In 1995 I was a junior in high school and I thought that competitive policy debate was the most important thing in the world. I was pretty good at this competitive adrenaline rush sport – a new thing for me. It’s a pairs sport – two people per side. That was also new – I’d never worked in a team. My old partner/mentor had burned out on the sport – he was brilliant but he was done with it. I was partnered up with a new kid, this long haired goofus with the largest pants in the world. His name was Mike .
We did pretty damn well as a team and ended up getting to the final round of the state championships, paired off against another team from our same high school. We argued our hearts out, but by the end of the debate it was apparent to both teams that our buddies Nick and Hunter had beaten us.
Debate is a funny sport, because judges can do whatever they want. This time the judges voted for us — and they were wrong, but we ended up with embarrassed smiles, accepting the trophy. It was an awkward bus ride home. Our friends were pissed.
The next year, Mike and I are working really well together – we trusted each other more and respected each other more. He and I are winning lots of tournaments, and we head into the state championships with a great record. We make it to finals and see our friends Nick and Hunter again in that final round.
Mike and I wanted to be good people. It had always bothered us that our championship wasn’t real, that we’d gotten the trophy out of luck, that we didn’t deserve it. We talked each other into the idea of throwing the round. We’d compete hard until the end and then I’d drop something in my final speech so that they could win.
And that’s what we did. We threw the match.
We felt really good about it – we’d done the right thing, a selfless thing. Then one of us made the incredibly stupid move of telling Nick and Hunter that we had done this right thing, this selfless thing – for them. Because, y’know, it’s what was right and we were on their side and y’know, fair’s fair.
I’ll never forget the look on Nick’s face. The disgust and revulsion.
I learned a big lesson.
If you are doing something for people, they should generally have a say in it. They know what’s right for them. Nick and Hunter would never have wanted us to throw the match. They wanted to beat us. So we should have given them that chance.
I just threw out all my old trophies. Just took pictures and tossed out all this useless crap that had been sitting in a box. I’d thrown out the tops long ago and just kept the bases, but now who needs even those. I can’t remember what most of those tournaments were about, can’t remember the stories we told so enthusiastically on the bus rides home. But when I saw those two I remembered one important lesson.
- He now wears tighter pants and shirts and went on to be an ER doctor (back)