OPINION: Think bigger than beer pong

By Alexander Kenny, Columnist

Beer pong (BP) is either the party’s thrilling main event or an uncreative party killer. At the mention of BP, Mason students react –let’s say all polled are 21 or older– with dreamy nostalgia for last Thursday night’s debauchery or rabid judgement of the subculture attached to BP. When people say they love BP they’re not appraising the value of bouncing ping pong balls into red Solo cups. To love BP is to love crowded rooms with socially adept bro-skis and shouting “Woo!” And there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe.

Beer pong is the paradigm house party activity in colleges across America. Many Fairfax bars offer weekly tournaments –called “bar pong” for legal reasons. BP is so pervasive, I’ve seen children on playdates crash Daddy’s tennis balls into Kool-aid filled stemware placed in a triangle. They slap complex handshakes and speak of getting “swole.” It’s unclear if BP is a force for good or evil. It’s probably chaotic neutral.

Since most are familiar with BP, I’ll explain hastily: like every sport, the object is to put the thing in the thing. No training is necessary, like bowling or competitive bubble-wrap popping. Stakes are low, and I suspect BP exists entirely to facilitate socializing. Despite claims that Beer Pong promotes binge drinking, you will rarely hear the antiquated oafish chant, “Chug! Chug! Chug!” Let me be clear about this: beer pong is not a drinking game. It’s a game you play while you drink. There isn’t even beer in those red Solo cups.

Beer Pong has deep roots for a game played almost exclusively by ages 21-22. BP originated in Dartmouth fraternities in the 1950s– around the time backwards ballcaps and cargos were invented. BP paraphernalia is a huge industry. Balls and tables are monogrammed with fraternity letters or the house champ’s initials. The annual World Series of BP in Las Vegas has a grand prize of $50,000.

Some colleges have attempted to ban BP, most notably Georgetown University’s 2007 ban on custom tables and ownership of ping-pong balls. University of Dayton banned drinking games in 2013. Because, of course, banning an activity is how to get college students to cease and desist. When a thing becomes illegal, it’s suddenly cooler. Ban giraffes at Mason and we’re sure to find a spotted tower in the J.C. by week’s end. It’s more likely universities are employing a CYA policy by enacting bans that demonstrate little more than posturing.

I have no beef with the “bro” culture attached to BP. I just find the game as complex as hopscotch. I’m troubled by the steep opportunity cost of placing a pong table in the room, absorbing most of the party energy and defeating creativity. Where are the new drinking games, fraternities? Quarters and Flip Cup are still around and sedating as ever. Never Have I Ever is a watered down Truth Or Dare minus the Dare. Cornhole or soft horseshoes should only exist at retirement homes. Games we played at slumber parties like Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven had bigger cojones.

Someone invent Pin the Tail on the Jagermeister or Hide and Go Fireball. Or Say Okay to the Croquet. Or Super Soaker Jackson Pollock paint-off. Or Act Out Nicholas Sparks Scenes From a Hat. There are parties with trampolines, low-grade fireworks, a 90’s hip hop soundtrack, dancing, and a ridiculous number of pinatas. Think bigger, party throwers. Demand more creativity from your hosts, partiers. Snooty Dartmouth students invented Beer Pong. I’m positive we at Mason can top that.