Judging Bronx

A one time story.

This past weekend was the New York City Invitational at the Bronx High School of Science.  I wish I knew where Cruz gets his energy; after all, I’m exhausted enough at tournaments I run, and I call them things like “Yale.” I’d never been to Big Bronx before, and was hoping to see it first hand, so up I signed and found myself on the Lexington bus.

Energy indeed is required at Bronx.  The rounds begin at 3 AM and end about 23.75 hours later at 2:45AM the following day, to being again at 3 AM.  That makes housing a breeze; competitors spend about five minutes waiting for the subway together with a Bronx debater, before turning around and going back to debate.  There’s a bustle and energy to the whole event, beginning to end.  I escaped the weekend without being handed a trophy.

At the same time, the tournament was not nearly as daunting as running or even attending a college tournament; we had but one building, with one set of keys, and only four events to occupy our minds and schematics.  The friction and confusion was substantially reduced.  I even got to regularly see the policy debaters, which  is practically unheard of.

I was also, deliciously, just a normal shlub judge.  I do like tabbing tournaments but I had missed being in the mainstream of the activity too.  I’m going to be judging more this year, since I’ve reconfigured my forensics involvement to better fit the world I’m in, so I’m going to plenty of tournaments that don’t (yet anyway) have me auto-slotted to tab.   However, at Bronx I figured I’d be eased into it.  Because of the national circuit nature of the event, and its use of Mutually Preferred Judging, I had not expected to be judging terribly many rounds.  So I intended to use my time to do some research, help the Lexington LD and PFers with their strategy, and maybe do a little tabroom programming on the side.  I was going to watch a couple of rounds and get up to speed, literally and figuratively.  The best laid plans…

Evidently I am neither as forgotten or reviled a judge as I thought.  I certainly wasn’t the most preferred judge in the pool, but neither was I an obvious strike.  Strangers rated me 3, having bigger fish to fry with their 4-6s, while friends rated me 2, being assured of my somewhat average intelligence if not yet sold on my renewed fluency in LD.  A few brave souls even gave me 1s.  So I did judge a fair number of rounds.  I fulfilled the usual judgerly duty of bitching and moaning every time I saw my name on the table, but I have to say I enjoyed it, though I would have enjoyed it more given more sleep.

The rounds themselves were the usual clash of civilizations.  I voted evenly aff/neg and evenly on styles; traditional sometimes beat policy, theory sometimes beat tradition, and round and round it went.  I could sense some confusion sometimes, not from the decisions themselves but how I explained them, which leads me to suspect that I’m not entirely up on the lingo.  I do have a bad habit of giving general strategy advice in the midst of my RFD in ways that lead the audience to suspect I’m intervening — But she never extended that!  I know, but you shouldn’t have left it open anyway… — so I tried to be extra careful to separate advice from reasoning.  I failed sometimes, but there you go.

For the most part I judged students at the lower end of the brackets, which is appropriate to someone who hasn’t judged terribly much in the last year.   But the last prelim I judged, flight 6B, was a terrific round between two down-3 debaters who had intellectually interesting things to say and clashed exceedingly well.  It speaks volumes for the tournament that these two weren’t in the hunt for the break.

Sunday morning I ended up judging the bid round, which tells me more than anything that you really shouldn’t try to single flight double-octos, even with a judging pool as large and deep as Bronx’s.   Cruz has already decided that doubles will be flighted next year.

Here I ran into issues.  Judging high level LD does require some technical skills, and I freely and fairly admit in both my paradigm and before rounds that I’m only about 85-90% of the way there on speed and lingo.  And the double was therefore easily the worst round I judged all weekend.  The two debaters could have hardly done less to adapt to me.  Normally that’d tick me off, but I was a last minute sub, and an unfamiliar judge to most debaters.  Neither student had had time to read my paradigm and neither could have been expected to adapt.  Besides that, on a 3 judge panel sometimes the debaters will sense the other two judges have more in common with each other and adapt to them and utterly ignore your preferences; that’s part of the game, too.   While these two debaters didn’t do a particularly good job of adapting to the other two judges either, I bear no ill will.    And so, after some further madcap hilarity whose details I shall conceal to protect the innocent and the youthful, I was promptly was on bottom of a 2-1 decision.

But that said, one of the most responsible people I know this in activity (and a judge we rated 1 with room to spare) was on bottom of a 6-1 in the TOC final not long ago.  Life goes on.

And the bus returned.  I’m still tired.  But Cruz definitely puts on a good show, with trophies and food by the truckload — though unfortunately the Saturday dinner was evidently calculated to assassinate me, with mushrooms in every dish.   Next year will be radically different, as Cruz is going to start up an IE division, with me at the helm.  I’m thrilled by this, given that colleges for the most part have a lock on high quality IE invitationals, and there’s strong value in the activity being kept within our community instead of exclusively outsourcing the largest and best tournaments.  Cruz’s energy remains astonishing, as he’s already emailing me a ton about it.  I go comatose for several days after a major tournament; I’m in awe of his drive.  Hell, I still have post-Yale mail to reply to —which to those listening has much more to do with non forensics related disasters and worries than Yale fatigue.

But I have to say, I did enjoy this my foray into the judging pool.  Let’s just hope the kids I judged did too, lest I be banished further down the pref sheets of the world before I’ve gotten fairly started.