As I stood next to Ryan McAllister and Earl on Sunday afternoon, I glanced over at the four tables next to theirs. There was Mantis and Carty, getting thoroughly woodshedded by Reap and another guy. There was Austin and Deryck, who were in the midst of losing the first game of the series they would go on to win. I couldn't really see what was going on in Jamie and Jordan's game, but I saw Foster and Durkee struggling at the end table. I had no idea how each series would end, or in what order, but I already knew the outcome of the round.
Virginia would beat Maryland. I hate being right.
Almost on cue, I heard the whispers of blame. The first funny thing I heard was people bashing Earl and Ryan for losing their third game, a game in which they struggled hitting the final two cups after a decent lead. What they didn't see was a Virginia team shooting lights out against them, and Ryan and Earl putting up a hell of a fight during each three games. They had to deal with the brunt of Virginia's congregation and all the trash talk and distractions that accompany those guys. They were the best Maryland team that round, and any other of the pairings would have lost that round. Conor, for those who didn't see it, played his ass off the first two games of that series. The guy Big Ben was not missing. Ryan and Earl gave them all they could handle, more than any other Maryland team could have given them. That their game ended last means nothing to the importance of their matchup. Two other Maryland pairings lost that round, by much larger margins. Earl and Ryan were not to blame.
The next funny thing I heard was how bad Foster played during his match-up. Now I know that Foster didn't play his best pong this weekend, but I find it funny that people were so quick to blame Foster for the loss. Foster has been Maryland's best player this year and it hasn't even been close. I didn't watch the game, but to see how quickly Foster was thrown under the bus is, although expected, pretty disappointing. I'm not surprised.
The next person that I heard was the reason for the loss was none other than the Mantis. Actually, that was just me blaming him. Nevermind.
But no, Maryland did not lose because of Earl, or Ryan, or Foster, or any other member of the team. Maryland lost to Virginia because Maryland, as a whole, does not have any swagger. In addition, Maryland did not field its ten best players on one team.
"Attitude reflects leadership, Captain." – Julius Campbell, Remember the Titans
Maryland is Austin Lanham.
Since 2005, the face of Maryland Beer Pong has been Austin Lanham. He founded it, he dominated it, and he ran it. At first glance, you wonder who this goofy-looking guy is with his goofy-looking shot and weird obsession with bananas, but then you realize he's a really good guy and a really good player. Almost everyone not named Jason Davenport likes him, and his success on the beer pong table is the stuff of legend. He is able to play at such a high level without hurting anyone's feelings, or giving in to the trash talk and distractions for the most part. When people refer to beer pong as a "gentleman's game," they are referring to Austin Lanham.
Attitude reflects leadership. Over the years, we've all adopted, in some form or another, Austin's attitude and demeanor. I can't count how many times Austin has told me to just calm down and let something go. I know when I wanted to start being taken seriously as a player and silenced most of my trash talk, it was partly due to the way Austin conducts himself. I wanted to be spoken of with respect, and not regarded as an asshole. Although people still think I'm an asshole and still think I'm a terrible player, I modeled my behavior after Austin.
Attitude reflects leadership. It rubs off. Leaders lead by example. Austin has never told people how to act, but we see the success he has and we want his respect, and we conduct ourselves in the same way. We play a gentleman's game. We treat each other, for the most part, with respect and admiration. We play softball, basketball, darts, football, soccer with each other outside of beer pong. We go shopping together. We have full-time jobs (most of us). We have lives outside of beer pong. We are friends. I think subconsciously we carry those relationships onto the table. We respect each other too much to be disrespectful to each other. It's just beer pong, right?
Maryland Beer Pong is respected throughout the beer pong universe. Although we are sometimes slighted in rankings and prestige, the institution of Maryland Beer Pong is respected and imitated. Leagues, tournaments, and entire organizations are modeled after what Austin and Jim built. Our players are respected by everyone not just as players, but as people. We conduct ourselves with dignity and people respect that. Attitude reflects leadership.
In early 2009, I had grown tired of Maryland's constant shortcomings on the national stage. In February 2009, I wrote an edition of the Tuesday Morning Bring-Back stating that Maryland needed to toughen up. I wrote about how we needed to step up the trash talk and have more swagger. This was more than three years ago. Although we have stepped it up in a lot of ways, we still aren't there. Hell, maybe we will never be.
Maryland has no swagger on the beer pong table. As I stood there and took in the series against Virginia, Maryland players looked like deer in headlights against Virginia. Body language says a lot more than shooting percentage. We were slumped. We were quiet. We looked lost. Those Virginia players and their supporters fed off that. They knew they were going to win. They knew they were in our heads. They were a freight train and we were the person duct-taped to the train tracks. We are a terrible match-up against the guys from Virginia, New Jersey, New York, hell even Massachusetts. People will take offense to this, but I watched everyone. We were shook.
The team name "Maryland United" is funny. Maryland is not united. Maryland brought 5 male teams and 4 female teams to New Jersey this past weekend. Virginia brought two squads. How then, were Maryland supporters outnumbered by so many? What was everyone doing in East Hanover, NJ, that was so important? There is no casino to go to. There are no sights to see. Yes, some people left early, but where the fuck were the rest of you? Why don't we feel that same desire to cheer on our "teammates?" It's like this every major tournament, but this one stung a little. We can do better than that.
Maryland has some tremendous shooters. Some of the best beer pong shooters in the world. But Maryland's best beer pong players are Moose, Ryan McAllister, and Jason Davenport. If Maryland ever wins something national, it will be because of one of these guys. Moose has swagger. I have never seen anyone who hates losing as much as Moose. And when he's winning, he has so much confidence in himself and acts like such a dickhead. Ryan McAllister is the same way. He believes he's always the best player on the table and plays with a chip on his shoulder every game. He's also Mary McAllister's man, which gives him so much swagger it's not even funny. Jason Davenport gets down on himself sometimes, but when he gets fired up watch out. I watched him call a Virginia guy his son this past weekend. When he told him that he had disowned him, I don't think the guy made another shot. Two of these players were not on Maryland's "top" squad. They should have been.
"I did everything the right way and earned my spot in this game, nothing was given to me." - Shaquille O'Neil
Plain and simple, Maryland did not field its best players on one team. I hold members of Maryland United and Maryland Darkside equally responsible for the pissing match between the two teams that left us this way. I will also add that, on both teams, everyone seemed to pull their weight. I joked about Durkee playing on Maryland United, and everytime I watched him play he was shooting well. It wasn't his fault Maryland lost. The.TEAMS.just.weren't.good.enough.
Earned, not given. This should be Maryland's motto for the future. What separates Maryland from Virginia, from New York, from New Jersey? Players on those teams earn their spots. They play off for their spots. "Some" Maryland players "play off" for their spots. Don't get me wrong, most of the players on Maryland United get no argument from me. They, in my opinion, deserve to be on the team. They deserve to be on the team because they are head and shoulders better than other Maryland players. They are so much above other Maryland players that they would easily earn their spots by playing their way onto the team.
I know a lot of the "good" beer pong players from other states. But there were guys on New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia that I didn't know, never heard of. Those guys played really, really well. Can most of you name more than two or three players on Virginia? Do those players suck because you don't know them? EVERYONE is good now, not just the well-known players. Who's to say a Kyle Abel wouldn't play his way onto the #1 squad? A Matt Roper? A Greg Poulous? A Andre Mirzayan? We don't put ourselves in the best position to compete because we deny hungry, up-and-coming players a chance to earn their way. There are too many politics involved with making these teams. It doesn't have to be that way.
If you belong on the top squad, you will earn your way onto the squad. The cream will always rise to the top. People say, "one bad day shouldn't cost you a spot on the team" but at the same time, one bad day does cost you a chance at a title. What if Jordan or Austin had a terrible day and didn't qualify? What then? Then they wouldn't be on the team! The cream will always rise to the top. I know what it's like to be a member of a team and have people tell me I don't belong. If I had played my way onto that team, what could people have said? Nothing.
Some people feel entitled, and I understand. Accomplishments should be respected. But a team needs to field its best players TODAY to be the best. Does the best college basketball team always win the NCAA tournament? Of course not.
In the grand scheme of things, guys, none of this really matters. For most of us, this is a hobby and we will outgrow it. People laugh at how seriously we take beer pong and judge us for how we play it. But at the end of the day, it's just a game that we will all stop playing, sooner or later.
We are a different breed of player in Maryland. We don't rip cups up and start fights with everyone. We aren't bullies. We are good people. There's nothing wrong with that. So what if we don't have swagger like other states? It's not a knock on us, we were born this way. We just need to accept that we are never going to match up, as a whole, against the teams that play to our weaknesses. We can't change who we are, or should we.
But what we can do is make sure that we put our best players out there every time. Everyone needs to just man up and put the ego aside for the greater good every now and then. Everyone should earn their spots, and if you aren't hungry enough to play for it then you aren't hungry enough to win it all, plain and simple. No exceptions for anyone.
Like I said on Facebook, I am proud of Maryland for the way we conducted ourselves. Maybe we don't have swagger, maybe we didn't have the best teams, but we do still have our dignity and self-respect, and that should be all that really matters. Attitude reflects leadership.
I didn't catch as much of the girl-on-girl action as I would have liked, but I did get to watch the all-important battle between Maryland's own "What Smells Like Old Bay?" and "301 Girls Run This." Everything was a little too "family-friendly" for me so I had to talk a little trash to the 301 girls to make things interesting. Because we all know, the 410 and 443 are better than the 301.
Despite my calling the 301 girls "chuckers" (all in good fun), they prevailed during this match and went on to win the ladies championship. Congrats to those girls, they deserved it. Also, I'm pretty certain that Stephanie and Tara would crush me one-on-one. The future of girls pong in Maryland is bright.
I'm especially happy for Andressa, who has come a long way from when we teamed up for the College Park league a few years ago. She's now one of the best girls on the East Coast and, despite her beating me up in the corner of the ballroom on Sunday, I am very happy for her <3
It was hard for one particular Maryland lady to turn this man down in the heat of passion:
Call Him, Maybe?
2. Justin Kosta
3. Jim Reiter
This blog was written by The Barn Animal.
Feel free to contact him with comments/questions/criticism.
Past editions of Tuesday Morning Bring-Back can be found here for your convenience.