Coast to Coast Debate: The Big House

By David Kilpatrick

I’m back in Ann Arbor again, love everything about this city. I guess spending 18 weeks of summer at a place with friends engaging in my favorite activity will do that. It’s different this time, though. The fun is over, it’s about competition. It’s about winning.

Upon arrival, our 4runner rumbled to a standstill as it waited for the massive crowd of students to pass by. Looking at how they were all dressed, I became aware of the preposterousness of my garb—shorts and a t-shirt. I’m on the edge of Canada in November. Gone is the familiar fireball, overcast gray replacing the brilliant azure. Instead of wading through the suffocating yet refreshing humidity of an Ann Arbor summer, my bare skin was buffeted by harsh, piercing wind.

To my right is a large orange sculpture of steel beams in front of the massive museum. The modern art is juxtaposed with the classical columns of Angel Hall. The two structures are a metaphor for the cities culture, a melting pot vacillating between chaos and cohesion that manages to find a sweet spot some might call perfection. The area also has a vast array of excellent fast food and popular convenience stores. Chipotle, Five Guys, 7-11, CVS, Starbucks—each one sporting Michigan paraphernalia, as if to suggest patronage at a burrito chain equates to attending a game at the Big House. Hidden within the conglomerates are a few local gems: the coffee shop Espresso Royale, Stucchi’s ice cream parlor, or Ulrich’s book shop. I like to think supporting them is a way to resist corporatism; I’m probably just being naïve again.

The tournament itself was massive—around 200 teams. We performed well, clearing to elimination rounds, but we failed to reach our potential. Debate is hard, and consistency is something I struggle to achieve. Still, I love Ann Arbor, and the fond memories I have of the city made it one of my favorite tournaments of the year.