Who Invented Beer Pong? Here’s The Unsurprisingly Confusing History


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The Unsurprisingly Confusing History Of Beer Pong

Want to go to Dartmouth? Good for you. That’ll cost you just $69,474 a year.

That price tag might seem insanely high and definitely includes a cost category vaguely labeled “miscellaneous,” but think of what you’re getting: it’s an Ivy League school, probably a great first step toward a super-corrupt political career, and—wait for it—the birthplace of beer bong!

Well, maybe. In fact the origins of beer pong are hotly contested among beer pong (sometimes called “Beirut”) aficionados with a lot of time on their hands. One theory says beer pong did indeed originate at Dartmouth sometime in the 1950s, and that the game was actually played more like ping pong, with a net and paddles, which, yeah, would explain the name.

Another story says beer pong originated at Bucknell, or at least the modern, paddle-free version of the game did. Somewhere in the figurative and literal haze of 1970s partying, some Bucknell Delta Upsilon brothers apparently chucked the paddles to the side—or saved them for weird fraternity initiation rituals—and re-christened the game “throw pong.”

A 1980s Delta Upsilon frat party at Bucknell

A 1980s Delta Upsilon frat party at Bucknell, photo courtesy of Michael Minor

And then there’s the confusing term “Beirut,” which is basically the same exact thing as beer pong. Why a game in which intoxicated opponents toss plastic balls into plastic cups full of watery beer would be named after the Lebanese capital is a bit confusing, to say the least. The theory is that beer pong was renamed (by some) on account of the Lebanese civil war going on in the 1980s. That seems like a really ridiculous choice even for a college student. We’re gonna propose our own theory: someone really drunk, on account of playing beer pong and all, masterfully slurred the word “beer” into “Beirut.” He probably said something like, “Hey you guys, less ges some balls an do the thing witha cups. And be…be…Beirut?” But sure, there’s also a chance some 20 year olds wanted to incorporate awareness of an international conflict into their drinking game.

Fortunately for all of us, there’s a site called BPong.com, which claims that “everything you’ve read about the history of beer pong is bullshit.” It doesn’t really go on to clarify the history, though it makes it pretty clear it hates the name “Beirut.”

Beyond the weird anger the site seems to have about beer pong misconceptions, it does have a helpful explanation of the official World Series of Beer Pong rules, which may not apply to the way you play it in your basement. But then once you’re in a basement, most official rules regarding drinking and/or drinking games disappear.

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