For years, poor and stressed out college kids, looking to unwind on the cheap, have been playing homegrown variations of beer pong, a popular drinking game that combines beer drinking with aspects of ping pong.
The basic set-up requires players to throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer on the other end. Typically, there are two two-to-four player teams on either side of a long table, who are aiming towards cups of beer set up, often in triangle formation on each side. Each team then takes turns trying to ring the opponent's cups.
Drinking beer gets involved at this point and the rules start to bend themselves to past legends and current trends.
However, in the last decade, the game has been trying to grow up. Beer is no longer a requirement. There's even a world series in Vegas that hosts hundreds of teams from the United States and Canada.
And, while the general public may not be familiar with the strides the sport is making, more and more people in Sussex County are familiar and a lot of those people are playing week in and week out at Station 7, a bar in Laurel.
For the last year and a half, professional deejay Vance Owens has been organizing "B Pong" tournaments, using water instead of beer. Leary of suggesting that binge drinking should be revered and in accordance with local alcohol and tobacco agencies, Owens subscribes to the national B Pong guidelines that utilize water.
"Without the use of alcohol, this also grants patrons who do not drink the ability to compete in our weekly tournaments," Owens said.
Perhaps because the pressure to drink is off the table, people have been flocking the weekly matches.
Owens said that every week in 2012, upwards of 80 people gathered for a double elimination tournament. Using the bar's tables and professional bracket-building software, each tournament is structured and regulated from start to finish. Weekly winners earned Station 7 gift cards and a mug shot on the bar's Facebook page.
"Our record setting tournament included 55 teams of two," Owens said. "The amount of energy sparked during the competitions is phenomenal. Plus, this type of interaction challenges the stereotypical bar scene as dark and promiscuous."
So, on Thursday nights, you won't see questionable characters huddled up in shadowy corners. The whole place is illuminated, tables are organized and the music is upbeat and almost motivational.
"We have every type of player. Our youngest is 21 years old, of course, but our oldest players are in their sixties," Owens said. "A lot of these people are also professionals who have to go to work the next day."
Page 2 of 2 - It's not all men, either. Women play, too. Owens said that about 30 percent of his weekly crowd is female.
By December of last year, it was time to start calculating points to organize a championship match. The big game took place on Thursday, Dec. 6 and included standings for more than 500 players but it was finally narrowed down to one person: 23 year-old Georgetown resident Justin Collins.
Collins was allowed to pick a partner and thanks to Station 7, he and his choice, W.R. Ketterman of Salisbury, MD, were awarded free airfare, hotel accommodations and entry into the World Series of Beer Pong held in Las Vegas, NV at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino at the beginning of January. Owens and his friend, Anthony Denham of Middletown also attended to support Collins and Ketterman.
The World Series consisted of more than 370 teams. Game 12 even pitched the team against another local team out of Seaford.
"It's funny how we all traveled across the country to compete in a world-wide competition and our guys had to face off with the competitors that play in the same weekly tournaments back in Delaware," Owens said.
Team Station 7 didn't win the grand prize ($50,000) but they did pull out a decent ranking of 145 out of 372.
"Station 7 fell to a higher ranked team during the first round of eliminations in a very stressful overtime game," Owens said.
Post series, Owens is anxious to grow the league and is already geared up for the 2014 World Series. But, he also said that he wants to put Delmarva on the map and change everyone's perception, too.
"Delaware doesn't get recognized enough nationally for anything. I'd love to show people what competitors from this area can do," Owens said. "But, most importantly, I want people to recognize that B Pong is something that's fun, organized and competitive. It's not just a vehicle for obnoxious drinking like it was in college."
WHAT B Pong
WHERE Station 7, 10912 County Seat Highway, Laurel
WHEN Thursday nights, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
COST Free entry
INFO station7live.com; (302) 875-0777