The ping-pong ball sails a good 6 inches beyond the edge of the 8-foot-long table. It misses the cups, partially filled with Miller Lite, completely. Doesn't even come close.
Jon "Canada" Slack throws up his hands. He can't believe his inaccuracy.
No, actually, he can.
"I legitimately don't have any depth perception," he says.
A handful of the Iron Horse Cantina's onlookers and patrons chuckle.
"No, seriously. It's like a medical condition. My dad has it, too."
So maybe beer pong just isn't Slack's sport if you can even call a glorified drinking game a sport in the first place.
The origins of beer pong are fuzzy, at best. Hell, so are the rules, which vary from place to place. A Web site for the National Beer Pong League (nbpl.net), one of many "official" leagues and associations dedicated to the sport, lists 71 variations of the game. The basics, though, are simple: Teams of two, at one end of the table, try to throw Ping-Pong balls into cups of beer at the other end. When a shot gets sunk, beer gets drunk.
A few years back, bars around the country began beer pong leagues and tournaments, taking a cue from the popular college pastime. The game seems inherently understood by most Americans under the age of 30, and foreign to others. But those who do play can't get enough.
"We have a core of 30 to 40 regular players," says Iron Horse Cantina general manager Aric "Red" Stahly. Pause. "That are good."
In November, the Iron Horse hosted a satellite tournament that sent the local champion, all expenses paid, to Las Vegas for the World Series of Beer Pong and a shot at a $20,000 cash prize. According to Stahly, his was the only establishment in the state offering a World Series bid, and it attracted entrants from Boulder to Pueblo. To participate in a drinking game.
As it turns out, the "local" winners weren't local. Instead, they hailed from Denver. Not that it mattered. At the World Series in January, that team finished 195th out of 246.
Tonight's participants aren't looking much better. As Slack struggles, efforts in the simultaneously played games are equally lackluster. But no one seems to mind.
Slack first learned about the twice-weekly tournaments at the Iron Horse from a friend who knows one of the bar's employees. And because he and his friends "play, like, every night," he figured the Iron Horse was the perfect place to try out his skills.
But tonight, Slack and his teammate, "Big" John Bogart, are being outplayed.
"This is like every other game I've ever played of this," a frustrated-yet-amused Bogart says. His team is one shot away from elimination.
"We're about to lose," Slack admits.
And lose they do. A few more attempts, and Slack and Bogart's opponents plunk a ball in the remaining cup. They don't go on to win the tournament, though. That honor goes to Stahly, who's playing on an off-work night.
"I'll beat anybody," the GM announces. "If I could have played in our tournament, I would've gone to Vegas. And I would've done better than 195th."
Large cash prizes and trash talking? Maybe beer pong is a sport, after all.
"The Springs' Original Beer Pong Tournament"
Iron Horse Cantina
4325 N. Nevada Ave.
Thursdays and Sundays, 9 p.m.
Entrance fee: $5 on Sundays, $10 on Thursdays. Drink specials included. Call 260-9309 for more.
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