By Josh Lyford
Beer pong has classically inspired thoughts of filthy college dorm rooms and basements filled with belligerent students, red and blue party cups frothing over with cheep beer, ping pong balls wildly firing around and enthusiastic players yelling at the top of their lungs, a chorus of beverage and competition. Founder and Commissioner of the World Pong Tour LLC Sam Pines and his team are seeking to change all of that, or at least, leave a bit more room for interpretation
Beer pong’s origins are rooted in 1950s college life, when the game was played with paddles. It eventually lost the paddles but retained the beer pong name, morphing to consist of two teams of competitively fun-minded individuals lobbing ping-pong balls across a table at triangularly coordinated groups of ten cups like machine-honed rockets firing on target. Typically, the cups are filled with beer (although within World Pong Tour guidelines, the cups are instead filled with water) and each player removes cups that he/she lands the ball into, pulling them away until the winner sinks a ball into the final cup.
Sam Pines says about elevating the game to a legitimate sport, “We want to add some professionalism to Pong but still maintain that grassroots feel and energy.” The professionalism is apparent when you see the operation in action; everything is World Pong Tour Standard and coordinated ~ from the signature orange cups to the regulation tables to the Pong Tour girls psyching everyone up in their hot pink shirts, everything is put together with care. Some of the rules have been subtly updated, including the addition of a shot clock and time limit, which makes the event fast paced and combative.
Do not think, however, that the official World Pong Tour is a stuffy event; it is anything but! The recently held qualifying round at Jillian’s on Grove Street in Worcester proved just that. Tucked into the back of the popular sports bar, the event got underway beneath the flickering neon lights of the video game section and a sea of enthused pong players got together to prove their skills with ball and beverage, like a sort of non-violent fight club.
There were six active tables running at the tournament and the place was packed with eager players and onlookers. The event may have been centered on fun, but the need for some serious skills to win the $5,000 prize and move onto the next round of competition was not lost on the attendees.
The players came from all walks of life and skill levels. Kristen Cammuso, for example, said that “[I] got involved at Jillian’s just for fun, I lost my first two games and then practiced non-stop…” until she became a local pong champion. Josh Cruz recalled that “…[My] little sister got me involved in pong.” Now he throws pong balls with the best of them. As with any sport, you can’t discard the local hot shots; the colorful duo of Bobby John and Dave Erickson proved just that, masterfully blasting shots and only narrowly missing first place in a last-second upset.
Pines and his tight-knit team started these events over 6 years ago after he saw how many people played in college. From there, Pines explained that he “…wanted to make it more of a sport and about the game and less about the drinking aspect.” From the World Pong Tour’s humble beginnings out of the back of a van, it has spread to 15 states ~ with an official office in East Windsor, Connecticut.
If you are interested in finding out more about the World Pong Tour, check out WorldPongTour.com or head to Facebook and search “World Pong Tour.” Be prepared though, if you decide to play ~ the competition is tough!
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