Ask anyone about the beer pong history and the response you’ll get will be something along the lines of “Dude … beer pong has a history?” It seems like the game that just sprung forth fully formed from legs across the land at some point in the misty past. But yes, it does have a long (and somewhat disputed) history. Played originally by using paddles to launch the ball, the game has evolved to the paddle-less version found more commonly on campuses today.
Beer Pong History – The Invention of the Game
After some research, we find that some fine scholars at Dartmouth apparently invented the game at some unspecified point in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the only citations for that claim are a marginally related New York Times article that’s buried behind their pay wall, and a 2004 article that turns out to be about Princeton history.
Perhaps a clue can be found in the game’s alternate (and less popular) name: Beirut. Beirut is Lebanon’s capital city. This is the information that would probably not be on the radar of the average college-aged beer aficionado in America … so does this mean that Lebanese immigrants are to thank for beer pong?
More likely what it means is that we can date the origins of the name back to the mid-1970s, when Beirut made international news for being the center of conflict for the country’s long-running civil war. Our witty fraternity scholars likely made the humorous connection between beer pong’s competitive team nature and bloody carnage in a distant country. Stay classy, frats.
The written word can be a very slippery thing, especially on the internet. For every claim you see online that Dartmouth sanctioned beer pong as an intramural sport in the 1970s, or that some class of 1950-something member recalled playing it in an interview, there’s a citation link behind it that takes you absolutely nowhere (or just no citation.) So who can we trust?
Well, a photo is worth a thousand (poorly cited) words, right? The earliest picture that can be found online depicts non-paddle beer pong being played at Bucknell in 1980.
So after all this research, what can we say with absolute confidence about the origins of beer pong?
“It was invented by some frat guys at some point in the 20th century or something.”
At the average beer pong game that’s likely to be a perfectly acceptable explanation.
Let the Games Begin!
The day-to-day grind of college life, including studies, tests, work and everything else that goes along with college needs to be balanced with recreation. Beer pong is a natural and fun outlet. If ambrosia is the nectar of the gods, then it is most certainly their recreation.
Unlike other recreational sports, beer pong has the minimal investment cost with maximum enjoyment, and partiers can play this game in the comfort of their own homes. Some cups, some balls, a beer pong table (or any flat playing surface), of course the beer, and the good times will flow. The only thing that remains is deciding what version of beer pong will be played. Players usually go by the most common version of pong. Some other versions require more complicated setups, and some have very few rules. However, all involve drinking and competitiveness. What’s more fun than that?
The game has a tendency to become a little rowdy and raucous. There is also the potential for cheating. After all, if the purpose is to drink, it’s not much fun if your talent at making shots forces the other team to drink all the shots, now is it? The answer really rests on how competitive the players are and whether winning or drinking is more entertaining.
Since its birth, beer pong has grown to range from a recreational drinking game to a competitive sport. In the world of the competitive tournament, shocking as it might seem, the alcohol has taken a back seat to the monetary rewards. No matter which version you play, beer pong is a great way to have fun and blow off steam as long as it’s done legally and responsibly.
No matter what beer pong history is, the game will keep on playing by more and more people.
Beer Pong Today