The air is humid, stagnant and reeks of beer. Ping-pong balls zip back and forth across 9-by-5 sheets of solid wood straddled across garbage cans.
A typical Friday night at Dartmouth College is well underway.
Beer Pong is the main staple of Dartmouth’s Greek-dominated social scene. An article about the perils of drinking games labeled Dartmouth the official founder of beer pong. Unofficial College historian and history professor emeritus Jere Daniell ’55 recalls playing pong in its most primitive form when he was a member of Alpha Theta fraternity between 1952 and 1955. “I’m not even sure it had a name,” Daniell says.
By agreeing to attend Dartmouth, it seems that one agrees to embrace and cherish the sport of beer pong. And players today, whether or not they realize it, are partaking in a pastime that has come a long way from the original game.
Many Dartmouth alum say the game may have started when someone put their cup of beer on the ping pong table during a match. Whatever the case, it was more sport and less alcohol. “It was not a way to get drunk fast,” says one old-timer.
Fewer Rules, Less Beer
Pong consisted of only two cups of beer per side from the 1950s until the 1990s; the last 10 years have seen a vast proliferation in the amount of beer consumed during a game.
Women’s (Beer) Lib
Women were playing pong at Dartmouth before co-education. Fraternity members would bring their dates from nearby women’s colleges to their houses, inviting the ladies to join them on table. “Sometimes the women were just as into it,” recalls one 70s-era Alpha Chi Alpha alum.
Today, beer pong is the undisputed king of drinking games, surpassing quarters and card games with ease. Pong competitions crop up as often as beer is chugged. The phenomenon has caught on beyond the college crowd, as TV shows and music videos implement the drinking sport.