As someone who isn't fighting this battle any more in the hope that it will stop showing up on agendas twice a year, and having watched videos of NPS finals further back than some of the poets here were alive, I can say that they were what they are now: a mixed bag. The poetry was certainly FAR more experimental and less competitive minded and original voiced (hell, I saw a team peice off of paper by, hmm, Cleveland I think it was), but it was not necesarily better. Much of it was poorly performed by today's standards, but by god, when you heard a Lisa Buscani poem, it didn't sound like anybody BUT Lisa Buscani.
I would caution us to not really use subjective terms like this. "Competitive" is safer and it resonates more with certain tropes that show up in our work that we can all point to and say, "Ah, yes, I see what you mean. That is kind of wack/cool." I saw a cat from Team XXX perform the same poem twice last week and didn't like it either time. But it was competitive - and repeating it over and over was part of what makes it competitive, content aside - and that's why some people want to keep spinning those joints. They're polished, they're loud, they've got the ramp-ups in all the right places, the slam tempo is in line, and it can double as a team piece. It may be shit, but that's not what determines its competitiveness anymore. There are teams that are wholly aware of that. I cannot think of one that isn't fighting to keep no-repeats. So all of that is to say, I hear you. I also agree that it increases the emphasis of our "festival" as a competition, and I'm personally against that, but not professionally (as a PSi head, I mean). Slam is big enough for both and more. The problem is that the competition heads don't want to share. They want to make the game go the way they play it, not the way WE play it.
Whether a finals is good or bad can generally be quantified by how publicly and voluminously the community rakes it. 2003 got RAKED, son. Go back on the old poetryslam list and see.
For someone who is done with this issue, I guess I still have a point or two left in me, but really: if no one is talking about compromise, then I'm not interested. I just saw that Mike Simms said something and I knew it would come hard and had to read it. He always gets me going.