The Beirut Blogcat

Beirut, or what some people call beer pong, is a truly fantastic game. For those of you who, impossibly, are unfamiliar with the game, it’s fairly simple: google it. I’m not here to fill you in on the basic rules! In fact, considering you made it through college without picking it up means your aversion to the game is too strong for me to overcome. For you saner souls, I’d like to discuss a number of things involved with the game.

I’ve been playing beirut for what I’ll call 8 years, which is about 1/3 of my life. My freshman year roommate, Jeff Thompson, and I would play “water pong” for hours during lazy afternoons to kill time; no beer, just 12 red cups, ping pong balls, wooden desk chairs, and a bed board. During sophomore year, there was a three week stretch between Thanksgiving and Finals  that saw me play at least one game every single night (thanks still go to Ya Boy C and T-Stein for their endless supply of 30s). I’ve hit an in-the-hand-Kill-Cup two games in a row against the same team. That one, I still revel in (yes, my life’s sad, I’m aware). The greatest game I ever played was an 11-overtime victory against Birdman McKenzie.

I have not included these stories to impress any of you – I’ve given up on that futile effort a long time ago. Rather, it is simply to establish the extent to which I appreciate this great game.

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The thing I’d like to touch on first – something I mentioned in passing at the top of this blogcat – is clarifying the difference between beirut and beer pong. Here’s the thing: nobody cares. Call it one or the other, or both for all I care. What does bother me is the d-bags who get on their high horses, becoming all indignant about their terminology and making you feel like an idiot. Screw those people. It’s the same difference between calling a carbonated soft drink ‘soda’ or ‘pop;’ there’s no right way to do it.

My DKE brothers and other former/current Lafayette students have an excuse to make a distinction: we play another game called beer pong, one with completely different rules that requires the use of paddles. As such, we call the latter game “beer pong,” or simply “pong,” and the game I’ve previously been discussing “beirut,” because we need to signify a specific referent. Our motivation to care about the distinction is the same reason the English language has different words for different things; otherwise, we’d have to use the same Marklar to refer to the same Marklar, and it’d get Marklar.

However, I’ve yet to come across non-Lafayette people (a.k.a none of my home or work friends) who have ever played, or sometimes even heard of people playing, pong with paddles (obviously there are loads of people who do play, that I haven’t met, but judging from my experience, those people are less common). The people who that description applies to, yet still get all high and mighty on Mt. Pious about which name “needs” to be used, can all eat crow.

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Another thing I’d like to address is a commonly held belief that (a) pisses me off and (b) needs debunking. Many people I’ve had the overall pleasure of knowing believe that they are better at beirut after having guzzled down a couple of beers. These people, while typically smart, are, in this regard, completely insane.

I can just barely see where this idea comes from. I suppose people feel more confident while lightly intoxicated, and combining that with a feeling of relaxation (being “looser”) leads to improved performance. It’s even been rationalized to me that there’s over-thinking involved when playing sober, and that once you’ve thrown a few back, muscle memory takes over and more cups get hit. To that, I say, there’s no fucking way.

First of all, this study states that, “As you consume more alcohol, and it reaches the cerebellum, your coordination and perception are affected, and you can have memory blackouts;” if you have worse coordination in your muscles, and you lose your memory, improved muscle memory, and improved performance because of it, is simply out of the question (I’m being facetious here, people, settle down).

I think this opinion – that performance rises in tandem with blood-alcohol content – stems mostly from a few things. One, beirut is a very streaky game; you might sink seven shots in a row, and then follow that up with a stretch of twelve misses. Since the majority of the time you play beirut, you’ve been drinking, simple odds state that most of those “hot” streaks will occur when you’re drunk, rather than the first half of your first game – the only time when you’re stone sober, which constitutes probably less than 10% of your games. If you broke it down, though, that initial stretch of sobriety is likely the most likely, of any single period of time, to produce a hot streak.

Well, maybe not, simply because of the other factor that makes people believe this inane theory they should not – rhythm. I agree that it’s possible your third game of beirut might, in general, consist of more accurate shooting than your first game.

Sup! (Also, check out the girl to the right... is she impressed or just baffled? You be the judge)

That, however, has nothing to do with a higher blood-alcohol content. Instead, it is purely because of the fact that it’s your third game, and you’ve now warmed up.

Nobody ever “warms up” for games of beirut. There are no shooting drills, no stretching sessions involved; if there were, you’d certainly get kicked out of any party I was hosting for being a complete goober. It’s mildly unfortunate, though, because pre-game regimens would probably lead to better shooting. All amateur and professional sports teams do pre-game exercises because the players perform better afterwards; it gets the blood flowing, and allows them to adjust the alignment of whatever it may be (e.g. jump shots in basketball, field goal kicking, etc.). The claim that I’m better at beirut when I’m drunk is like Ray Allen saying he does pre-game shooting drills to tire himself out, because he’s better at basketball when he’s more fatigued.

Ridiculous.

Also, I know everybody out there has been riled up about this for years now, so you’re all welcome for clearing this up.

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One thing I love about the game is it’s March-Madness-esque lean toward upsets. You could take the two best players out of 395 people, team them up against the two worst, and see the former pairing lose. I’ve seen that basic premise happen all the time, and it’s glorious. Except when I’m on the losing end of that stick. Then it’s bullshit, and I’m outraged.

My favorite “big picture” thing about beirut, though, is that, outside of the most basic framework of the game, there are no standard set of rules. Seemingly every group of people has its own legislation for how the game should be played.

6 cup or 10 cup? What about 36 cup? Should we play one-tier or add a few more on top? Bouncing, yes or no? Kill cup – on the table, or off, or simply not at all? Can you catch your rebound and do the behind-the-back, Jersey-rule shot? Can you call island? How many times? Does that number change if you make your called shot? How many re-racks are you allotted? No re-racks in overtime, right?  I suppose that assumes you’re playing 3-cup OT, but maybe you only do one. Definitely no racks mid-turn, though. If you do 3-cup OT, can you get throwbacks? Do you have a flagship cup that’s filled up entirely with beer? Do you play “on fire”? If so, do you have to call “heating up” once you’ve hit two in a row?

There are just so many options to choose from! Don’t even get me started on rebuttal rules.

All of these rules can go either way, lead to myriad different ways to play the game, and ultimately result in various idiosyncrasies that make life beautiful. For example, my frat’s (yes, I would call my country a @#%)  house rules (10-cup) required re-racking after every single made cup. I’m sure some of you out there are thinking “what is this, amateur hour?” but it’s designed to make games at parties go faster so you can get more in. The little twist this game created, that I will never stop appreciating, is that, for the heavily initiated, it was always easy to identify those unfamiliar with the rules. All you had to do was wait until you’d hit the 7th cup.

You see, most games, as far as I’ve seen, typically allow only two re-racks, which makes each valuable. Thus, nobody has ever shot at a perfectly unified 4-cup “diamond” formation, sunk a cup, and then taken a re-rack – it’d be a poor tactic. Because of this, most people are unaware of the proper way to transition from four cups to three, as it’s not very visually intuitive. In fact, the only people who ever get it right are those who have previously played this particular formulation of the game.

The method is called “The Swing,” but that part’s unimportant. What is of note, however, is that it’s a nuance of the game that almost no other version has to offer.

It’s tough to put a finger on why I think this concept is so cool; not The Swing itself, but the fact that it exists only in our particular version. I think part of my appreciation is akin to why people love and feel protective over underground music. There’s some sort of narcissistic pleasure in being part of a select few that knows some artist or band that the mainstream hasn’t heard of.

Really, though, what’s cool about this is the individualization of a shared experience. Playing beruit with our particular rules allowed my friends and me to take a concept that millions of people are familiar with, and create inside that basic skeleton the equivalent of an inside joke that leaves everyone else in the dark. We took a ubiquitous experience and turned it into something that was, in a way, uniquely our own.

Take that, everybody else!

“The Swing” turns this common game into something identified only with my friends and me personally. Everybody knows about beruit, yet there’s something about the game that we know that nobody else knows.

Which is great, because, since we’re assholes, we get to mock everybody who gets it wrong.

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