Getting It In

After a long night. Andrew Nelson

As a second-semester senior, with the clock ticking down to graduation, I feel compelled to make the most of my remaining time at Yale: to learn the lessons that matter, and to fill my remaining neurons with the most important information I can find. By this, of course, I mean learn to play beer pong.

I meant Beirut. I knew that. Bei. Root.

I should have honed this skill long ago, but it can’t be that hard, right?  You only need: one long table, 22 red Solo cups, two teams of two students each, another team waiting to play, and three random Yalies awkwardly watching because they don’t know anyone else at the party.

And the rules? Here are the basics, as I understand them from a single freshman-year foray into the game:

1.) Stand at one end of the table.

2.) Close your eyes.

3.) Throw a ping pong ball at the 10 cups on the other end. (They belong to the other team.)

4.) Hope that the ball drops into one of those cups.

5.) Open your eyes.

There are other rules to the game, which vary by region. According to tradition, the original version of the game began at either Bucknell or Lehigh University. Conceived in a fraternity (hopefully the only thing conceived there that year), it was named after the Lebanese city because a Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked an American camp there. (Real life too real? Keep drinking.)

After a colossal failure I won’t validate by mentioning here, I decided not to play another game of Beirut after freshman year. (Rather, none of my roommates wanted to play with me.) But I was sure I could improve. I just needed to find a tutor who was always playing the game, perfecting his techniques. I needed a Van Wilder, or that old guy in Glory Days who never graduates. But I was afraid of fraternities. To whom could I turn?

“How can I even pretend to teach you when I have no idea myself?!” wrote Southern belle and sorority member Courtney Pannell ’11 in an e-mail. “I know this might be comical all-in-all, but I’m deeply distressed by the fact that I’m so bad at beer pong. It’s like a personal failure of mine that I cannot correct for. Can’t you get…someone who may have something more to say than ‘You just throw it at it and hope for the best?’”

Just throw it at it. Huh, I never thought of that.

I decided to test Pannell’s strategy at Feb Club, 28 days of liquor-fueled fun, one of the last hoorahs for the senior class. At one of the parties, a group of three seniors announced that they needed a fourth player to start a game. I volunteered, ready to show how much I’d learned.

I picked up a ping-pong ball, looked at one of my opponents’ red cups, bent my arm, and—Ah! It went in! I got it in! THIS IS SO AWESOME.

My team ultimately won that game, and I contributed (two cups). I said bye to those three seniors, whose names I did not catch, and moved on, saying hi to other awkwardly sipping seniors. I felt happy.

I was sure then that after I graduated Yale—and went to work sober, wallowing in memories of college—I would never play Beirut again. But I had finally learned the lesson that mattered. Whether I remembered it the next morning is another story.