/give up. I think this is a more reasonable explanation for people sounding bad in these debates than malice or disinterest. If resources are finite and you have to experience a critical mass of K debates before you figure out what is going on then it is going to take a while for you not to sound like a rube.
This is why I never really understood “you have stuff to say” “debates still happen all the time” “there is always clash because people say the opposite.”
People debating by the seat of their pants, waiting for Buntin to write a case neg to something, reading the same shit all the time, reading the most generic cards, coaches doing everything for debaters then getting burnt out themselves…that is a superficial form of debate
It’s obviously worse than when you see a debater able to do extensive negative work pre-tournament vs an Aff who is aggressively deep in their literature, new arguments are read and a clash of titans ensues.
Is other stuff more important than what I just said? Perhaps. What’s the best way to end up in the latter circumstance and avoid the former? Unclear. But one is obviously better than the other.
This was the best weekend for politics in a long time. People who thought USMCA was better than the removal DA are wrong. The people who talked about impeachment in the House instead of removal in the Senate are also wrong. I was very surprised there was divergence on what was most readable since it seemed these removal cards fell right off the internet tree.
7. Hegemony Good in K debates
This wins a lot of debates. That has a lot to do with the ethos of many contemporary K debaters. First, to thoroughly beat heg good you have to read more evidence than you are used to and it can’t be from English professors. Nobody puts their head down and reads some cards in this spot.
Second, they put too much stock on being able to say there is something bad about hegemony. But the Aff always starts from a position of saying the alternatives are worse and reading cards that seem to take into account the positives and negatives of hegemony and say it is a net positive.
Hegemony good performed well at Harvard. It seems to be an overperforming strategy because Neg execution not because it is an optimal strategy.
8. White Hall forever
Fuck Sever. Fuck Langdale.
9. Double check your cards/authors
Baylor RW wins another debate that starts with indicting an author of their opponent. They are the only team I recall that has an extensive track record of results doing something like this. I would say the inflection point in debates like this is usually a poor CX for their opponents.
10. Most improved
In my mind I have to give it to Rahul from Berkeley. Granted he was a first round last year, but I think he is way better. He is much clearer and I think he has made strides giving the 2AR as well.
Does he say no link on the DA page and then tell you to read that DA on framework? Yes, he does. It sucks. But I can’t deny how good he sounds.
For all the other thirsty people who want me to talk about them on the internet: thanks for reading. But no.
*=this take was sponsored by an anonymous donor. If you would like me to write a take, my Venmo is open.
I am Lincoln, retired debate coach . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.