February 19, 2004

Making the Case for Beer Pong

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Have you ever wondered what the most widely played sport on campus is? I’d be willing to bet it isn’t hockey, and it probably isn’t basketball either, or lacrosse, or tennis. No, I’m sure something else sparks more competitive juices, creates more intense rivalries, and inspires more trash talking. That something else is beer pong.

I’ll count flip-cup in the same category too, and quarters, and possibly asshole, although probably not kings, because you can’t really win at kings. Then again, as one friend put it, “Everybody wins at kings.”

On the whole, drinking games doubtlessly constitute a large part of the competition occurring on campus one weekend or another, and much of that competition is likely more gripping than most collegiate athletics — possibly including Ivy League football. I definitely know more people who play and watch drinking games on a regular basis than any other single sport. When you add the population that plays a drinking game once or twice a semester, the numbers skyrocket far past the number of spectators at any Cornell sporting event, besides hockey at least. This evidence might be slightly biased by my frat-boy perspective or the fact that I play beer pong regularly, but I still consider it nearly irrefutable; drinking games are phenomenally popular.

Strangely enough, competitive alcohol consumption goes almost totally unreported in both sports news and university sponsored publications, and even when the games are covered, that coverage inevitably centers around the actual alcohol consumption rather than the epic battle for a victory. Blah blah, binge drinking. News flash: College students drink. Lots. But I think the real story is in the desire to drink better.

But there doesn’t seem to be much organized effort to help people excel at booze consumption. No schools I’ve heard of offer drinking game scholarships. It definitely won’t help you get into an Ivy League school or gain you campus-wide fame once you’re there. No definitive ranking of drinkers exists at the university level, let alone a national one. Indeed, colleges don’t seem to trumpet the accomplishments of their drinkers too readily. Instead of noting the universal dedication and desire of a university’s drinking population, a school is much more likely to tout its national champion water polo team. But, provided he or she is not a water polo player, I’m guessing a competitive flip-cup environment might attract more students. Who wouldn’t want to go to the most skilled drinking school in the world, to get better, to succeed?

As it stands, there are few concrete benefits to elite alcohol consumption sports. Those dedicated to competitive binge drinking can resort only to personal claims, claims that likely evolve with the progression of their night. “I’m definitely the best beer pong player in the house,” one athlete might say, or later, “I’m the best beer pong player in the world,” or perhaps even later, “I am indestructible…” and after a long pause “I love you man!”

Few things, perhaps including foosball or the intent to enter medical school, inspire more competition here at Cornell. I’ve never seen any other sport inspire more students, both male and female, to take off their shirts and jump for joy, to blatantly heckle their competition, or fanatically belt obscenities in the faces of newly vanquished opponents. And at the same time, so many of us have felt the defeat, the dejection when that ping-pong ball strikes beer on that final cup… splash… and it’s over. Few times at a party feel lonelier. Indeed, the amount of fights started across the country because of drinking games is likely on par with the number of altercations stemming from soccer matches in the rest of the world. Quite an accomplishment.

Part of the opposition to drinking games might come from the stigma against binge drinking. Yes, it does kill people, but so did football back in the day. There are problems with the sport, but those should be overcome. The benefits of the games: camaraderie, friends made, and games won, far outweigh the costs. And to be able to stand in front of a party full of people, screaming at the top of your lungs and bumping chests with a guy or girl you just met a few weeks ago is truly a beautiful thing. That’s what college is all about.

Archived article by Matt James