A study on ‘competitions’ (creating future agitators)

“Everything withers”

It is impossible to maintain absolute consistency i.e you cannot perform exactly at the same level more than once, much in the same way lightning cannot strike at the same spot twice. There is a ridiculous number of things that can vary.

Competitions are often multi-staged, so it is impossible for any single performance to be a completely accurate depiction of a competitors skill. Actually, it is impossible for any competitor to have an absolute level of skill. The above deduction implies that no performer can replicate his best possible performance because too many things can vary; the length of the performance, the speed at which you perform, the breeze blowing your face, the intensity of the itch on your buttocks, the list is endless.

This construct is what causes the unavoidable injustice i think all competitions cannot help but commit. My case study will be “The Micman” public speaking competition I attended last Saturday organised by  @themicrophone .  I will use them to observe the organisation and experience of competitions.

The Micman  is an annual pubic speaking competition hosted at the faculty of Law and is in its second year since inception. This year’s edition was titled MM80. Here lies the first interesting thing about the organisation of this event, the name. MM80 translates to  Mic Man 80 where 80 stands for the 80,000 naira, the cash prize for the winner. Last year’s edition was MM70. The idea behind the naming is to up the cash prize every year. Many organizers put extra thought in the naming conventions for their competitions. The X factor, The Voice, Project fame. I think often times the  idea is to get a catchy name that’s easy to relate to. MM80 isn’t particularly easy to relate or remember, it’s pretty obvious this wasn’t the intention of the organizers. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not. Especially as a new competition looking for attention. It’s easier for people to remember a name that they can pronounce, it is even easier to know what the competition is about when the name suggests it. I will not remember the name of this competition by the year end. I do however find it very interesting that they chose to apply this convention in their naming.

Something else picked my curiosity. As we stepped into the hall, two pieces of paper were handed out. One had text printed on both sides and the other was blank. These two pieces of paper played very important roles in the competition experience itself.

Paper 1 had the words; ‘Slay’ and ‘Nay’ printed on alternate sides of the sheet. The purpose of this paper was for the audience to express their pleasure or displeasure with the performance of the competitors. When you were impressed by a performance you would raise the side of the paper saying slay (or perhaps just thought the competitor looked peng) and if you weren’t you would indicate ‘nay’. My initial feeling towards this was that of weariness. I thought the idea of an already nervous competitor seeing 10s of hands raising pieces of papers saying ‘nay’ was a bit sadistic and would demoralize the competitors but that wasn’t the case. The audience was quite encouraging, that and all the competitors were actually very good, making the eventual injustice of the competition that much more.

Paper 2 was a blank sticky note for ‘gist’ as the organizers called it. The audience had the opportunity to write whatever that felt about the competition or the speaker at the time and it was read out to the crowd at intervals. This was very interesting and made the audience play a very vital part to the competition experience itself. The comments varied from support for competitors to just random musings (my comment was the random musing).

While these two very unorthodox practices  were perhaps my favorite part of the event, it is unfortunate i shall probably never see the practice elsewhere. I think the success of these gimmicks was enhanced by the small size of the audience.

I rather not speak much about the individual performances of the speakers less I reveal my favoritism for the person i supported (who eventually lost). The overall feel of the performances however were similar. It was interesting to watch the effect the speeches had on the audience and thanks to the slay paper, you could immediately notice the dynamic between the two. As speeches progressed to points of climax/peaks, the number of hands with slay papers raised immediately increased. The concept of seeing the immediate effect of your performance on the audience is intriguing and probably beats waiting to the end before you receive (or not ) an ovation. Sometime during my meditation on the effect of speeches on audiences, it crossed my mind that a lot of uprisings began with brilliant public speeches. This was a competition to celebrate future agitators. A curious thing.


“I suggest that you seize to watch a competition after the performances and before the judgement”

The first injustice of competition is the memory of it. It’s weird how the announcement of the winner totally takes precedence over the actual performances so most times the memory of competitions is of the winner not of the competition. A second injustice lies in the nature of absolute skill. As i earlier mentioned, it is impossible for a particular level of skill to be replicated. This was the case at MM80 where most competitors were noticeably less impressive in the second round, some more than others. This i believed is what robbed my favorite participant of the win. Perhaps a third round would have done the trick or perhaps one round was sufficient. Who can tell? I would say 1 round was sufficient. The final injustice is one of personal loss, the same one that everyone who wasn’t part of the winning team will feel. A feeling of being robbed. These things are not intentional but they are.

A winner most be announced and only one person can win. If a competition lacked this very vital part, it seizes to be a competition. Prior to writing this, i felt the point of a competition was the appreciation of the performances/acts at the contest but now as i conclude this, i realize that, that is not the case. The point of a competitions is for a sole winner to be crowned and therefore the injustice of competition is the very element they are made off.

“Law doesn’t prevent chaos. It defines it”

These are my notes on Competitions.


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