I trust you've heard that school starts right this very instant or at least soon or perhaps recently. Are you ready? Have you bought and thought all the right things relating to educational electronics and the passage of time? Do you have a bushel of new underwear and an inflated sense of self-worth? Are the college students among you open to some unsolicited boozing advice from a friendly Internet stranger? I swear it will improve your shoddy lives. And we needn't limit Drunkspin Academy enrollment to college students. Most everyone's ripe for some liquor learning, including all my highly educated, overpaid 30-something pals whose steadfast refusal to just drink like an adult for one goddamn Wednesday afternoon before they die has prevented them from figuring out a noncreepy way to tell a lady she smells nice, which can be a thoughtful compliment if judiciously applied, so why you always gotta throw in extraneous words like "pants" and "flowers"?
Whether you're new to college or the workforce, grinding your way through grad school or house arrest, or clinging to the futons-and-Funyons lifestyle deep into middle age, simply reading this far, past the weird "pants" part, has proven that you need major life advice. So in the spirit of the season, I'm here to do a little educating.
You need to stop playing drinking games, because drinking games are for dipshits. You may be a generally decent fella who simply likes to unwind at the end of the day with a rousing game of Shitfaced: Dice Edition, but in so doing you're letting your inner dipshit out. Because even if you're not a dyed-in-the-goatee all-day asshole, you've got a dipshit side. We all do. And we all need to do whatever simple things we can to keep the shit-demons at bay. Quitting drinking games is the first step.
But you're wicked good at beer pong, aren't you? That's why you're looking at me like you're a natural-born juggler and pervert and I'm the mean dad who refuses to cosign the clown college loans. But I'm not asking you to forgo a noble career path or even a harmless diversion. I'm asking you to stop getting competitively wasted in filthy, demeaning ways. Drinking way too much with your friends is one of life's great joys, and I would never ask you to give that up. But it's time for you to take sport out of the equation.
The drink is meant to unite us, not divide us into teams. It's you, me, and the bottle in league against reality. Don't let a silly game come between us. And it's bad enough when it's just a bunch of bros being loud, germy, and inefficient about getting too drunk. When it's a coed affair, in which the boys invariably team up on the girls, drinking games can get a little bit sinister. I don't want to wade too deep into the gender dynamic here, but when a gang of dudes conspires to make young women drink their body weight in Natty Ice, well, that's no good.
If you lack the gumption to quit cold turkey and need guidance on how to wean yourself into respectability, I have summarized the weaknesses and weakernesses of the various genres of drinking games.
Beer Pong, referred to in some quarters as "Beirut" for mysterious reasons that we've got to assume are at least tangentially racist, is the most iconic drinking game, which is no surprise given that it's also the loudest and physically filthiest. Local customs vary, but the general idea is that two teams of two fools each stand on opposite sides of a ping-pong table—or more likely a door laid over a couple of sawhorses, because what drinking gamer has a nice thing like a ping-pong table?—and try to toss the ball into an army of beer-filled cups in the opposite endzone. If they get the ball in your cup, you fish it out with your horrible fingers and chug the beer. Wheee!
This game is gross. The object is to rotate a ping-pong ball between your grubby mitts, a scum-encrusted table, (and inevitably the fucking ground), and a plastic cup of beer that was born bad and is aging poorly as it awaits your chug. If you insist on treating yourself to one more round of beer pong, please do it at a Crip party, where they can at least be trusted to use the classier blue cups. Red is the color of fascism and also, when applied to this dirty-ass game, botulism.
The most popular card-based drinking game, according to the various idiotbro.coms I surveyed, is Asshole, which I played a lot in high school, because I was a horrible monster. The one thing this game has going for it is truth in advertising. The things this game has going against it are legion. The basic principle is that you deal the full deck around the table and then play what amounts to a dumbed-down version of Uno for aggressive alcoholics. The guy next to you throws an 8, you top him with a 9, next guy's fucked because he doesn't have a 10 or above so he has to eat that turn, and so on and so forth until all the cards are gone. First guy out gets to be president next time, last guy out is the asshole, everyone else rounds out the other positions in this cabinet of cretins. The president gets to make rules of etiquette for the duration of his term, most of which are some variation on "Those who displease me are not allowed to speak," "Hey, you, get me a beer," and "Let's make the smallest girl drink the most beer."
These are awful because they put one in mind of Andrew Clay and feces. I don't really know how they work.
This is like the ping-pong ones, except you play at a smaller table and try to bounce a quarter into the beer cup stationed in front of your choice of enemy combatant. This one lends itself quite nicely to collusion, because the majority can all decide to aim for the cup of whichever lady's drunkest or whichever gentleman's carrying the most cash. It also poses more immediate physical dangers, as I've seen people swallow the game piece. You don't want to ingest metal or money, never mind a combination of the two that has been marinated in palm sweat and Keystone Light. This is like the ping-pong ones, except you play at a smaller table and try to bounce a quarter into the beer cup stationed in front of your choice of enemy combatant. This one lends itself quite nicely to collusion, because the majority can all decide to aim for the cup of whichever lady's drunkest or whichever gentleman's carrying the most cash. It also poses more immediate physical dangers, as I've seen people swallow the game piece. You don't want to ingest metal or money, never mind a combination of the two that has been marinated in palm sweat and Keystone Light.
Here we're referring to the "Every time this character does this, drink that" ones. I buried this category at the bottom, because this is where my shameful confession comes in. The last time the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, I instituted a rule that we would drink a shot of Old Crow every time the Pats gained more than 5 yards on a rushing play. This was in the Hey-at-least-he-never-fumbles-day of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. BJGE could always be counted on for three yards and a cloud of seven to go, but I forgot that the Pats like to get cute in big games, and Welker burned us for a couple (BJGE and Woodhead also got one apiece).
But my personal injury doesn't keep me from admitting that the great relative strength of these games is that they're not as divisive as the other kind. They're conducted in a more communal spirit: "Let's watch Law and Order: SVU and do a shot every time Ice-T says something that's supposed to be simultaneously streetwise, funny, and profound but isn't any of those things if you think about it, so let's not think about it because we all want to love Ice-T; so yeah, drink when Ice-T speaks!" I can get behind that kind of boozy esprit de corps in theory, but in reality it distracts you from the show and adds another layer on top of what is supposed to be nature's most blessedly passive entertainment. The only rules that enhance TV watching are "Pee during commercials" and "Come on man, don't wipe your Cheetos fingers on the new-to-me couch!"
Please don't play drinking games anymore. You're already very, very good at drinking much too much, much too quickly. Personal growth is achieved through expanding your repertoire, not retreating into the comfort of that at which you already excel. You've mastered the art of getting black-out drunk before sundown; now, put down the ping-pong ball and focus on your weaknesses, like math and relationships.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states if you don't count Vermont. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Sam Woolley.
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