DISCLAIMER: Excessive drinking is generally never a good thing. If you and your friends are going to play some drinking games, know your limits, don’t drink and drive, and stay safe!
Drinking games will likely never truly be considered athletic, despite being both a battle between different competitors and one between the competitors and their internal organs. Personally, I think that drinking games have gotten a bum rap and that’s a damn shame. Not only are drinking games a great way to get people socializing at parties, but the best ones also require a certain level of coordination and skill. Your coordination more often than not deteriorates as result of the heavy drinking involved, which just makes the later rounds of any drinking game the time when you’re got to dig deep and rely on your instincts.
Beyond the standard card-based drinking games, which are mostly based on the luck of the draw, the true tests come from the more physically demanding drinking games that get players up and moving. Perhaps the two most popular of these kind of drinking games are beer pong and flip cup.
Beer pong is one of the world’s most popular drinking games, so much so that it has spawned its own world tour (www.worldpongtour.com) and the World Series of Beer Pong (www.bpong.com/wsobp). The rules, like most drinking games, are relatively flexible and allow for modifications to suit the players needs, but the core game remains the same: teams of one or two players play at opposite ends of a long table — official beer pong tables are sold, along with plenty of beer pong accessories — and take turns trying to bounce a ping pong ball into one of several cups organized at each tables end in the form a triangle. According to official rules beers do not require being filled more than one eighth of the way full but, again, this is where the house rules can come into play.
The athletic skill required to play beer pong at a high level is comparable to shooting a free-throw in basketball, albeit a smaller ball and a smaller hole. In this regard, beer pong should be considered in the same realm of sports as golf or darts. These are televised sporting events that require the player to master a specific motion or action, but can still be safely played whilst consuming alcohol and can end up making you some decent money. Consider Ron Hamilton and Michael “Pop” Popielarski, a duo whose team, Smashing Time, recently won back-to-back championships at the World Series of Beer Pong and who were also featured in a video about beer pong for Time Magazine, in which they proclaimed themselves “professional” beer pong players.
Flip cup (or flippy cup)
Flip cup, at its core, is a relay race in which running is replaced with drinking and the baton pass is replaced with the challenge of flipping an empty cup from top to bottom, or vice-versa. Once a drink is finished that player must place their empty cup down, just over the edge of a table and proceed to flip it with their fingers so that it lands upside down. Four players per team line up across from one another, with the first and fourth players playing the key roles of the starter and the anchor. Once the starter has successfully flipped his cup, the next player drinks and starts flipping and so it goes down the line. Whichever team’s anchor successfully flips his cup first wins. The game requires a certain dexterous touch that can be difficult to harness during an intense race when the pressure is on, so it vitally important that the anchor is able to finish quickly. The best players are the ones who are able to play with swagger and remain cool during the frantic moments when everyone’s eyes are on you and your cup.
I’ve had my fair share of experience playing flip cup, due in large part to a friend of mine who loves to organize parties that feature a flip cup tournament. As per his tournament rules, the teams play best-of-seven series against each other, with the anchors from one game rotating and starting the next. After a short round robin, the teams are seeded and the tournament is underway. Perhaps the best part about flip cup is that it requires a majority of the partygoers to participate, with the games quick and exciting enough so that people don’t lose interest. There’s always a certain level of dependence on your teammates to hold up their end of the relay, which creates a sense of camaraderie among people you might not have even talked to otherwise. While the physical output might not be demanding enough to call it a sport, the thrill of the relay and the dependence on your fellow teammates is certainly comparable to any other team sport.
And then there are people that take drinking games to the absolute limit of physical exertion. The Outdoorsmen: Blood, Sweat and Beers, a film directed by Scott Allen Perry, documents the yearly ritual of a group of ten men who travel to a secluded area deep in the mountainous forests of Washington State to take part in an all-day competition that encompasses 15 different events, combines physical activities (including axe throwing and running along uneven and unforgiving river bottoms) with some serious beer chugging. A far cry from tossing a ball in a cup or flipping a beer cup, The Outdoorsmen depicts perhaps the most extreme drinking games known to man. It’s probably something that no one should ever attempt themselves, but it’s still somehow comforting to know that such a ritual exists.