Communication and communication

As an activity, forensics is supposedly all about communication. That makes me wonder how we can be so surpassingly bad at it sometimes. We’re good at talking, but really rather bad at other forms as a community. There are pockets of active offline communication, but pockets they remain.

This past weekend was the NCFL National Tournament, where the LD and the PFD resolutions met a mixed reception at best. The tournament featured some pretty classic arguments on both topics; on the question of fine arts education versus athletics, we’re told that the fine arts should be defunded, since that will help reduce the homosexual population. Ah, how cunning: musical theater doesn’t attract the gays, it creates them.

That aside, people seemed more unhappy than not with the topics. So, unlike most folks who just bitched in quiet voices to each other, I asked Greg, our local moderator who’s also on the executive council about it. He said they didn’t have much to choose from, just three submissions. Submissions, you say? Yes, it appears for years now, a call goes out in September for anyone and everyone to suggest potential topics for Nationals.

Well, I’ll be damned. That’s the first I knew of that.

The fault lines here are several. One is that the NCFL is structured in such a way to permit a lot of things like this to pass through the cracks. The league itself only communicates directly to the diocesan moderators, who do a variable job at best of pushing it onwards to their diocese’s members. I think the NCFL, like the NFL, operates under the false presumption that the diocesan moderators run their local league. This is untrue in Massachusetts, where the state league runs the show; it’s untrue in a lot of other places as well.

So where you have a structure like ours, the local CFL moderator runs the show two weekends out of the year; once when the qualifier is run, and once when Nationals itself happens. I can imagine there’s a natural tendency to pay attention only then. Or, a tendency among the moderators to worry mostly about the really important logistic details, and leave everything else aside.

The second issue is that league leaders are not uniformly drawn from all forensics persuasions. Some areas might have great debate coaches with lots to contribute, but if their league leader is mostly an interp coach, the communications channel may be inadequate to the task. Relying on the diocesan moderator to be an everyman who knows all the events well enough to express concerns is going to fail sooner or later.

So the NCFL loses touch of its local coaches, since it doesn’t really try to talk to the coaches directly; it talks to the moderators, who serve as inefficient choke-points for a lot of this information. I have a good moderator who also sits on the executive council, and yet the open submission of LD topics was news to me. That’s a problem, certainly, on the NCFL’s part.

But it’s a problem on the part of the LD coaches bitching about the topic too. It didn’t take me a heck of a lot of effort to just walk up to Greg and ask what the process was, and I don’t even coach LD anymore. There’s a strong assumption on the part of a lot of coaches that Things Are The Way They Are, and the only reason they haven’t changed is because some pinhead somewhere has managed to accrue a lot of power and privilege and refuses to budge. That’s sometimes true, but it’s not true a lot, too. Not all nuns are conservative, and not all traditions are hallowed; sometimes they’re traditions because no one bothered to try and change them.

So I’m going to short-circuit the whole thing next year, and do what perhaps the NCFL should have done in the first place, and bridge what the LD coaches should have bridged long ago. When the call for topics goes out, I’ll just post the friggin thing on Victory Briefs. Doing my part…