I've actually never been to Hell (Hays, KS is a close second) but if I had to create my own hell (think about that sometime), it would involve something you love, at the core of who you are, and to make that thing you love something so unpleasant, so miserable, that it seems to be a very different experience, one you would avoid in a world of choices. Like the Candy Corn Experience many of us had as little kids, where you eat so much of it you can't stand that shit, the mere mention of it makes your stomach contract like you were pushing out a fuck trophy. Hell is all the fun you could imagine, just out of your reach. Hell is wanting your member touched and having someone you cant stand just twist the top off of the coke bottle she has mistaken for you Jimbrowski . All of these are pieces of a Hell, but not comparable to the true kick in the balls. Hell is the Tournament of Champions.
I have a friend, Steve, and when we used to live in Minnesota, I was a Gary Sheffield fan. He was always a great hitter, but it seemed he was never as welcome in the clubhouse as other players, even to the point of being not wanted in the locker room. So one day, I ask Steve why nobody wants to play with Sheff, and his answer was shockingly simple: "That dude is a cancer. And you don't invite cancer into your homes, to hang out with your family and friends." You radiate cancer, even going as far as poisoning the cancer patient, playing a game of biological chicken, hoping the chemotherapy helps more than it hurts (it is poison). The general premise was that when things were unpleasant, things that will be the mental version of being kicked in the testicles. As a society, and as reasonable individuals, we try to stay away from things we know will be unpleasant. However, I find myself flying to Kentucky now, on a flight with wifi (which is pretty phat, although totally expensive considering I have a wireless card which i already pay for), doing some writing, and trying to come to grips that I will have an experience that will weigh heavy on the heart. There's no way that this experience won't do that. I'm pretty sure Vince wouldn't have come to the TOC, but there's no way he won't be at the crux of many a discussion. I can speak for myself, and me only, when I say I will have a hard time with the weekend if i find myself too too mentally tied to it now. I can tell you that most of the crying I've done this year has been for fallen friend. First Ross. Then Coach Duke, who meant more to me than many of you know, and more than I ever gave him credit for. It was only in reflection after our first encounter that the full weight of his influence on me. Even though I made a decision to not debate for coach, he had nothing but kind words to me, and was the second and final person that talked to me about a career in coaching, and his kind words made me consider joining the coaching ranks. After I graduated from UM-Rolla, I applied for a variety of jobs and some graduate schools, and when it was said and done, debate seems to feel the most right, and I don't think I would have recognized if i hadn't been told what I was looking for. There are rarely instances I regret making the choice to be a debate coach, and over the career, this tournament brings a lot of them to a head, like the last text message from Tiger Woods Low Budget Harem.
One of the things I enjoy most about the community is that, for all of our quirks, idiosyncracies and borderline insanity that makes up the majority of us, we are, without question, a community. We laugh together, as well as mourn together, all the while enjoying the company old friends and new acquaintances. The Tournament of Champions replaces this theme of community that I'm sure is a good portion for why I'm here, in this activity that I love, but have to recognize takes time off my life (of course, it's the time at the end, when you have to go back to wearing a diaper) The community is what gives me strength, even in my lack of engagement with all facets of it. This being said, I draw strength in our collective wins, and I find personal failures within our collective losses. The TOC replaces that community, that theme of Love that seems hard to express in the eyes of a 16 year old kid (not the crush on the cheerleader s/he can't have). Kids always notice that the time they go, it all seems a little foreign and overwhelming.
I just want it to end, so I can go home.