A League of Its Own

If you were to attend any college party in East Lansing, the state of Michigan or even anywhere in the country, it’s almost guaranteed a game of beer pong would be taking place. While most see beer pong as a fun party game to help increase their intoxication throughout the night (or day), others recognize it as a sport that requires practice, training and dedication with the ultimate goal of winning, none other than, the World Series of Beer Pong. [pong1]
For those who haven’t been to a party in the last 20 years, here’s a summary of the defined rules and regulations of beer pong. Said to have originated at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, beer pong is a drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in one of several cups of beer at the other end. The game typically consists of two teams with two players on each team; one team is on each side of the table, with a varying number of cups on their respective sides. When one member of the team throws the ball into a cup at the other end, an opposing team member must drink that cup. The game continues until all of one team’s cups are made, at which point the opposing team must drink any of the cups remaining from the winning team’s side and exit the playing area.
According to the World Series of Beer Pong, a regulation sized table is 8 feet by 2 feet and stands 27.5 inches off the ground. Obviously, table size and height vary from house to house – at MSU, usually a piece of green and white plywood resting on a hand-me-down table is close enough to regulation size.
With a multitude of “house rules” mixed into the basic regulations, each game becomes unique and can be drastically different from one party to the next. This is where drunken rage-fueled verbal or physical attacks on opposing teams begin. Anything from number of cups, re-racking, shot technique, drinking speed, alcohol amount and shutouts can have a number of different guidelines. This normally depends on the region of the country you are in, but also whose house you’re in. Usually by about the 10th game of beer pong in a night, all the rules and etiquette are out the window anyway. “Rules are always different from house to house,” business senior Scott Hagadone said. “It’s just something you have to get used to. As long as everyone is playing by the same rules, no one has an advantage.”
Not only are the rules in beer pong debatable, but the name itself is constantly argued over as well. Most students in the Midwest refer to the game as “beer pong” – 89 percent, according to a recent poll done by collegehumor.com. On the East Coast, where the game is thought to have originated, nearly 40 percent of those polled refer to the game as “Beirut.” It is believed the name “Beirut” was given to the game by students from Lehigh University during the Lebanese Civil War, when Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, was the site of much violence. Those who refer to the game as “Beirut” think beer pong is the version of the game played by hitting the ball with a paddle, not by throwing it. “I have always called it beer pong,” psychology senior Ben Foster said. “I’ve heard other people refer to it as ‘Beirut’, but that’s only when I’ve been in Ann Arbor or other places on the east side of the state.”
Whatever you call it, the game isn’t just for college parties anymore. It has expanded to statewide and national tours, with the sport’s pinnacle at the 2008 World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas (WSOBP). Teams from across the country play in their state’s respective satellite tournaments for the chance to compete in the big leagues for the $50,000 grand prize. One rule outlined by the WSOBP that many teams are not used to following is that each person is allowed to consume only one beer per hour for health and safety purposes. With many of the teams used to having a bit more of a buzz while competing, purchasing additional drinks from the event site is not against the rules. [beer11]
In the series’ inaugural tournament in 2006, two then-recent alums from the University of Michigan were crowned kings of the cups in Mesquite, Nev. (the location of the first and second year WSOBP). Jason Coben and Nicholas Velissaris were one of 84 teams vying for the world championship that year. Their name, “Team France,” was supposedly given to them by competitors for their less than average height but domineering attitude. In the World Series, they managed to overcome the odds and won their last seven games for an overall series best 15-3 record and brought the gratifying $10,000 check back to Ann Arbor. They were also granted free admission into the 2007 series, but were unable to defend their title, according to the WSOBP.
In 2007, 246 teams faced off in three days of competition after being randomly seeded into 12 different divisions. Hundreds of games and thousands of beers later, 2007’s $20,000 grand prize was awarded to “We Own Your Face,” made up of Aniello Guerriero and Antonio Vassilatos from Clifton, N.J. with an impressive 17-1 record throughout the tournament, according to the WSOBP Web site.
The series continued to grow in popularity for the 2008 WSOBP, drawing in 296 teams – 600 players from 38 different states – making it the largest organized beer pong tournament in the world. Jeremy Hughes and Mike Orr, team “Chauffeuring the Fat Kid” from San Diego, won the World Series’ largest prize yet of $50,000 on a one-cup victory against “Iron Wizard Coalition” in the finals.
One way of making it to the WSOBP is to compete in statewide satellite tournaments. These tournaments generally take place at local city bars, drawing in a smaller crowd and a more laid-back atmosphere. However, these tournaments can have significant prizes other than a free trip to Las Vegas.
The Michigan beer pong tour, started in 2007 by Drew Harrison, Tim Mentink and Josh Miller, is trying to keep the popularity of the game rising, while providing big prizes for the tournament winners. “The primary reason we decided to have a Michigan beer pong tour, as well as start Clutch Pong, was to organize the Michigan beer pong community and give everyone a chance to play this most excellent of games,” Harrison said.
And as the intrastate promotion group for beer pong, Clutch Pong aims to do just that. The three men recently began an eight-week, eight-city tour, traveling across the state to Jackson, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint, Mt. Pleasant, Kalamazoo, Auburn Hills and East Lansing. At each venue, teams will compete for a first prize of $200 and a ticket to the finals, all the way to fourth place, which will also receive a ticket to the finals.
“Our primary goal for this tour is to get our name out as well as get people talking about beer pong as something other than the stereotypical fraternity house basement, drink until you’re retarded, party game,” Harrison said. “We know there is a large beer pong following in Michigan and hopefully this tour will bring them together.” [david]
The two month tour will culminate in East Lansing at Reno’s East Bar and Grill on May 10, beginning at 6 p.m. The eight top-four teams who receive tickets to the state finals will use all their offensive and defensive tactics in hopes of winning the grand prize of $3,000 – while second-, third- and fourth-place teams will receive $600, $300 and $100, respectively. With the chance to win big money playing the game, some are taking beer pong more seriously. “I’m excited about the tournament,” said Jeff Vander Boon, an accounting senior who plans to compete in the April 12 tournament at Reno’s East Bar and Grill. “With a chance to win $3,000, I’m going to be practicing and trying new strategies to give my team the best chance at winning.”
As for how far the tour and beer pong itself could go, Harrison sees no end in sight. “I feel that beer pong has real potential to become a nationally recognized sport,” he said. “The popularity is growing at an alarming rate and the game itself is becoming more socially acceptable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see professional beer pong players and ESPN coverage of large beer pong events.”
[beer12]So all those weekends – or weeknights/days – of perfecting your beer pong form could finally pay off with something more than a horrible hangover the next day. Strategy, finesse and skill could mean the difference between runners-up status or a trip to Sin City. With popularity cross-country, and big prizes and pride on the line, beer pong is becoming more than just a drinking game.
For more information on the World Series of Beer Pong, visit bpong.com, and for more information on the Michigan beer pong tour, visit clutchpong.com.

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Passing by the Polls: Mitt Romney

Editors’ Note: Come next January, we will be seeing a new face in the White House. This political shift is one of the most anticipated in recent years and carries with it the future of our troubled nation. For the past several months, the political fervor has been high: candidate signs are stuck firmly in lawns, people are glued to CNN/YouTube debates and Bush countdown clocks adorn key chains and office desks.
To say the least, this election year is an important one, and TBG will be taking an in-depth look at one hopeful each month in an effort to get a conversation started on campus about who we want to run our country. Although Mitt Romney is no longer in the running, his campaign journey was an important one, especially in terms of his success in this state. By November, you should be well prepared to cast your ballot.

[romneypic]The presidential campaign trail is a long and difficult road that only a select few prominent political figures enter into. Even fewer actually make to the end.
Willard Mitt Romney’s campaign trail began shortly after his announcement to vie for a Republican presidential nomination on Feb. 13, 2007. Throughout his campaign, Romney focused his crusade on ways of improving the nation’s economy, strengthening borders against illegal immigrants and opposing troop withdrawal from Iraq. His personal goal came to an end nearly one year later, on Feb. 7, when Romney “suspended” his run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney swore, just days before he announced his removal, he would stick with the campaign regardless of the outcome of “Super Tuesday,”, the day when the largest number of states hold their presidential primaries. He found himself quickly losing ground to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the polls, but was optimistic that the Super Tuesday primaries would swing the votes back in his direction.
The results were less than favorable, as it was a Republican Party landslide victory for McCain, who won 602 delegates to Romney’s 201. This was likely the breaking point for Romney, but earlier mishaps and miscalculations are what plagued his campaign, ultimately resulting in his withdrawal.
In many ways, Romney’s life has mirrored that of his father, George Romney. Each of the two men has served as a Republican governor, an influential businessman, a strong follower of the Mormon faith and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.[ballot]
While growing up, Romney was able to learn from his business-savvy father, who reinvented the American Motor Corporation (AMC). He was able to turn a once-struggling automobile business, earning $7 per share, into a powerful production company, earning more than $90 per share. George Romney also was honored on the cover of Time magazine. Romney could see the role politics played in the life of his family. His idolization and fondness of his father was able to prepare Romney for his future endeavors leading up to the time of his campaign withdrawal. Romney stated the experience he received growing up helped him through difficult times during his own campaign, while also implementing strategies his father used along the campaign trail. “Not only did I watch it, he taught me how to do it,” said Romney during a campaign speech, speaking on his father’s campaign efforts.
Romney’s strong ties to Michigan, thanks to his father’s roles as governor and CEO of AMC, helped to give him extra support and an important win in the Michigan primary. Mitt especially valued the votes of those within Michigan and made it a goal of his campaign to repair the state’s broken economy.
However, the support he received from Michigan and other states was not enough to keep the campaign going. Romney further followed in his father’s footsteps with his withdrawal from the presidential campaign, echoing the same action George Romney took 40 years ago in the 1968 presidential election. Both men were simply outdone by their party rivals and felt it was best to cut their losses and focus on improving the chances for their party’s front-runner to become the next president of the United States.
[mitt]The first obstacle Romney had to overcome in his quest for presidency was that of his faith: Romney has long been a Mormon and deeply values its religious beliefs. Romney and his advisers were aware his religious views would not be well accepted by large voting demographics within the Republican Party, but tried to sway opposing voters with messages that the tenets of Mormonism really were not all that novel. In a Dec. 6 speech in College Station, Texas, Romney made it clear he was not going to lose sight of his religion throughout this process, even if it cost him a nomination.
“I believe in my Mormon faith and endeavor to live by it,” he said. Later, Romney affirmed, “Some believe such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.”
Bruce Dale, local mission leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, does not believe voters should base their vote on a candidate’s religion, stating that “a vote based solely on religion is bigotry.” However, Dale feels religion is an important aspect of a president’s candidacy. “I hope that a person’s faith is an integral part of their presidency,” Dale said. “I thought Romney was a strong candidate and I appreciate his efforts.”
Romney and his advisers believed such a strong stance on religion would make Romney appear stable and firm in his convictions on other issues. Through having a strong religious outlook, Romney said all faiths across the country were important and deserved their own recognition. “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith,” Romney said during his Dec. 6 speech. “For, if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Ben Morlock, chair of the MSU College Republicans, has a similar outlook to Romney’s. “I would like to think that people in our society have reached a point that a person’s personal beliefs wouldn’t affect their vote,” Morlock said. “Not many people have a full understanding of Mormonism. Had he received the nomination, we may have a better understanding of it.”
While Romney stood firm on spiritual aspects, contradictions to his stance on important subjects during his campaign for president were not easily forgotten by voters. With regard to gay rights and same-sex marriage, Romney has been accused of flip-flopping since 1994. At that time, Romney had been challenging Edward Kennedy for a Senate seat when an article published in the The Boston Globe quoted Romney as saying homosexuality was “perverse.” Eight years following that article’s release, Romney met with members of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization. At this time, Romney was campaigning for governor of Massachusetts and seemed to have a new outlook toward the gay community. He worked with leaders of the Log Cabin group and drafted a letter that expressed his commitment for gay rights. Romney pledged his support for federal legislation that barred discrimination against gays and lesbians in the work force, while also standing behind President Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
After being elected governor of Massachusetts, Romney fulfilled his promise to the Log Cabin members and other gay rights groups and began ordering clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. During his presidential campaign, however, Romney reverted back to opposing same-sex marriages and civil unions. He has called for the Constitution to be amended, while also condemning court rulings in some states, including Iowa, that overturned bans on gay marriages.
Romney says he has always personally opposed same-sex marriages, but evidence shows his ideals have indeed flip-flopped, and not only with regard to the issue of civil unions. Abortion is another subject where Romney’s beliefs have not always been clear-cut. While seeking a seat in the Senate in 1994 and during his campaign for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney stood in favor of putting the decision of life or death in the mother’s hands. As he did with civil unions, Romney switched his position on abortion during his presidential run and opposed abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
Romney stated he has matured over the years and with that, his viewpoint on important issues have shifted along with that maturity. He points to a specific meeting in 2004 that changed his outlook, during which Romney met with a stem-cell researcher who made him feel as though the value of human life had been diminished. Today, Romney’s stance is that each state should make laws concerning abortion rather than have a national “one size fits all” model from the Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in 1973.
“I felt that his changing stance on issues made him unreliable and was unsure about what may happen if he were elected as our president,” said Dan Ulman, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior. “Had he been more firm on certain issues, I believe his campaign would not have ended as early as it did.” [romney]
Mitt Romney not only lost the chance to be our nation’s next president, but a portion of his personal savings as well. It is estimated Romney spent more than $35 million of his own fortune on his campaign efforts, while raising another $55 million along the way, totaling more than $90 million on the failed drive. Romney spent $7 million in Iowa on television and radio advertisements alone, only to finish second in the polls. With his personal wealth estimated at $350 million, thanks in large part to wise investments as CEO of Bain Capital, one of the nation’s top five largest private equity firms, $35 million only depletes one-tenth of his total worth.
“For me, the first sign that things weren’t going well in his campaign is when you consider how much Romney spent on advertising and other resources in Iowa,” Morlock said. “All that, only to have [fellow Republican contender Mike] Huckabee, who spent a miniscule amount, defeat him in the caucus.”
Now that his campaign has seen its end, Romney recently made the decision to support John McCain’s presidential push. Romney asked the delegates he received along the way to instead vote for McCain to help him reach the 1,191 delegates needed for nomination. “As all of you saw over the past year, things can get pretty rough in a political campaign,” Romney said. “And in the thick of the fight, it is easy to lose sight of your opponent’s finer qualities. But the truth of the matter is that in the case of Senator McCain, I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close, and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent.”
For now, Romney has returned to his home in Massachusetts to rest, spend time with his family and consider his future options in politics and business. He may never be in charge of a country, but there is always another company to run.

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