What to Expect When You're Expecting ... to Play Pong

By Annika Kouhia | 1/27/17 10:00am

There you are. After nine (maybe?) months of apprehension, excitement and nerves, you are finally about to play your first game of pong. You feel adrenaline pumping through your veins with all the strength of watered-down Keystone, which you also happen to be standing in puddles of — gotta break in those frat shoes, am I right? As the moment finally arrives and the final cup in the game before yours is sunk, you’re suddenly nervous. What do you do? What should you expect? Luckily for you, we’ve compiled advice from some of the greatest pong champions this side of the Mississippi (and some from the other side too).

Via giphy.com

“May the serve be with you” – Darth V. c/o 1977

The key to success inevitably lies with the serve. Hit the ball on your side of the table so it gracefully bounces across the table diagonally, landing the ball on the table (NOT HITTING A CUP). The wrist motion is what will bring you from “terrified newbie” to “damn, did you play in masters??” It’s kind of like Wii tennis, or swatting a low-flying mosquito or for some of our more ~athletic~ readers, like actually hitting a tennis ball or playing ping pong.

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“To the cup to the cup, everything you hit in the center of the cup” – Queen Bey c/o 2006

Little known Dartmouth folklore right here: Beyoncé’s smash hit “Irreplaceable” originally centered around her love and devotion to Dartmouth pong, before producers decided it wasn’t relatable enough and rewrote it to center around a boy (boring and not relatable, IMO). But as this 2006 ballad explains so well, you must strive for the center of the cup (a sink) and occasionally settle for hitting the side of the cup instead. A sink ensures the entire cup is removed from the table, whereas hitting the side merely forces the other team to get rid of half of the cup’s contents if it can’t save it. And as the title of this song strongly implies, once gone, that cup is never coming back — until you win the entire game and take on your next pair of unworthy competitors, but whatever.

Via giphy.com

“A half cup for a half cup leaves the whole world shirtless” – Gandhi c/o 1882

Ah yes, Gandhi, a true lover of peace, freedom, independence and pong. A Dartmouth student through and through. Gandhi must have been pretty in the loop too if he knew this slightly less advertised and significantly less enforced rule. A technicality of pong, this rule states that if each team is down to only one half cup left, all players remove their shirts. Is this amusing when people do it? Yes. Do you have to do it? Hellllllll no. Up to you. Had four scoops of Collis pasta for dinner? Feeling decently cold already? For some reason not into stripping in front of strangers? Tryna preserve your modesty and dignity? Just not feelin’ it? All good reasons to stay clothed. It’s up to you. Either embrace the tradition and the spirit of the night and never look back, or embrace the fun saying “modest is hottest.”


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“One small sip for man, one giant splash for the basement floor” – Neil A. c/o 1969

So the tragic moment is upon you. You’ve been scored upon for the first time, and you and your partner exchange a glance, silently communicating as to who should drink the cup of murky Keystone Light in front of you. BUT WAIT! Is there another option??? Does someone actually have to consume weird-smelling, slightly clear/mostly brown liquid in front of you? ANSWER: No. If going to strangers’ basements late at night and drinking their gross drinks just isn’t your thing, feel free to pour that into the trash or beneath the table. (Note: it is most courteous to pour the liquid down the floor drain, then toss the empty cup in the trash so the bags don’t become obnoxiously heavy.) Pong is a game of precision and accuracy so if you would like to avoid feeling physically tipsy, skrrt skrrt away from that beer and continue playing the game. That’s what Neil Armstrong would do. Because one thing’s for sure: no one gets to the moon with a hangover.

Via giphy.com

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” – Dr. Seuss c/o 1925 (but actually)

And then it’s over. Before it had even begun. You were just hitting your stride! Your last few hits were so good! The other team somehow cheated (personal conspiracy theory: frat brothers control basement air currents to win games???)! It’s time to leave. Yes, saying good-bye is difficult, but remember it isn’t forever. Get in line at another table, hop on over to another frat if this one’s too full, come back tomorrow, drop out of school or actually LIVE in a frat basement so you have access to pong at all times. All are valid options. Your first game is over. Maybe it was awesome, maybe it was horrible. Maybe you were awesome, maybe you were horrible. No matter what, I’m sure you did fine, kid. Go start preparing for your SECOND game of pong ever.

Courtesy of photobucket.com via giphy.com


Annika Kouhia