As the seasons change and we enter what feels like a purgatorial transition into winter, I am reminded of warmer times. Times when you didn’t need a parka to go outside on a sunny day. Times when the breeze did not send shivers down my spine and evenings meant gathering around the old outdoor ping-pong table.
I am feeling pangs of nostalgia as I recall the comforting sound of a “ping” that is meticulously answered by a “pong.” Ahh, the meditative trance that a game of ping-pong can inspire is nothing short of catharsis. Allow me to set the scene:
It’s fast; it’s intense; that little white ball is zinging across the lawn-green table with lightning speed. You know you’re in the zone, returning all the shots with the accuracy of a pro, and then it happens. The spectators let out a low “oooooh” as you hear the bell-like clink of a ping-pong ball hitting a half full can of beer. You are suddenly evicted from the zone as the crowd begins chanting “drink, drink, drink!” This is no ordinary game of ping-pong, nor its professionalized alter-ego, table tennis. This is beer-pong and it’s your turn to drink.
In this drinking version of ping-pong, opponents are attempting to hit the other person’s beer can with the ball. Once a can is hit, its owner must take a drink from it. I call this variation “beach beer-pong” and according to one local beach beer-pong enthusiast, it is the social event of the season: “[beer-pong] is more fun than average drinking games because there is a team aspect to it. You’re active, there’s skill involved and it’s a fun way to have some drinks.”
Given these social dynamics and the unpredictability of a table laced with beer puddles, and you have a drinking version of table tennis that is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
In a more formal setting, a self-proclaimed beer-pong champ recalls the tournament that took place at his work in Calgary. Using a pyramid system, plastic cups containing shots of beer were arranged in a triangle on each side of the net to be downed when an opponent landed a ping-pong ball inside one of them. Sanitary concerns aside, this is a game that can even be played without ping-pong paddles.
With people of multiple skill levels and ages competing, this was a big event that saw 32 teams compete. In what the tournament’s winner dubs a “clash of the titans,” he reveals the combination that he thinks makes beer-pong such a success: “the more you play, the more you drink, and the more competitive you get.”
Perpetuating alcohol-induced delusions of grandeur and expertise, beer-pong is ping-pong’s not so classy alter-ego.