Debate and Switch

I recently received a letter in the mail from a good friend of mine named Chase Carey. Chase also happens to be the President and CEO of DIRECTV, but first and foremost, he is my friend. As a friend, he has recently unlocked the magic box in my DVR at home that makes it possible for me to view Showtime free for three months. This gift was given to me for being such a loyal friend over the past three years, as well as, perhaps, the fact that I did not call him out directly when a weather disturbance made me miss the episode of Survivor where, according to the commercials, the survivors just pulled the clothes off of each other in a mud puddle to get immunity. Thanks Chase.

It is amazing what premium cable can do to your TV watching mentality. Should I really be watching the History Channel’s glorified slideshow of the Chinese Opium trade when I could be watching Weeds? Do I need to be somewhat enthralled by an unsolved murder on Cold Case Files when I can witness the murder itself on Dexter? Why would I succumb to watching AMC’s commercial laden and edited Judge Dread when I can get the R-rated version over on channel 539?

And, oh yes, Showtime is no longer just one simple channel. As with other premium cable networks, it has become a conglomerate of no less than 12 channels. Showtime. Showtime 2. Showtime Gay and Lesbian. Chowtime Food. Showtime Dry. Shitmeow - The Anagram Channel. All of this variety is there to offer me a premium selection of ten movies, most from 1998, which rotate and play at different times on each of the stations over the next three months. But it still beats A&E.

And so I selected five of the movies which I figured either I could watch as long as my wife and/or child/children weren't in the room with me and one that I could enjoy in the company of my wife while our kids slept/screamed uncontrollably in their beds. That one movie was the unfortunately titled Denzel Washington film “The Great Debaters”. Though, the film’s subjects were “masters” in their field, I am grateful for the toned down adjective of “Great” chosen by Denzel. The film portrays a group of afro-centric debaters who follow their dreams all the way to the national debate championship, or something. I think I fell asleep about halfway through. But in that sleep, I was able to summon up the memory of my own illustrious career as a debater. The year was 1992. Cue the wavy screen transition and appropriate period music, perhaps "Baby Got Back".
I was in 5th grade at the time and I was selected to act as alternate to my little GT class’ (That’s “Gifted and Talented” for you lay people out there) debate team. As alternate, I slept through practice and prayed for someone to vomit during competition so that I could rise to stardom in their place. Unfortunately, I was the alternate on a team of very intelligent and very healthy 5th graders.

After practicing for several weeks, we went to the annual elementary debate meet at Skyline High School. The topic to be debated by every team was whether or not the United States should pursue alternate sources of energy. My team was arguing the negative, which meant our fates were sealed well before our nerdy pre-pubescence even graced the hallways of the high school. It is surprisingly difficult to debate against something that you and nearly everyone on the planet would have to agree with. Our only hope was that the judges happened to be on the Board of Directors for a heartless coal or oil company and that they hadn’t yet heard of the newly born hole in the ozone.

We took a break between debates after my partner got all riled up over the 5th grade girl’s resolution to have hydrogen-run cars that would only produce water as a waste product. He slammed her ridiculously conceived idea of a scientifically impossible magic car that, if it did exist, would flood the streets with water so that our sewer systems would back up and we would be living in our own filth and amongst deadly crocodiles. If only our team had Wikipedia back then. During this break my partner and I decided that we would relieve some tension in usual 5th grade fashion, by engaging each other in a Mercy fight. Again, assuming there are lay people amongst my readers, Mercy is a game where the two competitors interlock fingers and squeeze, twist, and gyrate each other until the pain becomes intolerable for one party, at which point they yell the plea “Mercy”. I prided myself on being a particularly skilled Mercy player. As my partner and I battled, I moved my arms up and down, adjusting the positioning of my body as we grappled in the hallway. I was just about to put him in a classic “Half-Dougie” when I, rather ungracefully, moved my forehead straight into the handle of a locker.

The blood flowed freely through the thin brown paper towels in the bathroom and into the sink. My veins sent blood out of my forehead like water out of a punctured garden hose. By the time my partner joined me to see the damage he had done, the bathroom looked like something imagined by Wes Craven. “Mercy,” I conceded.

Our debate coach was contacted and she decided to call my parents. My parents however, had assumed that I was at the elementary school down the street practicing for my debate meet. When they were informed that I was on the other side of the valley at a high school with a profusely bleeding head wound, they were understandably upset/fuming with rage. They drove me to the hospital, scolding me all the way. I sat waiting in the emergency room triage as I heard sirens blaring toward the entrance. Several paramedics rushed a stretcher carrying what I can only assume was a man though he looked more like a six foot piece of chicken that was left on the barbeque overnight. They rushed his screaming charred body to the room next to mine, which meant that a thin blue curtain separated our differently attained injuries. His was a house fire. Mine was a 5th grade debate-related injury.

I went home a changed man with two stitches now holding the skin above and below my eyebrow from surely spilling out the contents of my skull. I received a grounding for not telling my parents of my secret debate meet. The affirmative teams overwhelmingly won the debate and thus influenced the US government to cease using fossil fuels forever. And I had developed a taste for debate, along with a slight lingering taste of blood in my mouth. I was the captain of my 6th grade team and would argue in the affirmative that puppies were in fact cute. We won.

I did not continue my debate pursuits as I entered 7th grade as I, with puberty, realized the triviality of nearly everything in life that didn’t either bring me closer to the opposite sex or conceal my horrific acne. However, at heart I am still a debater. A master one at that. I am still that chubby little kid from the Negro college who elicits a standing ovation at every remark. “I say to you, if puppies were cute yesterday and are cute today, may they ever be so!” Thank you, Denzel. Thank you.

Me in 5th grade


Rachel said...

Man, head wounds, they really bleed don't they? Also, you could consider the lack of comments on your Redbook column to be a show of respect, like a moment of silence in honor of what you wrote about.

Brian R said...

I can attest to the 100% truth of the incident involving the head bleeding. I have this vague feeling that I might have even caused it. Sadly I can't remember any farther back than college. Funny that.

Kara said...

So thats why you looked familar in junior high! I was at that same debate competition...on yes the affirmative. To bad I forgot about the bleeding guy in the hall...I was probably trying to keep my lunch down from nerves. ;)

Cameron said...

Yes, Brian. You were in fact the culprit and the partner in question. I didn't want to mention names as I have previously been in trouble for even changing names. Didn't want to take chances.

Thanks guys.