One of my favourite movies when I was younger was A Few Good Men, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. While one of the main draws of the movie was a lot of pretty attractive men in military uniforms (Kevin Bacon, Cuba Gooding Jr, Noah Wyle), that wasn’t the main reason why I loved it so much.
I think this is probably the most memorable, and famous, scene from the movie:
From the moment that I first saw this movie, I wanted to be a lawyer – not just any lawyer but a criminal defense lawyer. The type changed over time and by the time I left high school it had shifted to a human rights lawyer, but it was still a dream that I had for a good chunk of my younger years. I wanted to have that passion in a courtroom that Tom Cruise shows there. The ability to fight for the good guys and make a slam dunk.
The dream led me to join my high school debate team. I was really good at debate – out of my 4 years on the team, I think I only had one or two events where I didn’t receive a medal for my high scores with my partner. In grade 9/10 I had one partner, and then in grade 11 I had a different one. It was with this partner that I really excelled.
M and I fit perfectly together. She was a year older than me, but we ran in the same circles and we were fast friends. We worked so well, being able to complete arguments without talking to each other, picking up where the other left off. In Ontario debating at that time, there were 3 styles of debate: parlimentary, cross-ex, impromtu. For each one, I always went first. I had the perfect pacing to lay out our plan as either the government or the opposition. In cross-ex, I would sometimes get a little flustered during my questioning period, but M always knew where my insecurities were with the argument and would pick it right back up in her speech. In parlimentary, the first speaker for the government (the prime minister) always spoke first and last. I would take notes while everyone else was debating and by the time it came to speak again I had a perfect final rebuttal all tied up in a nice little bow, securing us the win.
In my grade 11 year, I won 4 medals out of a possible 4 during the regular season. The first of the year being silver, and the last 3 gold. That year in regionals, my school team (2 teams of 2 put together) placed 3rd overall winning a bronze medal and a plaque (our coach was so disappointed it wasn’t gold). My mom was so proud she took all my medals and the plaque from that year and had them framed. To get to provincials was a numbers game – they no longer took teams but individual scores. The top 10 were given passes to provincials, with spots 11 and 12 going to backups. That year I placed 13th. My best of my entire career.
Then M graduated. Grade 12 was a rough year for me. I was accustomed to winning and I now hated the feeling of not walking away with a medal. I was cocky too, arrogant to the highest degree about my debating skills. But as for my standings in debate, I started to drop. I was a little off my game since M was no longer my partner. I was paired with a girl who had been in the club in grade 11 but didn’t have a partner until the last round of regular season debates. She was in my grade and all my classes and she was shy. That year, we also had an addition of two new members to debate club. They were there to put it on their college applications (since student government, mock UN, sports, and arts package etc etc wasn’t enough). They also joined the social activism club I was the senior co-chair of at the time – again for college applications. The strongest team at any school is A – in grade 9,10,11 I had always been team B. In grade 12, with the addition of these two new comers, I was dropped to team C with my new partner. I was FURIOUS!
The first debate of the year arrived and I pulled out all the stops. The team we faced off against had never debated before. I had perfected my closing line “after the incoherent rambling of the opposition, madam/mr speaker, it is clear to see that our position is obviously the only valid one”. This new green team didn’t know what hit them. In the silence during the few minutes that the judges have to calculate their marks and finish up their score cards, a light sniffling could be heard beside me – the first speaker of the opposition was crying. A hands down defeat – my proudest moment as a debater. I smugly sat in my chair awaiting the judges praise for my performance.
I did that first debate of the season with my new partner, but after requested that I be able to bring in a new person of my own to partner with. I had no chance of winning medals now so I might as well enjoy the loser’s seat with a good friend. The school team would have scores from team A and team B. Since there were only 3 senior teams I had no chance of winning ever. My coach didn’t like that idea since she hadn’t been in the club before and it was senior year, and therefore not fair for my new partner. After mentioning that I was pushed out of slot B for new comers and that wasn’t fair, so why shouldn’t I be able to pick my own partner, my coach backed down. He had trained me well.
When regionals arrived, I refused to participate. My partner was in the middle of her own swim finals and I was not going back to a sub-par partner. I said, and I am literally quoting myself (yes I still remember) “Weebs (my coach), I will not debate unless I am guaranteed a chance to win. I can’t win with her so I’m not doing it!” He was really taken back by that. I still prepared with the team. I was a good researcher and Weebs said that if I supported the team in preparing for regionals that I would be able to go to regionals and act as a moderator or something. It meant a trip to the local university (the one I eventually ended up giving all my money to), and a free dinner.
We arrived at regionals, and after being there only a few minutes I was taken aside by Weebs and asked if I could debate. One school had an illness and so they only had 3 debators instead of the 4 they planned on. I would have to compete for a different school which meant that I wouldn’t be getting a team medal (neither could they) but I could place individually. I took the challenge and at the end of the event I ended up placing higher than all the other students from that school. Not high enough to go to provincials, but I did the best I could with 10 minutes to prepare before each debate. The guy I was paired with prefaced each round with “don’t be too harsh this is my first debate”. I wished I had a partner who was less of a dweeb. All 4 people from my school in team A and B went on to provincials that year.
And that was the end of my debating career. On picture day that year, the assistant coach ran into the library and grabbed those two new comers for the picture since they weren’t in the auditorium. He had to walk passed me twice and didn’t get me – I’m not in the picture in the year book. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure my name is in the yearbook for debate club. I was done. In university I ran into a guy who I had debated against in high school. He was on the debate team for WLU and tried to get me to join but I had lost my passion for it.
By reading the above I’m sure you could tell I wasn’t a very nice person about debate at all. I hated who I had become. I was so angry and pompous all the time! So full of myself and my abilities. Sure I was a good debater, but the person I had to become, so cold and aggressive, was not worth the joy that I got from winning (I literally almost typed “from crushing others”). Even now typing this I’m getting that feeling back, that dark side of myself is starting to boil up again. Kinda starting to feel the draw of nicotine…. Maybe it’s time to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks…