Beer companies are now pushing organized drinking games for university students. Groups of guzzlers crowd around the ends of tables trying to lob ping pong balls into cups of beer at the other end of the table. One team scores points and the other team downs cup after cup.
It’s called a “beer pong championship,” and it’s usually sponsored by a beer or beer pong table company. Urban Outfitters offers a beer pong kit called “Bombed” as well as boxed sets of rules for other games. In January, 2006, the first World Series of Beer Pong is scheduled in Las Vegas. Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch began marketing a game called Bud Pong. Official rules state that water, not beer, should be used—which protects the company but fools no one. Miller is also promoting beer pong events.
It is, of course, ludicrous to believe that beer companies are genuinely interested in marketing games that encourage water drinking. This new foray by beer companies into university age binge drinking also calls into question their purported concern for promoting “responsible drinking.” None of this makes any sense.
Beer drinking, often to excess, has been a staple of the university experience for decades if not centuries. Many universities have worked valiantly to warn students away from the negative side effects of excessive drinking, curtailing tailgate parties, prohibiting beer and alcohol in some residence halls, offering seminars or other public service instruction on alcoholism, and more. Some campuses have tried to ban drinking games to limited success, usually because bars nearby provide all the action drinkers want.
Beer or alcohol consumption is not intrinsically evil. There is no explicit biblical prohibition of drinking, though there is a proscription of drunkenness. Many dedicated and sincere Christian people, including some scholars and pastors, have long warned the faithful away from drinking entirely. Generally, they build their case on the biblical teaching enjoining followers of Christ not to do anything that harms their bodies, the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And, believers are also warned to stay away from beer or alcohol altogether because consuming it can undermine their testimony of faithfulness and tempt them with other sinful practices that tend to associate with drinking.
Whatever your view on these matters, clearly binge drinking by university students—many of whom are under the legal drinking age—is not a healthy activity. Beer companies and others in the industry who indirectly promote binge drinking while maintaining a legally parsed distance in their marketing are disingenuous at best. Binge drinking contributes to student traffic accidents, injury, and fatalities, reduces student inhibitions toward sexual activity, and degrades students’ ability to perform well academically.
Binge drinking and university students are not a healthy mix. Beer companies who ignore this reality are more interested in the mighty dollar than responsible drinking. Universities and parents should lobby the beer companies to adopt a higher standard. No one is saying they should not market their product, just that they need to develop socially “responsible marketing.”
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