Thursday, January 13, 2011

World Series of Beer Pong crowns 2011 champs

Dan Range of Columbia, Ill., and Nick Syrigos, of St. Charles, Mo., reached the pinnacle of their sport last week, winning the World Series of Beer Pong VI in Las Vegas.
Playing under team name “Standing Ovation,” the two men shared the $50,000 grand prize.
Given my interest in fringe sports, I attended the finale held Jan. 4 at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The tournament started with 507 two-player teams (up from 500 last year) from nine countries playing the college drinking game beer pong.
Players toss ping pong balls into plastic cups partially filled with beer from one end of an 8-foot-long table to the other. If you get a ball in a cup, that cup is removed from play. The object is to be the first team to clear all of your cups.
In the college version of the game, whenever a team successfully dunks a ping pong ball, the other team has to drink the beer in that cup. In the pro version of the game played at the World Series of Beer Pong, players don’t have to drink the alcohol.
The boisterous crowd made for a fun atmosphere as the final teams faced off for the big money. There was lots of trash talking between the contestants. But it was all in fun, as players embraced once their matches were over.
The World Series of Beer Pong is the largest, longest-running beer pong tournament in the world. It’s sponsored by BPONG.com, which sells beer pong gear and apparel.
Organizers now are trying to decide the next step for the tournament.
BPONG.com and the World Series of Beer Pong were founded by three friends from Carnegie Mellon University. Now they must decide whether to go big or cash out.
Billy Gaines, co-founder of BPONG.com and the World Series of Beer Pong, said the group recently hired a sponsorship consultant to look for opportunities for the event.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is the fact that it does involve alcohol,” Gaines said.
Exposure to the sport is growing because it’s been featured in movies, TV sitcoms, reality shows and on late-night talk shows.
“It’s becoming more visible in American culture,” Gaines said.
Gaines plans to turn BPONG.com into a platform to unite beer pong players and grow the sport. He wants to create a community where beer pong enthusiasts can track team statistics and find local events.
Like other fringe sports looking to break through to the mainstream, the World Series of Beer Pong needs a cable TV contract. That’s quite possible, given that such fringe sports as the Lingerie Football League and the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest are on TV.

Photos by Patrick Seitz:
Dan Range of team Standing Ovation prepares to take a shot Jan. 4, 2011, in the championship round of the World Series of Beer Pong VI (top)
Garbage can filled with empty cups and beer bottles at the World Series of Beer Pong VI.

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