Courtesy of Citybizlist – After Austin Lanham injured his knee playing rugby at the University of Maryland in 2004, he devoted his attention to another big “sport” on college campuses.
Not football or basketball, but beer pong.
What started as a simple drinking game requiring players to throw ping pong balls into cups of beer has become increasingly professionalized over the last decade, with international player rankings and a World Series in Las Vegas.
Lanham is one of Maryland’s best beer pong professionals, ranked second in the state by the National Beer Pong League.
“Beer pong was the only thing I could do for a year,” said Lanham, of Baltimore. “The game that I started playing in college — that’s all I had for a year.”
Beer pong is a simple game, a critical feature since players often participate while drunk. Opposing teams of two line up across a long table, with cups of beer arranged in a pyramid pattern on the table.
The teams take alternating turns, attempting to land a ball in an opponent’s cup. If they sink one, their opponents must drink the contents of the cup. If a team loses all six cups, they lose the match and must drink the contents of their opponents’ remaining cups.
Like many professional beer pongers, Lanham now plays with water instead of beer to keep sharp during matches. Drinking alcohol during professional matches is allowed, but not required.
Lanham didn’t start out playing with water. He honed his game as an undergrad at Bucknell University, where his fraternity played a lot of beer pong.
“Beer pong was my social outlet,” Lanham said. “I lived and died with beer in my cups.”
He devoted a lot of time to the game and, when he turned 21, he started playing in tournaments at bars.
“I just found that I was never really losing,” he said. “I was beating everyone I’d play.”
After coming to the University of Maryland to obtain a graduate degree, he tore his ACL playing rugby.
With rugby out of the picture, he devoted his time to improving his beer pong skills. After graduation, he got more serious, setting up the Maryland Beer Pong league with a former roommate in 2005.