Beer pong: the living history of America’s game

Beer pong: the living history of America’s game

There are surely many things that’ll get your ass kicked in a basement in Hanover, New Hampshire, but nothing will put it at risk so swiftly as throwing a ping-pong ball. Go ahead and piss on the wall or pitch yourself face-first into the plywood bar in the corner. But down here, in the seething subterranean pleasure centers that power Dartmouth College’s best minds into oblivion, they won’t tolerate that kind of beer pong. So you’d better hit the ball with a paddle. Beer pong is America. The drinking game seems like it’s been on top forever, but compared to others in its world, it’s relatively young. It mirrors democracy’s everyman appeal, it rewards innovation, and it encourages self-aggrandizement — just like these United States. Plus, it does all that while floating on a Mississippi River’s worth of light beer. This generation will conclude that beer pong is a consistent thread in the always-deteriorating social fabric of “Young Folks Today”. We just can’t quite agree how to shoot that ball, or what to call it. The Internet is littered with beer pong “histories”, “commandments”, and “guides” that breathlessly proclaim themselves as “definitive” and “official”. Yet none satisfyingly trace beer pong’s complete silhouette. To know the contours of the modern game, I tried to do just that. I spoke to alumni from the four corners of the US, combed the archives of the country’s oldest student newspaper, and interviewed several pong prophets who claim to see the game’s future. What follows is a snapshot (a good one, I think, but given the game’s constant evolution, not a definitive one) of the state of US beer pong today. Be sure to let me know what I missed in the comments. I hope to update this story as time goes on.

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