12 guys.One 12-passenger “stalker van.”A long seven-hour drive to the state as south as “south” could go: Alabama.
Now, I have to say, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic when I found out that the NFL (National Forensic League) National Tournament would be held in Birmingham, Alabama.After having qualified to the national tournament held in Las Vegas the previous year, going from Nevada to Alabama was quite a 180? flip.Alabama was known for being even more conservative and humid than even South Carolina!But like they always say, “Never judge a book by its cover,” and this time, the book of Alabama was an odd summer reading book that I was required to read.
My fellow high school testosterone-filled buddies and our young, hip speech and debate coach were staying at the Hampton Inn — Mountain Brook located in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama.The competition went on for about four days, and each of those days were hot days – one of those days you would picture in a bad documentary about summer, or the consequences of global warming.Now, with intense competition came the need to satiate intense hunger.After waking up incredibly early in the morning (for summer vacation, anyway), I gathered some buddies to find us a “Southern, home-cooked breakfast” before the tournament.Like the growing adolescents we were, we frantically looked around the hotel plaza, and decided to get a vitamin and mineral-boosted smoothie from Planet Smoothie, hoping that its nutrients could keep give us the vitals we needed for the most prestigious forensic tournament of the year.
After a smooth breakfast, we moved on to the competition.The competition at the NFL National Tournament is as intense as it could be – it’s pretty much the Super Bowl or the Pokemon World Championship, just only for speech and debate geeks.We were located at BriarwoodChristianSchool.In between rounds, all the debaters, the speechies (slang for “speech contestants”) and the orators would gather in the center of the cafeteria, a typical forensic tournament behavior.Unfortunately, the air conditioning wasn’t exactly taken care of, as an estimated 800 high school students, dressed in full suits were stuck in the cafeteria, in the hot and humid city of Birmingham, Alabama in the middle of summer.Air conditioning had become a rarity – something to be appreciated.It became a reward to be driving in a car (even if it was a “stalker van!”) because of the air conditioning that came with it – the few non-competition hours spent in a car or in the hotel seemed to be the ones that we could remember most.
Fortunately, for me, the temperature did not affect my performance at the tournament, as I was able to break to the Top 60 round in Original Oratory, my speech event.Although I did not advance past that stage, I found out I was two places away – making me the 32nd Best Original Orator in the Nation. That, however, wasn’t even the most exciting part of the trip.The most exciting part of the trip must have been escaping from the school, sweating up a storm, to jump into the “stalker van” and to rant and complain about the heat-filled school we had just competed in.The heat had brought my entire team together, as we shared the same sweaty experience and bonded throughout the process.As we celebrated with our theme song, “Hey You There!” by Soulja Boy, we began to poorly sing and rap the lyrics, as we drove away from the city that never sweat.Or in our case, sweat a lot.
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