Posted by: wrmcnutt | March 8, 2011

Remembering Mastering Debate

You know, not all of High School was the living hell of exclusion, frustration, and bitter hate that I remember.

I ran across a column by James Lileks this morning that has me thinking back.  Lileks grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and I did in Hanahan, South Carolina.  But every time he writes about his formative years, the parallels are eerie.

Forensics Club (That’s what the ‘Debate Team’ was called at good ol’ Hanahan High school.) (Check)

Didn’t make Nationals.  Squeaked out a respectable showing at State when we weren’t even supposed to be in the running. (Check)

Don’t remember the details (check).

Worked the HI, DI, and Extemp categories.  (check).  Did you ever do “impromptu?”  Taking thirty minutes to build a case and using a library is for sissies.  Try it in TWO, and off the top of your head.  THAT’S case-making for REAL men.  I’ll never forget drawing the topic, “Are the Donkey’s Dying,” with the expectation that we would all speak on the then-decline of the Democrats on the national scene.  But that month, Newsweek had featured an article on the decline of the wild burro population in the Grand Canyon.  I missed the point and talked about burros.  Came in second that time.

And, of course, Lincoln-Douglas debates.  No team, nobody to pick up your slack.  The Fighter Pilot of debate.  Mano-a-mano with a single opponent.  Hung out at the second-tier in that category, two. First Affirm, Second Neg – I remember the jargon like it was yesterday.  Lileks and his team brough file cabinets full of evidence.  I wish we’d thought of that.  Should have been obvious in retrospect.  We carried multiple briefcases.  I even seem to recall the ostentatious deployment of some throat preparation. (So – check)

I even remember the “Oh crap, it’s the Hanahan Team.”  There were three of us in DI and HI, Me, Jamie Tucker, and Latisha from St. Andrews high.  Jamie and Latisha could beat me most of the time, but if I was having a good day and they were having a bad day, I could take home a first.  But the three of us, always, and without fail, took the 1-2 and 3 spots on the podium. Not that there was ever a podium, of course. (Check)

I even remember the morning announcements – our total Humiliation of Stall High School would be duly announce to polite applause, and then the basketball team’s 1 of three tournament loss would be greeted with thunder. (Check)  Hey, the bitterness and hate are coming up again.  Ooops. (Check)

We had the requisite single cheerleader, whom I dated very briefly, and who didn’t hesitate to scrape me off when something better came along.  That’s an exaggeration and unfair to her. She let me take her out a couple of times and we had fun, but there was never any interest on her part. Having never gotten successfully “attacked,”  I can hardly be said to have been scraped off.  (So – in any case: check)

The girls dressed just like yours did.  All the hairstyles are familiar. Hot girls (check)

Won my first tournament: (check)


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