Beer-pong bacteria: You can leave the game with more than a buzz

By Jennifer Davis
March 8, 2007

Emily Buerger

Beer pong has always been about the technique, the challenge and perseverance. Personally, I think it’s about the timing.

Clay Travis of introduced me to an entirely new light of the game. Little did I know beer pong only welcomes the door to a germaphobe’s nightmare.

Whether you have played the game yourself or heard about it, beer pong is a well known attraction at a party.

Through older cousins, I was first familiarized with beer pong quite a few years ago. According to Clay Travis, “If you are in your 20s and not familiar with the game, shoot yourself.”

Originally from Connecticut, I have always referred to beer pong as “Beirut.” This slight differentiation has become a major argument from town to town. The game consists of a table in which six or 10 cups are stacked on each side, partially filled with beer. With two players per team, one or two balls are present. The object of the game is to sink as many balls in the opposing player’s cups as possible.

Of course I have questioned some of the unsanitary aspects of the game. After all, how could a stupid game be so harmful?

According to Wikepedia online encyclopedia, beer pong (also called Beirut, Lob pong or Scud) is considered an American drinking game.

It involves propelling a ping pong ball across a table with the aim of making the ball land in one of the several cups of beer. The game is typically played with six or 10 cups. However, there are always those dare devils who insist on pushing their limits.

While the concept is quite amusing, the conditions of the game are completely disgusting. Pong balls are thrown from one end of the table to the other, strategically falling into that clump of dirt in the corner.

Cups are being shared from game to game with no clue as to where or who had that cup to their lips last.

Then there is that “ball-washing cup.” You know, that cup that is initially crystal clear and then as the night continues the water fills to the rim with dirt and scum from the floor.

Beer pong is more than just a game, it is a sport. So why wouldn’t the athletes take the time to insure cleanliness?

For Travis the answer was quite simple, “I vividly remember pulling up a ping pong ball once that was covered in about 15 strands of hair. All of different length and colors. It almost made me throw up. But I survived and kept playing,” he said.

For the average college student, he speaks words of wisdom. At people can order their custom beer pong table. The idea is pathetic, funny and pretty cool all at the same time.

Pathetic because people actually take the time to create these websites; funny, because people have and will continue to order the tables; and cool because who wouldn’t want their own personalized beer pong table?

No one in the field of science has ever really examined the germs associated with beer pong. Two men from George Washington University walked away from the table with more than just a loss.

Ben Morrissey and Aaron Heffner contracted three germ viruses from one game of pong. One night of playing these guys uncovered salmonella, E. coli and pneumonia germs under a microscope.

I have never really taken the time to examine the chances of catching a germ from a very common drinking game. After participating in a fair share of games, the words of Travis were shocking. Honestly, I cannot really see myself looking at a game of pong in the same light.

There will always be that thought of germs, germs and more germs.

I hope that by reading this people realize the importance of examining the positives and negatives before engaging in an activity. While beer pong can be considered a fun game, if one is not careful, it can be disgusting and unsanitary.

Unfortunately for Morrissey and Heffner, they passed the test of poor judgment. However, this is a story that I will never forget and I hope that you won’t.

Loquitur welcomes your comments and questions on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your comments each week and make corrections if warranted.

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Jennifer Davis

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