As y'all know, I've been at the big nationals this weekend.
Big nationals is very different, in some ways, from the tournament I helped to run and create. Those differences seemed to come out more this year than in others. Every year, Big nationals seems to contain some surprises -- and even those who are fans of Big nationals say that it takes luck and good politics to win. This year seems to be no exception.
I can't say that there wasn't good debate at Big nationals -- because there was. There are plenty of smart debaters, smart coaches and smart judges... but, this year it doesn't seem as if there was the expected consensus as to what good debate IS.
This makes preparation pretty difficult, because if you don't know what good debate is -- how can you aim for it?
I will also say that, while my team did well (another team award this year... yea!), and my foster-team did even better (yea D2 and D3) -- there were several excellent teams that were eliminated too early. I think this is a problem with the open nature of Big tournament... having every interested team come and slug it out is great, and perhaps the way it should be. The problem is that those inexperienced teams bring their judges, and those judges just aren't experienced at judging high-level debates. So, while the excellent coach/judge of the top teams is watching the teams of the inexperienced judge, that judge is watching the highly-developed team and not understanding what they are seeing.
I'm not at all sad to say that I won't be back to this tournament. I'll do our tournament next year -- I'm not sure I'll ever miss it... but Big nationals is just too unpredictable.