Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Debate characters, NPTE at Berkeley style..

First of all -- if I don't mention you, please don't get offended. I'm tired, I'm sure you are a character and all that -- but, you aren't coming to my fingers at this moment....

"Co-ballot bitch" -- the perfect assistant. Really, I could have left her to do it all if she had the authority with the community to get it done... but, she's a competitor and I wouldn't want her to risk offending someone by calling them out as lazy.

She had a perfect sense of timing... working the ballot table is a sporadic job that relies on keeping the pace of the tournament in your head. Really, you sit at the table for 10 minutes or so to get the ballots out. Then the round goes and you are there about 15 minutes or so getting the ballots back in. In that time, it takes two of us to do the job -- but, otherwise my co-ballot bitch can go do what she wants. I've had many helpful student runners in the past, but not one who was as reliable about coming back as her.

She gained her ballot table skills at a huge high school tournament and has a healthy dislike for high school students. So, she's also famous for turning back an endless swarm of high school students on a campus tour. They wanted to come in to use the restrooms and would have disrupted the whole tournament. She put her arms in the air, yelled "no, you are not coming in here" -- and they stopped.

"The amazing host" -- She did a great job getting stuff done for us. She handled food, trash, logistics and all the rest -- and did so with a smile. Her assistants even came to the tab room to ask if we needed them to make a 'Sbucks run. Really -- she did a great job coordinating what could have been a disaster. I've hosted before and I know how hard it is.

"We've been here before -- guy" -- there are several of these folks in the community. We've known one another for a while. We can chat about the merits of this over the merits of that. If given a few more minutes, we can solve all the problems of the debate world -- it was nice to see you this weekend!!

"Former competitor, now coach/judge" -- I noticed this weekend that more than a few of these folks are starting to turn gray... and boy did I feel old.... and I also didn't feel too bad about coloring my hair! This group is generally the most fun for me. A few of them are pains in the butt... but, it's also the case that they're used to dealing with me as a judge, so when I ask them to do something they do it. By now, many of these folks only competed in a world in which NPTE existed -- so they see me as a founder and think that's kind of cool. A few of them had competitive careers that overlapped Hubby's, and so they saw the creation of the NPTE and often lost rounds to Hubby, so they understand why NPTE was needed and they've seen the changes to debate post-NPTE.

During a lull in the ballot process, I went down the list of 64 judges with 'co-ballot bitch'. After a while I found it more efficent to point out the judges I hadn't known as competitors... and, there weren't many. She was amazed until I told her that I'd helped found NPTE almost 10 years ago... then she got it.

"Other dudes" -- and, they're mostly dudes. These are folks who either read or participate on the debate boards. They know what's going on in the on-line community and at least a few of them read this blog as well. I was talking with one of the dudes bout last year's call for Hubby and I to resign. The call came from someone on this dude's squad. I told this dude, and another from that same squad, that I was considering it and if their little punk friend had kept his trap shut, he might have gotten exactly what he asked for. The fun bit is that I know they'll tell him...ha ha!

The 'other dudes' generally smoke and are outside when I step out for some air. They're fun to talk to about non-debate stuff and generally have a relaxed attitude about life in general. One of them is married to a long-time pal of mine, and admitted that he can no longer drink during tournaments because he's getting old. A new memeber of the 'other dudes' crew has shaped up his life since getting married this summer. These guys are in the 'I'm not sure what the heck the rest of my life will bring, but I'm going to make sure it's interesting' camp.

"The women of NPTE" -- Debate is an overwhelmingly male activity -- at least at this level. There are innocent and obnoxious reasons for that, which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say that there are few long-term women coaches and not a large number of female competitors. It have to say that the women of NPTE are my favorite group within the community AND among my favorite groups of women anyplace. They're strong, smart, articulate and have really good senses of humor. The're used to standing up for themselves with the guys while preserving themselves as women. The coaches are used to dealing with sexism and other crap and they just deal with it -- mostly hoping to change the next generation for the better.

One thing we do at NPTE is to use a system of mutually-prefered judging. Each judge is ranked and the goal is to make sure the judges in each round are equally prefered. As a result, we can figure out who has the highest preference. In recent memory, most of the highest preferred critics have been women. There's a reason for that -- they're darned good judges. This year #1 was a man, but #2 was a new female judge.

If you think about the normal challenges women in academia face, in terms of work-life balance and the rest -- now, add 4-9 'weekends' (start on Thursday and often end on Monday) at debate tournaments, you can see how making that balance happen is a challenge. To be honest, I'm not sure why the NPTE women coach -- but, I'm glad they do.

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