By Mitch: I'm sure that everyone remembers their first time, whether it happened at some hotel in Vegas or at a Ramada in East Hanover, New Jersey. Well here's the story of my first time...
As many of you already know for all intents and purposes I've long since retired from competitive beer pong, aka anyone that seriously wants to win a beer pong tourney shouldn't be contacting me anytime soon. So it was a pleasant surprise when one day I logged into my e-mail and saw a message from none other than the Barn Animal himself inviting me to join the Maryland Old Guys squad for this year's Beast of East.
Jeff admitted that he was a bit surprised when I immediately answered that I was willing to join the team, he thought that it would at least take some convincing on his end. The truth is that I miss the Maryland Beer Pong community (minus some of the drama that goes on which I managed to stay out of until I had a public conversation with Danielle on Facebook and now everything somehow thinks that we had sex) but I don't miss the actual beer pong itself. To me this seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend the weekend catching up with some people who I hadn't seen in a long time while also teaming up with a bunch of guys who were there back in the era when beer pong was just about having fun.
I was also looking forward to the ride up to New Jersey. Now I'm not a huge road trip guy but who wouldn't want to ride up to New Jersey with the beautiful Shannon Toomey and the charismatic Barn Animal (well maybe not Garrett who is apparently not fond of the Barn Animal). The Barn Animal and I showed up at Shannon's place right on time and we were on our way to Jersey (after a brief stop at Chipotle where let's just say I didn't break any speed eating records and the Barn Animal was quick to remind me of that fact throughout the ride). Carty came through in the clutch recommending a route that sent us through the pleasant countryside of PA rather than the eye sore known as the New Jersey Turnpike, thank you Carty.
We arrived at the hotel in about 4 hours or so and I went for a run shortly afterwards. The excitement around the upcoming weekend got to me a bit unfortunately and I ended up running way too fast which I physically paid the price for all weekend. By the time I returned from my run, my roommate for the weekend Bryan Dalzell was there and it was all ready to begin. I headed down to the bar to meet Shannon and arrived to the sight of a 50 something year old guy hitting pretty hard on her, it was quite amusing to say the least.
I looked down and saw a wallet just lying there on the floor of the bar with no one around it and picked it up and began asking everyone whose it was. Some guy sitting by me said it was his buddies who had gone to the bathroom. When he returned they asked him where his wallet was and when he realized he had no clue he started panicking. At that point they actually joked that I had taken it from him and luckily he didn't overreact to their joke or the weekend might have been over for me before it started.
Once he learned that I found his wallet on the floor and saw that all $300 was still in there he offered to buy me a drink and in typical Mitch fashion I said "can I have a Diet Coke." So after everyone at the bar was finished laughing at me I politely requested that he just buy Shannon a drink instead. But he wasn't done, he then bought Shannon a shot and at this point I said what the hell I'll take a beer also. Free drinks are always a great way to start the weekend.
Since I had only signed up for the main event I pretty much had free time on Friday night to do as I pleased. I cheered on as many Maryland teams as I could and ended up playing some random guy from Virginia in some one-on-one pong for Maryland pride. We ended up splitting the two games before we were bumped off the table for some tourney games.
At that point in the night one girl in particular caught my eye. Now Maryland has the best looking girls hands down and it's not even close from my perspective but this one girl from a Jersey team was pretty damn cute so I started talking to her for a bit. Surprisingly enough, it turned out that she had a boyfriend (just like almost every girl in attendance) so I got her name and we agreed to add each other on Facebook (which we did) and I ended it at that since I am a no drama type of guy.
As the evening went on I suddenly became quite the popular guy, and for the rare instance it wasn't due to my charming outgoing personality. People knew that I was a prime candidate to be their designated driver for their late night food runs. At first I agreed to drive the Barn Animal and company to White Castle until they sadly discovered that I couldn't drive stick shift (and thank God I couldn't, since I later found out that it was 20 minutes away).
Later, none other than Foster and Ron Hamilton approached me for a Taco Bell run. The irony is that it actually would take you less time to walk there than drive due to New Jersey's we don't trust our residents to make a left rule. Two jughandle turns later and we were at the Bell. Sadly, they don't work until closing time at the Bell and after a brief argument with the manager about how 1:50 is actually before 2:00 we decided that even if we got food at that point it wasn't going to end well for us. So we went to plan B, a diner up the road that I had run by earlier in the day.
The diner was actually one of my favorite times during the entire weekend, the food was actually really good, Ron Hamilton ordered 4 meals (one of them was to go to be fair) and there was some good conversation about how Kessler and Pop had lost some cash games and were actually funding our meals (I'm not sure if Ron ever did post that photo of his food and tag Kessler and Pop). Ron Hamilton is a nice guy, a bit crazy but certainly entertaining. Foster and Ron insisted that they cover my meal since I drove them which was a very classy move on their part. After this it was time to call it a night, tomorrow was going to be a long day
The moment had finally arrived, my first time playing beer pong on a big stage. I had no idea what to expect since I had only played beer pong three times in the past year and that's including practice. Bryan and I headed over to Dean and the Barn Animal's room and it was time for team warm ups. This was the first time we were all together as a team and I was very inspired to have a good time to the point where I went toe-for-toe with the Barn Animal in trash talking, so much so that he declared that I was his "dark horse pick to get into a fight today."
Everyone was pregaming (except for me of course) and having a fun time. At this point it also became painfully apparent that a lot of us were quite rusty and unfortunately that would be a precursor to today's results.
Personally I didn't care how we did at BOTE, of course I enjoy winning more than losing but my main goal was just to hang out with my team and have a good time. Some might call this a losing mentality but there's something to be said for the nothing to lose mindset. That kind of thought process has enabled elite players like Manny Ramirez to experience a ton of success because when failure doesn't scare you success often happens (kind of like when the O's knocked the Sox out of the playoffs the last game of the regular season last year). You have to remember that at the end of the day beer pong is just a game, it's not life or death and it's certainly not worth getting mad or ruining a fun trip over or losing any friends over.
Our first match-up was against the Virginia "B" squad and we got torched by 4 cups. I played like crap and felt bad that I singlehandedly cost Randy Shreck any chance that he had winning as my teammate since he actually played pretty well (my bad Randy). He was very nice about it though but I knew that I had to step up my game. Another key to being successful at beer pong is that you have to remember that you can't change what has already happened, once a game is over it's important to forget it and move on to games that you still have control over.
I did just that and the next few games were the best I played all day, winning some tough match-ups with Ty Pearman and Dean Knight as my partners. Jeff Matz and I also fared well together as he carried me in a match-up where our squad swept our opponents 5-0 overall bringing us back into contention and in hindsight was our high point of the day.
I honestly didn't feel any nerves throughout the day but unfortunately the pure lack of playing beer pong was holding me back from my potential as my form was inconsistent at best. I showed flashes of brilliance but was a shadow of my former self as a player overall. It's really hard to get upset when you are beaten by opponents who practice a lot more often than you.
As the day continued it was clear that the sport of beer pong had passed by this group of oldtimers, there was no table for old men. The Maryland OG's got swept in back to back series 5-0 by our opponents as Cory Ditzel and I got stuck on the two rack and squandered our late lead. Team morale was at an all-time low, the Barn Animal did what he could with an inspiring pep talk to get the troops going but it was to no avail.
We finished the day by playing spoiler to a NY team by beating them 3-2 and sending them home with us. Jim "the Closer" Reiter lived up to his nickname and closed out our opponents in OT saving us from a colossal embarrassment as our opponent played shorthanded for almost half of the game until his other teammate showed up. Overall the squad went 13-22 which wasn't close to making the next day but at least for me my goal was accomplished. I enjoyed playing with the team and it was an honor to call myself part of the Maryland OG squad win or lose.
Team morale was at an all-time low by the end of the day but I'm sure over time the members of the Maryland OG squad will reflect back and ignore the lack of success and cherish the memories instead. Only one guys/girls team can end up as the winners so if you are basing having a good time solely on winning is it even worth showing up since the chances are that you are going to lose? New Jersey is a hell of a long way to drive if the chances are overwhelming that you are going to have a bad time.
After watching some drunk idiot attempt to jump over a beer pong table while dunking a ball into the cup (which I found out later he knocked himself out in the process) I went out for another run. By the time I returned it was time to cheer the Maryland teams on in the 3 on 3 event.
I know some of you might be wondering why does someone who is best known for carrying around a water bottle rather than a beer even want to participate in a beer pong event and I'll tell you, it's the people. Minus some assholes like Ronald Savage (what was up with the no shirt and Superman underpants, really?) I really like the Maryland beer pong community.
I also have a confession to make at this point. I was the one who approached Garrett on night #2 and asked him to play "Call Me Maybe". I had no idea at the time that it would take on a life of it's own but it did. When everyone thinks back to the 2012 BOTE that song will probably be associated with it. I'll take the blame/credit for that one.
I was pretty beer ponged out at this point but still had a few games left in me so I played Mantis a few times for old times sake since he was my first teammate back when it all began in 2005. Let's just say the Mantis dominated the match-up but it was all in good fun.
At this point I was totally beat and before anyone could ask me about a potential food run I headed to bed knowing that tomorrow would be a long ride home. You try hanging out with the Barn Animal for four hours after his team goes 13-22 and tell me how much you enjoy it.
I had high hopes for the remaining Maryland teams, so after grabbing a subpar New Jersey bagel down the street I headed to the tables and watched Maryland United destroy the Virginia "B" team in the play-in game. Maybe I got a little too overconfident but I then went on to bet one of the members of Virginia "B" team $5 that Maryland United would also knock out the Virginia "A" squad in the next round with Reap and company waiting for them.
It truly was a back and forth match-up. For a while it looked like Austin and Deryck would be playing in the deciding game but momentum quickly shifted and it came down to Ryan McCallister and Earl vs Conor and this guy named Big Ben (who looked a bit scary just like the real Big Ben, like run now girls kind of scary).
There is no other way to describe it other than Maryland buckled under the pressure and in my humble opinion it's because we are putting too much pressure on ourselves. If we just adopted the nothing to lose "it's just a game" mentality I think we as a region would experience a lot more success. I know it's easier said than done but we tend to underrate the mental aspect of pong, our team is more talented that the VA#1 squad, they just beat us at the mental game.
In several of those match-ups I saw players on Maryland United not play up to their potential so it's not fair or accurate to place all of the blame on Ryan and Earl just because their match-up happened to end last. Next, it was time to go cheer on my other roadtrip partner Shannon in the girl's tournament.
It was a very awkward situation for everyone since they were playing the other Maryland girl's team from 301 (unless you are the Barn Animal who was clearly repping the 410). On one hand this at least this guaranteed Maryland would have one team in the girl's finals but it's never fun to see Maryland teams take each other out whether it's the girls or guys (although I'd love to take Stacelynn out to dinner sometime).
In the end, the 301 girls won the match-up and it was time for Shannon, the Barn Animal, and I to head out of Dirty Jersey and back to Maryland. We later found out that the 301 girls won the entire tourney so congrats to them for representing Maryland and taking home the championship.
Maybe I measure success differently, but I think that everyone (except Ronald Savage) represented Maryland well because in my book not acting like a total embarrassment trumps winning any day. I'm proud to be a member of the Maryland Beer Pong community and wouldn't want it any other way.