The History of Beirut

Am I the only idiot who didn’t know that ‘Beirut’ is another name for ‘Beer Pong’.. We all know what Beer Pong is right?  That idiotic college drinking game involving beer and balls (wait..that didn’t sound right).

Beer Pong

Beirut/Beer Pong Illustration

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For those of you who don’t know, according to the semi-official Wikipedia Definition:

“Beer pong, also known as Beirut, is a drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer/water on the other end.  The game typically consists of two two-to-four-player teams and multiple cups set up, in triangle formation, on each side.[1] There are no official rules, so rules may vary widely, though usually there are six or ten plastic cups arranged in a triangle on each side.  Each side then takes turns attempting to shoot ping pong balls into the opponent’s cups.  If a ball lands in a cup, then the contents of that cup are consumed, and the cup is either placed aside or reinserted into the triangle.  If the cup is reinserted and the other team knocks the cup over, it is removed.  If the opposing team throws the ball into an empty cup, they must consume the contents of one of their cups. The first side to eliminate all of the opponent’s cups is the winner.[2]

The order of play varies—both players on one team shoot followed by both players on the other team, or players on opposite teams can alternate back and forth.[3]

Beirut Beer Pong

Beirut set up

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Anyway, I was doing some research on this, and came across an article tilted The History of Beirut (beer pong) by Chase Kinser of Boston College.  In it he explains the origin of the game and the name ‘Beirut’,

“Everything has a history: this country, the person you hooked-up with last weekend, even your credit.  Histories like these are easily accessible, all you have to do ask your professor, or your roommate, or those singing free credit report guys, and you will have an entire past laid out before you.  Naturally, as college students and academics, we relish these opportunities to learn about the past.  Of course, we love them even more when we can learn about the history of things we do quite frequently, like play Beirut.

Beer Pong Beirut Shirt

I'm big in Beirut

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Just because the point of playing Beirut is to get swaysted and free the brain from contemplating academic material, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still explore its history.  As people who spend all their time drinking or thinking, it would appear to be our social responsibility. Ironically, though, there isn’t much scholarly material on the predominantly college game, probably because people were too busy drinking to think of it.  Even so, there is some history, and it begins with Beirut’s alternative and controversial name, Beer Pong.

Beer Pong is first thought to have started somewhere in the fraternities of Dartmouth College in the 1950’s and 1960’s as a drinking game version of ping pong.  There were only 1-3 cups on a side and it was played with paddles.  Even still, the game had some popularity as it slowly spread around the east coast until the game we all adore originated in the 1980s.

Standford Beirut

Image taken from the INTRAMURAL Beirut League at Stanford University!

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One legend states that in 1986 at a Lehigh Fraternity, Sigma Nu, the game evolved from its primitive form with whacking devices.  The story claims that during a rowdy game, the frat brothers broke all the paddles, and in their persistence to keep drinking like good students, they decided to use their hands and arms.  They also added more cups on each side, but basic logic says they’re probably not the first group of college guys to think more beer was a good idea.

Thankfully, not all of them blacked-out, so they were able to play the game again, and from then on, it started to grow even more popular as people realized there wasn’t a point to playing with paddles. Since this was the 1980s and college students were aware of world events, they dubbed the new game “Beirut” after a recent story about a Hezbollah suicide bomber that killed 241 U.S. Marines in an American camp in Beirut.  The vengeful founders of the game wanted the U.S. to retaliate by bombing that city, so they named the game based on its visual image of dropping bombs.

Beer Pong

Heroes are made one cup at a time

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My Note: The origin of the name Beirut is disputed.  According to wikipedia, “A 2004 op-ed article in the Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper at Princeton University, suggested that the name was possibly coined at Bucknell University or Lehigh University around the time of the Lebanese Civil WarBeirut being the capital of Lebanon and scene of much fighting.[15]

Other sources say that a different fraternity in Lehigh created the pastime based on observing a similar game at Bucknell University in 1983.  Although not all sources agree on the specifics, the main idea is that the final concept originated at Lehigh somewhere in the 1980s.  This would also explain why most New Englanders call today’s game Beirut rather than Beer Pong, having picked it up from their Pennsylvanian compatriots.

Ultimately, this history of Beirut tells us that once upon a time, a few students got drunk, rough, and clever enough to invent a game.  Today, because of their genius, ping pong balls and customized tables are necessities that every party must have.  See, history is great, isn’t it?”

Beirut beer pong shirt

Beirut Legend

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How do you feel about the fact that a drinking game was named after Beirut because it reminded people of Israeli bombs being dropped on the city?


Filed under life in Lebanon

10 responses to “The History of Beirut

  1. Roy

    “they dubbed the new game “Beirut” after a recent story about a Hezbollah suicide bomber that killed 241 U.S. Marines in an American camp in Beirut.”
    This is whacked ! !

    • Yeah, I’m not sure if that definition is accurate. I think they named it Beirut because the act of throwing balls on the cups mimics bombs being dropped on the city.

  2. Youssef Chaker

    is it weird that i had a dream last night that involved mentions of Lebanon or Beirut in media, and you were in it?

    “In these drastic surroundings, it be sounding like
    Lebanon, makin fools “RETREAT!” like Megatron and Starscream” Dr DRE, Light Speed (2001 album, but released in 1999)

    “Tom tom like in Lebanon
    Hotter than in Pakistan
    Click click click Young Nick the atomic bomb” Nicky Minaj, Massive Attack (2010)

    are just a 2 of many examples where the country is mentioned in relation to bombing and the civil war. I won’t list all the movies that do so too.

    The Dr DRE song is old enough you can say I grew up with it. So throughout the years I got used to that kind of association, and I grew a thick skin (somewhat) towards that kind of stuff.

    The ironic thing is that I knew it was called Beirut (but not why, and didn’t care to look it up), and in college I did help my housemates create a custom table for the parties (even though I don’t drink, I still played the game and made my partners drink the cup). Most of the people I know, didn’t even know that Beirut is a city, so they had no idea what the name was about or what it related to. And although the reasons for the name are whack, it’s not going to bother me that some ignorant college kids used current events for their pleasure!

    The real question is what are the Lebanese doing to change their image in the world? You can see that from 1999 to 2010, the image is still pretty much the same (i don’t think anyone is going to rap about the biggest plate of hummus)…

    • Well, I for one am sending out “Looks Like Beirut” Certificates to anyone who compares death, destruction and despair to Beirut. You can help out by sending me links or articles with such mentions (jad at jadaoun dot com).

    • unfortunately, this makes perfect sense to me and I do agree the biggest plate of hummus is just meaningless in that case, add to that the 30 mins from the ski slopes to the beach sh*t…You’ll usually be stuck in an endless traffic jam that spreads through the day (night and of course the afternoon).

      I see nobody of the major “mainstream” influences out there doing anything to rebrand the country and create the beautiful image it deserves.
      Take for example this Ferry Corsten Backstage video. It features his Beirut gig, just notice how they sadly portray the country and what Ferry actually says about the people (notice his tone as well!!!!!) This made me so sad, look at the contrast with the Holland footage that follows.
      Just have a look at this:
      Party capital? Well, we need to work on that too.

      • Youssef Chaker

        Lebanon leaves a mark, whichever mark it may be, it’s still a mark. Ferry Corsten mention his visit there on the phone when he went back to Holland. Unfortunately it’s the kind of feeling you get when you visit a poor african country and then all of the sudden you’re grateful for what you have. when are the lebanese going to be grateful for what THEY have?

  3. Alex

    From my understanding and experience with the game in various collegiate environments (and beyond) the use of ‘Beirut’ is now almost solely an East Coast moniker for the game. In the Midwest it is simply known as ‘beer pong’ or ‘pong’ (i.e. “want to throw some pong?”) and people are confused when told that it’s called ‘Beirut’ elsewhere. I’ve never seen anybody make the connection between ‘Beirut’ the name and the city of Beirut and it’s history, but then again this is the Midwest. I’ve also been told that ‘Beirut’ is a wholly different style of play or even a completely different game (paddle usage, cup count, throwing/drinking rules) than ‘beer pong’.

    As it is I have corrected people when they use ‘Beirut’ (it’s quite offensive isn’t it), but this has just lead to me explaining why the title shouldn’t be used, the offensive nature of the term not being known before. So does using it in ignorance make it better? Let’s be realistic: most people can’t find Lebanon on a map, much less Beirut, so let the term evolve into it’s own thing I would guess, much the same as ‘Ring Around the Rosy’ has…except with alcohol.

    At any rate, despite what you seem to (overtly) hint at, ‘beer pong’ can still be a classy and elegant experience.

  4. Geminigirl

    It’s akin to someone going into a bar to request an Irish car bomb (a shot of Baileys dropped in a pint of Guinness) – few possibly realise how horrible it sounds until they live in the UK or Ireland…

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