- Talon Stradley
S1E11 - Fall Champs
Talon: Hi, my name is Talon Stradley and this is Soapboxers, a fly-on-the-wall podcast about speech and debate. I used to compete on the Orange Coast College team and now I’m back after 2 years to document the speech and debate experience and bring it to you. Today, it’s the final episode of Soapboxers as we learn a little about parliamentary debate and visit the fall champs tournament.
Talon: Last episode we discussed what it takes to run a tournament and we met Blake Longfellow, director of Forensics at Diablo Valley College. We talked briefly about an online tournament that Diablo Valley College was hosting. The DVC Thing. This tournament is special for OCC because it is the first tournament this semester where the team is competing in parliamentary debate. Up until this point, all of the debaters have been competing on their own, one on one, in IPDA debate. Now, they can finally start coming together into pairs to tackle parliamentary, one of the most competitive, rigorous, and intensive events yet. You tend to get really close to your parliamentary partner so it can be important that your with someone you enjoy being around. Luckily, it looks like that won’t be a problem for one of the parli teams.
David: This is my — I feel like I’m like Spongebob and this is my Squidward but then we both bounce off of each other.
Talon: This is David talking about his partner Will. They are two parli partners who seemed destined to compete together.
David: This is honestly a really cool dude. The first time I saw him I was like, who is this cat? But then when we sat down and debated together that very first day when it was just over YouTube vs. TikTok, I was like this is gonna be my right hand man. I knew it in my head. I was like “Yes. Him, him. I like him. This one, mom!” But nah, really dope dude. I honestly feel like this is one of my best friends in this class.
Talon: While friendship and camaraderie are important, it’s not the only thing that determines a good parli team. The coaches are looking to make the strongest parli teams for the school so there’s a lot of factors to consider.
Hannah: So we kind of see what people’s strength and weaknesses are. Our goal is to have a yin and yang type of partnership where someone has strength in some areas and someone else has strength in other areas. So that they can kind of equally distribute the work and do a good job having each other’s back.
Talon: David and Will? They’ve got each other’s backs.
Will: Yeah, I mean I couldn’t have said it better. I mean we’ve worked together on a couple of debates before and our styles just coincide so well with each other.
Talon: This interview is from the day before the DVC thing. David and Will have both competed in IPDA, they’ve done practice debates with the team, but they haven’t actually competed in parliamentary debate yet. Still, they are raring to go, like some young boxer stepping into the ring for the first time.
Will: DVC! That’s what we have this weekend. I’m excited. David’s doing IPDA on Friday and he’s going to kill it, as usual. As per. And then we have our first parliamentary open style debate on Sunday.
David: Sunday, Sunday.
Talon: When I caught up with them Sunday night, they had been through the ringer. Had a couple black eyes, metaphorically speaking.
Will: Well… there’s nothing like it. That’s what I’m going to go ahead and say. My expect— I—I— You don’t know parli till you do it. You don’t know parli until you do your first round. You have your idea of what it’s gonna Abe, what it’s gonna turn out. Let me just go ahead and say, that’s not gonna happen. I can assure you. Any understanding or any idea you have of anything that could happen in a parli round, it’s probably going to be the exact opposite for that one.
Talon: This was their first time and, yeah, they took a beating but they learned a lot doing it. Now they know and have experienced just how different parliamentary debate is from IPDA.
Will: Coming from IPDA, which is very, you know, kind of free flow. Lot’s of emotions and stuff. To go to parli which is so structure based and stuff and there are so many different parli powers and rules you can add that I’ve never seen before. I mean the people there too are just crazy! There’s this thing called spreading where, I kid you not, they talk as fast as they can and take shallow breaths in between because they just spew out information. I’m talking about they’re talking and go [fast talking gibberish] [big breath] and they keep on going. There was a point in debate where I had to say “Can you please slow your talking down. I actually cannot understand you. I can’t get any of your points. Please slow down.”
Talon: This fast talking approach to debate is called spreading. Not everyone does it, for reasons we’ll get into in a minute, but there is a very good reason why it’s happening: To present more arguments than the opposition has time to address.
Daylyn: The entire point of it is to primarily get more arguments on the flow. The more arguments you have, if they take one out, you’ve still got a bunch to defend. Where as if you have one argument and they take that out, what you got? However if you have thirteen different arguments and you have to respond to all thirteen otherwise they’re like “oh, you dropped that.” And that’s a vote immediately for the other side. The whole point of it is to try to get as much out as possible, pretty much.
Talon: This approach can work due to the more structured nature of parliamentary debate. For example, in parli, judges care a lot more about dropped arguments. Dropped arguments are anytime one side brings up a point that the other side never addresses. Dropping even just one argument could lose you the round. Some people try to leverage this by spreading. By talking super fast, bringing up a ton of points, and taking those short, sharp breaths, they are bombarding the opponents with tons of points. If the opponents can’t talk as fast or forget to write something down, that could be a reason to vote for the spreaders.
Now, I will say, not every debater spreads and it’s definitely a little controversial. It’s more prevalent in four year schools and certain regions. Some people think it’s just part of the game and if you want to win, you need to use it. Others claim it harms the merits of the discussion taking place, turning debate into a speed talking competition instead of a complex look at a topic. Sometimes, judges will warn students not to spread and will mark them down if they do. Orange Coast College, and most of the community college teams in Southern California, are against the practice, but it’s still something they have to be prepared to face. And spreading is just one of many, many new jargony, specific, and complicated rules you see in Parliamentary debate.
Talon: Luckily, David and Will made it through their first parliamentary tournament. While they might not have won many rounds, they still had a good attitude about their time, recognizing that this was a necessary step for them to take.
David: Felt bad that I got my ass whooped, but I’m so glad this is a whooping I can come back from.
Will: But hey, whatever happened doesn’t matter. Win or lose. I will say, I learned a lot from today’s debate. I had a lot of fun. And I could not pick a better parli partner.
Talon: It’s good that David and Will felt like they learned a lot and are still in high spirits. They’re gonna need it because after the break, the whole team is coming together to compete in the 2021 PSCFA Fall Championships.
Talon: That’s coming up next on Soapboxers.
Hannah: I don’t know scatter. Come back in five minutes.
Talon: It’s Friday, December 3rd. The first day of Fall Champs. The students just scattered to lay claim on a room for the day. This is where they will be while competing in an online round. After they come back, they start their warmups. I remember seeing this at the first tournament as everyone tries to learn the rhythms and the exercises. Now? They know the drill. CONSONANT WARM UP
Talon: Fall Champs takes place over three days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The first day, Friday, is all about parliamentary debate. To help prepare for on-your-feet thinking, everyone plays a game called thunderdome. It’s pretty simple: Someone names a category and then two people go back and forth naming items from that category. If someone says something that has already been said or hesitates for too long, they lose.
Student 1: Apple.
Student 2: Orange
Student 1: Banana
Student 2: Guava
Student 1: Strawberry
Student 2: Pineapple
Student 1: Avocado
Student 2: Mango
Student 1: Grapefruit
Student 2: Melon
Student 1: Dragonfruit
Student 2: Watermelon
Student 1: Papaya
Student 2: Pineapple
Student 1: I already said that.
Student 2: Dang it!
Students: Thunderdome, thunderdome, thunderdome!
Talon: After warmups, the team gathers together in one of the classrooms for group prep. Like we learned last episode, every tournament handles things a little bit differently and Fall Champs is no exception. While most tournaments have a different parliamentary topic each round, which you either argue the affirmative or the negative, with fall champs they have one topic for everybody and that is the same topic for the first two rounds.
Hannah: Rounds one and two are prepped at the same time. So, the debaters got one debate topic and extra prep time so that they can look the at debate topic from both sides. So you are preparing the affirmative of that topic and your also preparing the negative of that topic and then you have back to back rounds where either you are arguing for the affirmative or negative for the first round and then you are going to argue the opposite side for your round two. So round one, if you’re affirmative, round two you’ll be negative. So it’s one topic for two parli rounds, same topic.
Talon: This makes group prep even easier. You get everyone in the same room talking about both sides of one topic. Everyone is in the room, chatting while they wait for the topic announcement.
Tournament Official: Alright awesome. It’s 9:00 so go ahead and release the topic. I’ll announce it and then I’ll post it in the chat as well. So the resolution for round one: The United States Federal Government should revise section 230 of the communications decency act.
Talon: And with the resolution, the team can begin their prep!
Nina: So the plan would just be the resolution to revise it?
Christian: No, the plan would be — you need to be more specific.
Hannah: Specify what your plan is.
Nina: Specify what we’re revising.
Student: But that’s great though cuz it gives you more wiggle room to define.
Christian: Exactly, like one revision is it protects companies from content that’s obscene, lewd, lavicious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or other wise objectionable. You could just revise it so that it does not include harassment. Right? Like that could be the revision.
Nina: Got it.
Talon: As the team finishes their prep and starts heading to their rooms, the coaches shout a few more last minute reminders, coded in parli jargon.
Hannah: If they have a CP what do you say?
Talon: After everything was done, I talked to Coach Hannah about how the group prep went.
Hannah: Um, I feel like one thing that we tend to do is we take a couple minutes starting off to just be silent and looking into the topic itself figuring out what the best avenue is cuz if we start off talking, it can cause a lot of chaos. Too many voices. So, focusing on, since this was a policy resolution, what is the plan? Right? What is the resolution? What is the plan? What are we doing? And from figuring out what our argumentation is going to be.
Talon: I left the students to compete in their back to back rounds and came back in the evening, just in time to catch the group prep for the final round. All of the students, even the ones who weren’t competing, were in the room to help out. Coach Tess filled me in on the day’s events.
Tess: So our novice team of Emma and Nirvana broke to bronze, had a neg debate on whether the U.S. should involve themselves in a conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, won their debate, and now we are just waiting for another two minutes to hear what their topic is going to be for their gold/silver round.
Talon: I asked Tess if she was nervous for her students, this being the final round of parliamentary debate at Fall Champs.
Tess: I’m super excited! I don’t know. It’s great cuz I don’t get nervous for my students. Like, I remember getting so nervous as a debater. As a coach I’m like, cuz we don’t care if they win or lose. Right? So, there’s kind of not a reason to be nervous like there is for a competitor where you care more if you win or lose. So I’m just really excited. I’m excited they broke, I’m excited that they had an amazing bronze round, and I’m excited for them to compete in a final.
Talon: The resolution was that The United States Federal Government should abolish the Federal Reserve. Do you remember what Will said earlier in the episode? How parli never goes how you expect it to? Well, that’s true, even during a final round.
Nina: How’d it go?
Nirvana: Oh my god. You know what they said? They wanted to create chaos in the community—
Emma: They want the world to end.
Nirvana: — To better climate change.
Talon: So basically, what Emma and Nirvana were arguing, the neg side, was that we should not abolish the federal reserve because if we do, that could have disastrous consequences for both America and the world economy. It could very likely throw us into another depression. The affirmative then said: Good. We want there to be an economic collapse. We want civilization to end because that will be the best thing to stop climate change. Nobody saw that argument coming. In the end, that strange argument ended up winning and Emma and Nirvana walked away with a silver medal, still a very impressive feat.
Fall Champs: Day Two - IPDA
I arrived in the evening of day two, hoping to catch the final round right as they were getting their topics, but instead I found something a little unexpected. All the students were sitting around a table playing a card game. This isn’t too unusual in and of itself as they normally like to play card games during down time. But this was different. Everyone was around that table and I knew the final round would be starting soon. That’s when I realized: Nobody from OCC broke into a final round of IPDA debate.
Jimmy: Awesome work! Awesome freaking work! It is day two in the books. Obviously, we wished that you all were going into another round, but again, this is all y’all figuring this shit out. Like, before this, when have you debated? You have to knock yourself down a couple times before you can come back strong and know what a good debate feels like. Know what a good competitor or judge feels like. Right? So this is all just testing the water, especially first semester. Like, people are going to join the team next semester, right? From other schools and in this school. You all have a whole semester’s advantage. Right? It’s the same thing. The season continues. You’re just growing. Right? Like, think of all the things that you’ve learned and understood like oh, that’s how it goes. That’s how it feels. And so this was awesome, we got some fierce people into some out rounds. Awesome growth and bonding. Like, this makes us so happy. Shaw, if he was here, would instantly jump in and be apart of it and so it’s like, we love seeing y’all bond. We can teach you how to get good at speech, we can’t teach chemistry.
Talon: Now, I’d like to say that these rounds are competitive. For example, there was 40 competitors in Novice IPDA and only eight made it to the final round. Even a larger team like OCC isn’t always going to have someone in those final rounds. Still, it can hit a bit hard. I talked with Nina, one of the competitors, to see how she was feeling about the matter.
Nina: It’s not so disappointing seeing the team’s results because I know all of us did our best and I know no-one here was just like “Yeah, I’m just gonna do whatever I want. I don’t really care.”
All of us care. You can tell on our faces. Like, it sucks that we didn’t break, it sucks that we didn’t go as far as we wanted to but at the same time, it’s not disappointing. It’s more just like, you know what? We did what we could and we know the coaches are proud of us because we did what we could. And at that point, if we did what we could and we did our best and we did it because we wanted to and we did it because we loved to, then why would they be upset?
Talon: Nina’s right. The coaches were very proud.
Tess: Hell yeah! I mean, two out of three of the people who broke had never broken before. This was their first time winning something at a tournament, one of them I think it was his first time competing, so hell yeah. Always. We’re always proud of them. Right? Break or not, our students who didn’t break still proud. As long as they said that they had fun and they learned something, that’s it.
Talon: You may have noticed the cheers coming in the background of that last clip. That’s the team, playing games and having fun in the squad room. Despite everything, they were in good spirits and celebrated with a late night run to the nearby In-N-Out.
Nina: Just to reiterate, it’s the one on Harbor. The one on Harbor.
Will: The one on Wilson?
STUDENT NOISE FADES AWAY
Talon: Fall Champs: Day Three - Individual events.
The last day of fall champs is all about the individual events: Interpretation, platform speaking, limited prep. Because this is the first non-debate day of the tournament, there are a lot of fresh faces who weren’t competing the last two days, almost like energy reinforcements.
Talon (Recording): Noella!
Noella: What up, Talon?
Talon (Recording): How are you doing today?
Noella: I’m doing amazing today. It’s my first day of the tournament, feeling good, feeling good.
Talon: I asked Noella if fall champs felt more important than past tournaments or if she was more nervous. She told me that, actually, she feels less nervous.
Noella: I’m more prepared for this one. I’ve had my events for a while and they’ve done really well so far. I feel like I’m really ready today.
Talon: On this last day we had several people break into finals. I caught a few of them as they were coming back from their final rounds.
Student 1: I kind of messed up my intro a little bit but that’s ok. It’s exciting, everyone did really well.
Student 2: Definitely feel like I was more experienced for this one.
Student 3: I think the final one was the one I did the best on today. I messed up a lot but I played into it and I think playing into it made it funnier. I tried to be funny, I hope that landed.
Student 4: It was awesome! I just got out of my persuasion final round. It was actually a round of all girls so that was super empowering for females. We love that.
Talon: At the end of the last day is the larger awards ceremony where they not only announce winners for all the individual events but the overall placing of the colleges.
Announcer: In third place, Orange Coast College.
Talon: So overall, this tournament, Orange Coast College came in third. Which is definitely something to be proud of, even if students wished they did a little better. But what I think is more impressive is their placing in another category. You see, each event at a tournament is normally broken into three categories: Open, for experienced competitors, Junior, for intermediate competitors, and Novice, for newer competitors. Fall Champs had a special award for a Novice division, meaning they compare only the novice competitors of every school to see who did the best in this division. And, well…
Announcer: And your champions in the novice division… Orange Coast College!
Talon: So even though OCC didn’t do as well as they might have wanted to, they’re kind of right where they need to be. Remember, a vast majority of OCC competitors are new this year, having never competed in forensics before. For a lot of them, this was their first ever tournament. Nina put it best during an interview after the 2nd day of the tournament, the one with no finalists.
Nina: I wanna be the best I can be. The best I can be. And I know that maybe at this point at this time, I am the best I can be, but at the same time I know I can be better. So yeah, maybe given that, to the point where I am now, to this point only being here for, what, like four months? Yeah, sure, sure. You could say I’m the best I can be at this time. But, come one, I’m not the best I can be through a whole year. There’s no way. It’s just not where Nina stops. This is not Nina’s line. There’s a bigger line for her to cross. So, definitely it’s to be the absolute best that I can be. That’s the point at that point. To be the absolute best that I can be.
Talon: On that following Tuesday, on the last team meeting of the year, the coaches conducted exit interviews. They’d call in four students at a time to discuss the year, how things went, and what goals the students had for the next semester. While the students waited to be called in, they sat in a classroom, playing games, talking about the year, and half watching Ru-Paul’s Drag Race on the projector. As the day wound down, and it seemed like things were over, I went into the other room to talk to the coaches. When I came back to the classroom with all the students, Shauhin was sitting there. Answering questions and giving them one last pep talk before the winter break.
Shauhin: Y’all, that’s the dream for the coaches. That’s what we want. We just want you all in a room, talking speech. You want to know why? My best memories, in my life, are hanging out with my friends, fucking around, talking speech. Some of the best memories of my life. Right? It is a fucking blast and those of you who have been doing that for the last semester, you guys, every single one of you in your different groups were like “yo, this was way more fun than I gave it credit. I had a lot more fun, I met a lot cooler people, I became a better person than I thought I would.”
I told you at the beginning of the semester. The more you put into this, the more you’re going to get out. The more you put into this, the more you get out. I promise you. Because I’ve seen it year after year after year. I’ve seen year after year after year of people who don’t believe in themselves and then they do this and then they’re like “holy shit, I’m capable of more than I thought I was.” Who here thinks that already? I’m capable of more than I thought I was.
Talon: That’s Sean’s toddler who was visiting.
Shauhin: It’s a magical activity. It’s an awesome activity. And we are really really, super thrilled, super proud of you all.
Talon: I caught up with Shauhin right as he let people go for one final, quick interview.
Shauhin: You hear that, right? Yeah. The year was a success. Like, ending class and them being like “Let’s go to fucking tacos!” Yeah, we won. We did exactly what we were supposed to do this year.
Talon: This has been Soapboxers. Thank you all so much for going with me on this journey. I don’t know exactly what’s in store this next year, but I know something exciting is going to happen. If you want to stay up to date on both this podcast and any future ones I’ll be producing, you can sign up for the Newton’s Dark Room newsletter. The first few installments will feature pictures, behind the scenes looks, and maybe even a few topics we weren’t able to cover in the show. You can sign up for that at Soapboxerspod.com/newsletter. Again, that’s Soapboxerspod.com/newsletter. Thanks again for joining me, I hope you had a great time.