Georgetown Wins the 2012 NDT

Georgetown won a collegiate national championship on Tuesday against the Wildcats.  This tournament, every bit the equal to NCAA March Hoop Madness in drama, strategy and stamina, began with 78 teams from all over the country including basketball powerhouses Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor, Michigan, Georgetown, Loyola Marymount, Michigan State and Harvard.  This grueling 4 day bloodsport is not held in a gym, or on a court or field.  Rather these intense matches occur in suburban Hotels in rooms called Salon B, The Admiral Club and The Grand Ballroom. What’s the sport you ask?  DEBATE.

And I’m going to argue that academic debate is a sport; a Fast Talking sport of the mind, not for the feint of heart or hearing for that matter.  In fact, to 99% of the population, the arguments in the debate won’t be heard at all because they are spewed at supersonic speeds.  The only thing heard is the sonic boom at the end. They sound like auctioneers on speed.  It’s absolute madness.

To demonstrate what I mean, here’s a clip from the Finals of the National Debate Tournament (NDT) which took place on April 2, 2012 between Georgetown and Northwestern. Layne Kirshon of Northwestern is giving the first speech, also known as the First Affirmative Constructive, upon which the rest of the debate is focused.  Next to him, retrieving papers from the speech, is Georgetown’s Andrew Markoff, who with his partner, Andrew Arsht, by coin flip, debated the negative side.

Have a listen

Northwestern went 10-0 over the course of 4 days, to make it to the Finals; Georgetown 10-1.  Interestingly, during the debate year, these two teams of Layne Kirshon and Ryan Beiermeister from Northwestern and Andrew Markoff and Andrew Arsht from Georgetown faced off 9 times, Northwestern with the better record winning 5 of the debates.  3 of the 5 Northwestern wins came in Final rounds – at Georgia State, Texas and USC.  But in the one that counted for bragging rights, the NDT, Georgetown upset Northwestern, the team that had earlier in the night won the Copeland Award as the top debate team during the 2011-2012 regular season.  I think it’s sort of like the Field’s Medal from Good Will Hunting.  Beiermeister, following in the footsteps of her former teammate Stephanie Spies, who won the NDT last year with her partner Matt Fisher, was named the top speaker of the tournament.

So what did they debate about?  Good question, at 1,000 words a minute, only trained debaters and judges could follow or flow as it’s called, so I looked it up:  – RESOLVED: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

Speaking of Resolved, it is the name of a fascinating documentary on High School debate, fascinating to me because I was once a high school debater, but we didn’t talk quite so fast – nor did we have the benefit of energy drinks.  I even went to debate camp as a teen years ago, which was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life – 10 hours of research, lectures and debate a day.  Everyone was so stressed out and wired by the end of the first week, that the debate staff made us all take a day off – they called it a “mandatory fun day”.  They set up a volleyball net and piled up a bunch of baseball equipment in a heap on a dusty field, but most kids were just playing chess, Dungeons and Dragons or prepping debate cards.  This was back in the day when we cut out college debate guides packed with evidence on the topic for the new school year and pasted them onto 3×5 index cards.   Every prominent college debate school sold these evidence books at their debate camps – Baylor, Kansas, Redlands, Georgetown, (one debate case brief was called squirrel killers) to help debaters prepare for weird “squirrely” cases that might surface at a tournament.  This was all long before the PC and the internet, which Al Gore wouldn’t invent until the 90’s.

Another highly recommended movie on debate called Fast Talk, due out soon is rumored to be as riveting as Spellbound and Resolved.  It chronicles the fast talking debate subculture and features a Northwestern debate squad from a few years back in their quest for yet another national debate title.  Northwestern is to college debate what UCLA was once to basketball – DOMINANT.  But kudos to GTown AM who pulled off a bit of an upset in the NDT – you could call them dynasty busters.

And that’s a wrap.


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