9% ABV from a bomber
Tradition can be great if it involves eating delicious foods, getting presents for eight straight nights, or singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. Likewise, it can suck if it involves sitting at a Seder table with relatives you hate, getting your foreskin chopped off by a drunken moyel, or asking a father “permission” to marry his daughter. The most fun, though, is starting traditions of your own. Which brings us to the 2nd Annual Apartment 17C Thanksgiving Beer Pong Tournament.
Last year, I found myself alone on Thanksgiving day because I wasn’t allowed to accompany my girlfriend home for the holidays being that her parents are antisemites. No, not really. They just viscerally hated me for nebulous reasons and wouldn’t allow me in their home.* Thus, I found myself dining with my good friends from Apartment 17C, a married couple K and J, along with J’s visiting brother and his girlfriend, and two other rollin’ stones AJ and Andy.
Thanksgiving day 2007 had started off “normal” enough. In a traditional manner. Gorging on turkey, stuffing, and all sort of other tasty things sopped in gravy. Drinking fine wine in a refined manner. Watching the Detroit Lions lose. But after a few hours we were bored. In Manhattan, no one has the space for a dining room table and most people are forced to eat their meals off of coffee tables. But for this feast, J had been clever enough to rent a table which she placed in the middle of her living room. After the meal, once the plates had been cleared, and the plastic tablecloth balled and stuffed into the garbage, one of us noticed that the shape, size, and length of the Thanksgiving table sure resembled something else: a beer pong table. And, thus, an impromptu tournament was quickly put together.
As AJ and Andy rushed out of the house to find any place that was still selling macro crap on a Thanksgiving night, J and her brother went searching for ping pong balls and Solo cups, while I stuck behind to craft the double-elimination tournament bracket. Drawing up a bracket is a tougher skill than most realize, and I’m quite good at it, my masterpiece being a fifty some-odd person triple-elimination ping pong bracket I once made for a freshman year all-dorm ping pong tournament.
After the reconnoitering we all reconvened with our findings. AJ and Andy had scored a bulk of Miller Lite cans, while J and her brother had struggled in their endeavors. To get ping pong balls they had snuck into the highrise’s game room, feigned playing table tennis for a bit, and swiped the orbs, but had found less success in Solo cup scoring. Ultimately, they were forced to beg a deli guy to give them a stack of tall cardboard coffee cups. It wasn’t perfect but the tournament went off swimmingly, leaving us all shit-faced by the end of the evening, a night we would never forget. Especially me, because I was the inaugural winner.
This year we were much more prepared, acquiring the balls and cups earlier in the week. The one rub this time was that only five of us were dining, returnees J and K, AJ and I, plus a new addition in my sister. With only five we would have to make the Second Annual tournament a round robin format: everyone would play everyone else once, and the two leaders in the final standings would square off for a one-game championship.
It’s funny when the Thanksgiving meal acts as a mere prelude to the day’s real events. The meal is usually the centerpiece of Thanksgiving day, but not in our case when they are bigger fish to fry. Speaking of fried, we had a Cajun fried turkey which was scrumptious, one of the best birds I can ever remember having. Nicely spiced and incredibly succulent. Before the tournament we drank classy, the highlight being when I finally cracked a precious bottle of Theobroma which my friend Derek had generously nabbed for me.
I’d been aching to try this brew ever since I first saw the press release about its release, but I found myself somewhat disappointed. Yet another archaeological recreation beer from the good folks at Dogfish Head to sit beside their earlier Midas Touch. The company’s literature notes:
Theobroma, or “food of the gods,” is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs from Askinosie Chocolate, honey, ancho chilies, and annatto. The recipe is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras, which scientists claim is the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink.
I expected a dark, rich beer and was stunned when it poured a thin orange-yellow color. I didn’t smell or taste chocolate at all, either. In fact, the flavor I most got out of this beer was that of cheese queso from a Mexican restaurant. I just couldn’t avoid it. Every fucking sip I felt like my tongue was a nacho chip and I was dipping into some liquid queso. That isn’t quite as damning as it sounds, but I really was not floored by this beer and my drinking partner and I struggled to finish the entire bomber. Dogfish Head is always interesting and I’m glad I got to try this, but probably never would again. It’s not even as good as the likewise oddball Midas Touch. Having said that, here I sit typing this some six days later and I can still mentally taste the beer in my mouth, it has truly left its mark.
Once the meal was done, you’ve never seen a group of people, especially men, so anxious to clear a table and clean up after their feasting. Everyone had to play everyone once, so for scheduling purposes we just randomly drew names out of a hat. As mentioned countless times before, I am a classic overcompetitor in all aspects of gaming. I’m just like the father in Pat Conroy’s masterpiece “The Great Santini” who refuses to relent when playing his milquetoast teenage son in driveway basketball, browbeating him the one time he finally loses. Luckily for me and my prodigious ego, I rarely lose things.
I drew host J in the first match-up and she absolutely took me to the wood-shed. Destroying me by four cups as all her shots went down while mine harmlessly bounced off the edges of the iconic red cups. Finally, in a fit of frustration, I lashed out at the cups. I was not playing poorly, I was making fine shots, it was the fucking cups! I went so far as to claim that they were not even Solo cups. And you know what?! They weren’t! AJ, perhaps to save ten cents, perhaps to screw me over, had purchased America’s Choice knock-off Solos! Call me a bad sport, but I knew we were playing with inferior equipment, it was surely the only reason I had been upset in the first game.
Refocused, and now forced to adopt a new throwing method to deal with the cheap cups, I dug myself out of a massive 0-1 hole to make it to the top of the round robin standings and eventually cruise to my second straight title. How ’bout them apples?
*Because I’m Jewish.