I just got to fulfill a little fantasy I’d been entertaining in the back of my head for the past couple of weeks. No, no — Pat Robertson is still alive, and my nipples remain unseared by hot wax. I’m talking about the final round at debate nationals. Amy and I got to run “The just society is a libertarian society” against Yoni and Ed from Princeton.
We lost the round, of course, but we expected to. For me, it was well worth it to be able to have that round. The lopsidedness of the pounding (debate applause, for the non-geeks reading) did remind me just how crazy our views sound to the average person, however. Ed and Yoni obviously deserved every bit of it, but it seemed as though most of our arguments got little more than blank stares from all but the small group who were already libs or fellow-travellers. Incentive to work harder at making the arguments less alien, I suppose. (Also, we apparently managed to convince one of the seven judges… I wonder which.)
Incidentally, props to Andrea and Thane of Chicago. I hadn’t seen them debate before, but I walked out of our semis round convinced we’d lost. In retrospect, it was actually pretty close “on the flow” — meaning, if you just looked at the written record of arguments and responses, without thinking about speaking style. But I gave a truly horrendous MG that round, and was afraid it would be my last. I hope they’re not upset about that decision, because had I been in their shoes, I would’ve been certain I was going to finals.
The folks who decide these things flattered me by asking me to present Emily with the Chris Porcaro memorial award. Thinking about Chris invariably saddens me, but I did manage to get through it without choking up too badly. He was one of the brightest, and bar-none the funniest person I’ve ever met. I sincerely believe he would’ve made a difference in the world. He wasn’t much older than I am now when he died. I think of him strutting across the stage with that mane of red hair, cracking people up while he crushed their arguments, or even just singing along to “Barbie Girl” on all those long car rides. And then I remember him morbidly thin, sick, hair lost to chemotherapy. And I get so, so, so angry, because there was no silver lining or greater purpose, just a stupid, pointless, horrible loss.
I don’t want to close with that depressing thought, so I will observe that if we’re left with a bunch of people at NYU who are (aside from being generally good folks) both pretty good debaters (as evidenced by their strong performance this weekend) and deeply committed to freedom, Chris deserves a good deal of the credit for that. I hope some of us will feel an obligation to carry on the work that he no longer can. I know I do.
By the way: congratulations to Storey and the future Mrs. Garin-Clayton. (Or whatever she decides to call herself…) They’ve maintained their integrity in our strange and savage little clique, which is no small feat. They will fully deserve the happiness I’m sure they’ll find together.