Beer pong is one of those games that has weaseled its way into popular culture over the last several years. Any person who has had a sip or two of beer has almost inevitably fished a ping pong ball out of a cup at least a time or two. Most of us probably think of beer pong as something that bros do at frat parties, but I can honestly see beer pong being a successful televised sport. (It's arguably just as much a sport as table tennis, right?)
Some research I dug up traces the origins of beer pong to Dartmouth College sometime around the 1950s, though then the game was played similar to table tennis, with a net and ping-pong paddles. Eventually the paddles were dropped and the name “Beirut” was adopted instead. Legend has it that the name Beirut was an allusion to the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980ss, because the arch of the balls reminded players of the bombs falling on the capital of Beirut. (I personally like the name beer pong a lot more.)
It doesn't seem as though the game had quite the popularity then that it does now. My parents were teenagers in the 1970s, and the first time I tried to show my old man how to play he'd never heard of it. Even though I had two older brothers, I had never even heard of the game until I was in high school. I cannot confirm or deny exactly how the game broke into the mainstream.
Regardless, if one thing is for sure it's that the game is popular. The official website claims that last year's World Series of Beer Pong hosted over 1,000 participants from 45 states and five Canadian provinces. The tournament gained recognition from ESPN magazine, Jay Leno, G4's “Attack of the Show,” and has a major documentary that you can rent from Netflix. Is it safe to say that the game is played on every college campus in America?
Let's face it, the millennials are the ADD generation. Nothing can hold our attention for more than a few minutes most of the time, unless you count the hours you spend refreshing your Facebook page or scrolling through your smart phone. But (even though I'm a diehard baseball fan) the “days at the ballpark” are probably long over for most of us. Beer pong games are fast paced and can provide some pretty quick entertainment.
It's about time that ESPN started banking off this. If they can televise the World Series of Poker, I see no reason why they can't televise the World Series of beer pong. I have no doubt that they could get just as much, if not more, viewership from a couple days worth of beer pong as they could with a poker tournament. This makes tuning in on cable TV is a win-win for the ESPN as well as the hosts of the WSOBP, as the national attention would likely draw larger crowds as the years go by.
I know what you're thinking: “Beer pong promotes binge drinking, and televising it would corrupt the youth.” I understand the concern, but it's kind of an anachronistic way to look at TV. Televising beer pong promotes it no more than televising the WSOP promotes gambling; no more than televising car chases on truTV promotes running from the police; and no more than watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo promotes eating sketti'n'butter. It's no more provocative than an average beer commercial.
There are plenty of people to play, plenty of people to watch, and lots of money to be made in the marketing. That being said, I think it's safe to say that the game of beer pong has a place in the future of televised sports.