We're lucky enough to have a dispatch from Andy Aupperlee, a Seattle-based photographer and friend of the blog, on the greatest of all American sports: beer pong.
He did the same thing for us last year. I openly wept with joy when he offered to do it again.
A veritable feast of pictures are after the jump.
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In what is starting to become a New Year's tradition, I traveled to Las Vegas on January 2nd to shoot the World Series of Beer Pong V. It being my second year on the job, I sort of knew what to expect, but I would have never guessed that Smashing Time would repeat as champions.
Ron and Pop defended their crown, giving official notice to the beer pong community that they are THE team to beat. While watching Smashing Time decimate the competition was enthralling, I also enjoyed getting to meet the 800+ other participants.
"The Jay Leno Show" sent a team and international representatives from Canada, Japan and Ireland were among the contenders. The event truly is a cross-section of life: DJs, frat boys, husbands and wives, teachers and even strippers make the trek to battle the world's best players. With the tournament in its fifth year, it is obvious that competitive beer pong is just starting to hit its stride.
Mario and Luigi. Think tossing a ping-pong ball into a cup is difficult? Try battling through 14 levels and only being allowed to move in two dimensions. Respect.
Remembering years past. Do you remember World Series of Beer Pong IV. I barely do. Thank goodness for blogs.
Alliances. In an effort that even Madeline Albright could be proud of, the Garden State and the Empire State decided to put a stop to the bloodshed and join forces for the World Series of Beer Pong.
Wingspan. Scientifically speaking, leaning is the name of the game. Shortening the distance between the point of release and the target makes perfect statistical sense, even when you've had four or five pitchers of Bud Light.
Kilts. Suiting up for a beer pong match is all about comfort and freedom of movement. Choosing clothes that restrict you might cost you the match. The logical progression of this philosophy is to avoid wearing pants. But how to achieve this in public? Simple. The Scots (another nation known for seriously enjoying their libations) figured it out years ago: the kilt.
Badgers. If there is a competition that involves drinking beer, you can almost certainly count on Wisconsin to send a delegation.
Strippers. These young ladies are the representatives from Team Sapphire. Ever wondered who might work at 70,000-square-foot gentlemen's club? Here you go. (The place even has skyboxes).
Intimidation. Being a pro beer ponger means vigilantly defending your rack. Never let your opponent have a free shot. And if your girlfriend is available to talk some smack, hoist her up and let her run her yell, too. All is fair in beer pong (provided you follow the rules).
DJ Whoo Kid. Having A-list beats to get your pong on is crucial. The folks at BPONG.com recognize this and recruited G-Unit's official DJ to keep the Flamingo rockin' during the three days of game play.
Team Portraits. One of my favorite aspects of shooting the World Series of Beer Pong IV was meeting all types of colorful characters. For WSOBP V, I wanted to shoot some of these folks on white seamless with quality lighting. I flew from Seattle to Vegas with 130 pounds of gear shoved into three bags and set up shop on Day 2. Check out this photo to see the setup. After getting the lights set with Josh's help, one of the first teams I photographed was the WSOBP II Champions, We Own Your Face. Despite the menacing graphic on their uniforms, these guys could not have been nicer. I've included several more portraits in this post, and the whole project is on Flickr. Also, check out the video below for a quick run down of the gear and a few of my favorite shots.
A big thank you to Josh Weinberg for shooting the video on location.
Green Man. No one showed more enthusiasm for having his portrait taken than Green Man. No one also smelled quite like Green Man. The suit did little to mask a potent mixture of beer, sweat and God knows what else. Regardless, The Explosion 5000 salutes you, Green Man.
Chauncey and Big Ben. Even though Joe D couldn't afford to keep Billups around, Mr. Big Shot and Ben Wallace reunited at the World Series of Beer Pong. Goin' to work, y'all.
Tables, Beer, Balls and Cups. The more the better.
Ink and Hair-dos. Nothing says you're ready to decimate your opponents like a cobra tattoo and a ridiculous haircut.
The Irish. Fellow beer-loving nation, Ireland, entered a team into this year's WSOBP. Despite being nearly impossible to understand (heavy accent + heavy drinking + loud music = mainly communicating with hand gestures), these guys were awesome. For all the Irish readers of the Explosion, you should be proud of your boys. They very diplomatically demonstrated your county's ability to pong with the world's best.
The Ladies. Co-ed competition is one of the best aspects of the WSOBP. These ladies do more than keep the dudes honest and break a few hearts, they also win games. Try explaining to your frat bros that a girl-girl team knocked you out of the WSOBP... ouch.
Guns. Rip your sleeves off, 'cause it's beer pong time.
Jim and Pam. Beer pong at the office? Great idea. I'm telling my boss tomorrow.
Japan. For the first time in WSOBP history, the Japanese made their way from across the Pacific to battle it out on the tables.
Good luck charms. Whatever works, ladies.
And if you can't borrow some compete with that, improvise. Just rub, toss, rinse and repeat.
A Lifetime Sport. Just like skiing, tennis and golf... beer pong is something you should be able to enjoy, no matter what decade you were born in.
SCBP. Peter Rusch and the SoCal Beer Pongers were in full force at this year's WSOBP.
No look shots. Some beer pongers are so good, they don't even need to look. Kris Fraser of perennial contenders Not Even Close confidently looks away as he sinks yet another clutch shot.
A Hostess with the Most-ess. Leah D'Emilio came back to anchor this year's television coverage of the WSOBP V. Leah's ability to cut through the the beer breath and get the real story always impresses--a true pro.
The Gangster Lean. Complete with chalice and corn-rows, SCBP Founder Peter Rusch shows what it takes to be a WSOBP contender. For this year's tournament, Peter separated from his longtime partner (his wife) for a shot at beer pong glory. While the partner switch up did not ultimately lead to the $50k crown, WSOBP fans hoping for a soap opera will be disappointed: the Rusch's are still happily married.
Playoff Superstitions. Defending champ Ron of Smashing Time said that his weird haircut helped him win last year's tourney. He either had an unfortunate incident with farm equipment between day 2 and day 3, or is carrying on his tradition of doing up the 'do for the final day.
Defending Champs. After their debut on the televised feature table, Ron and Pop were kind enough to sit for me and make a portrait.
Technique. It's the Air Jordan of beer pong.
Shhh. Even though the boys from Iowa were eventually silenced, they put together another respectable WSOBP run.
Rest up. Three solid days of beer pong can be grueling, not to mention all the distractions of Las Vegas. There's no shame in catching a quick catnap in between rounds.
Pre-Shot Ritual. Dunking, foot twisting, tossing, forehead pressing... these are all techniques employed to avoid:
Missing the cup. It's something that happens to everyone. If you have trouble consistently hitting the cup, have a talk with you doctor to see if you're physically capable of engaging in beer pong activity. In the rare case that you and your partner miss the cup for four hours or more, just call it quits.
Show your colors. The California contingent proudly displayed their bear. The Canadians waved their leaf. The Texans brought their star and bar. Even Maryland displayed what is possibly the coolest state flag ever.
Bruce Buffer. For the second year in row, Bruce Buffer of the UFC announced the final round of the World Series of Beer Pong. Bruce is one of the classiest showbiz people I've ever met. Love that bro.
Ready to strike. The final round is all about seeing your opening and taking it--something Smashing Time know a little bit about.
Comebacks. After dropping the first game of the final match to Since Sliced Bread, it looked like Smashing might be down and out (literally).
Winning Shots. After three games, Ron and Pop closed out Since Sliced Bread and repeated as champions of the World Series of Beer Bong.
Check presentation. BPONG.com and World Series of Beer Pong founders Skinny, Duncan and Billy present Smashing Time with a check for $50,000.