Games have rules, as do sports and public swimming pools ("no horseplay" being my favorite). Without rules, you'd just be aimlessly wandering, maybe with a ball. That's not a game. That's just screwing around.
So it is with this in mind that I make a call for consensus in the world of beer pong. As a retired beer ponger (I wanted to spend more time with my family) who still plays in the occasional charity tournament or takes to the table to instruct a misguided youth or two, I would like us to finally acknowledge that this game has become one of our nation's more beloved pasttimes. I would guess with some confidence that more people in this country have thrown a ping-pong ball at a plastic cup of Natural Light than have held a hockey stick.Hell, the suddenly quite funny Jimmy Fallon faces his guests in an ongoing beer pong tournament and the last time I was at the grocery store, I noticed a set of "beer pong balls" next to the cheap end of the beer cooler. This is remarkable, not just because someone has probably skipped up a tax bracket by placing crappy ping pong balls above the PBR, but because this appears to be the only drinking game that's managed to assimilate itself into mainstream culture. You don't see Jimmy Fallon playing quarters on TV or beer bongs for sale at Safeway, do you?
As enjoyable and official as this game might be, beer pong seems to constantly find itself mired in controversy because every time you play this, the rules change. Will there be six cups or 10 cups? Can you bounce? And if so, does it count for two cups? How many re-racks do we get? Can we blow the ball out of the cup if it has yet to touch the beer? What happens if I knock over a cup? Is it permissible for me to expose my bare buttocks three inches from the cups as a means of distraction? Do I have do drink out of the same cups the 47 people who've played before me drank out of?
There are about a thousand of these rules. And don't get me started on those who insist on calling this "Beirut" - they're the same people who remind you that you just blew your nose with "bathroom tissue" and not a Kleenex. There needs to be a cultural consensus on this. It's not like you go to a different town and play in a pickup basketball game in which shots from the center circle are worth 50 points or are reason for the opponent to get naked and touch the nearest mailbox. But that could, and has, happened to people in a beer pong game. Your opponent could hit some shot that requires you to say the Pledge of Allegiance in your underwear. For real.
"But there's a rulebook online!" you're saying (I can't hear you. Newspapers don't work that way... not yet, at least.) Yes, there are several collections of rules to be found and even those contradict each other. Some have said that the regulations set by the World Series of Beer Pong (a real thing) should be the uniform guidelines, but such debate is frivolous when the involved parties have each consumed a gallon and a half of Hamms.
While formal rules for this emerging sport may be a ways off, there's one thing on which we can agree: Beer pong is still the most effective way to spread moderately dangerous communicable diseases at a party.