Winer and Liquori only came to know these specs as recently as last October. Both graduated from colleges in New England less than two years ago, and they never considered themselves to be more than weekend warriors who like to toss the occasional pong ball. Neither knew there was a Beirut world series, let alone that it packed a $50,000 purse.
Though hardly esteemed sharpshooters, by the end of last year Winer and Liquori secured a time slot on MyTV and began attracting advertisers to underwrite the endeavor. In addition to BPONG, other industry sponsors — like the makers of an inflatable, pool-friendly device called the Porto Pong — also bought commercial spots. For content, Winer and Liquori organized their very own tournament, held this past February at the Greatest Bar. Nearly 70 participants came out, including one who, in a pregame interview, claimed to have borrowed money from his grandfather to make the trek from Maine. ("He qualified and made it to the final 32," says Liquori, "but then he got thrown out for being too drunk.") It was also at that competition, in the silver-medal match, that Connors risked life and limb — or at least his shooting arm — to nail his epic aerial dunker.
"I've seen people do that before, but only on the Internet," says Shane Shepard, who was on the receiving end of the explosive Connors jam. Known as "The Godfather" among the hundred-plus member local collective MABP, Shepard has been ranked as high as 16th in the world by BPONG. "The sport has come a long way since I started playing six years ago, and that's why I wanted to help with [Boston Ruit]. . . . This isn't just a drinking game anymore."
LIVING THE DREAM
May was a major month for the commonwealth's beer-pong community. Despite crew leader Shepard staying behind to graduate from Salem State, a squad of MABP all-stars calling themselves Weapons of Mass Destruction snatched first prize at the Beasts of the East competition in New Jersey. Winer and Liquori say that and other Bay State tournament successes reflect the interest level around Greater Boston, where players can catch any number of prize matches on a given week — from Monday nights at Paddy Kelly's in Peabody, to the longstanding USA Pub Pong Sundays at the Honey Fitz in Malden.
After a recent regime change at MyTV — the new management has already pushed out another Boston-cultivated show, Quiet Desperation — Boston Ruit's future on the network is currently in limbo. Still, their first dozen episodes continue to air, and Bostonian Productions is in the process of editing what Liquori estimates is "more hours of beer-pong footage than anybody else has ever watched." There are more trick shots and clutch moments, he says, not to mention action clips of the top Mass gunners entering the next WSOBP. According to the Boston Ruit team and others, regardless of the venue, audiences are thirsty for this sort of content.
"The idea of bringing the game to television is great," says Billy Gaines, a co-founder of BPONG. Gaines, who has been in the Beirut business for a decade, says the WSOBP lures players from 45 states and nine countries including Japan and Switzerland. "Things like this will help people understand what it's about, and that beer pong is a fun sport with serious competitors. . . . It's also good to help promote the sport to new players, who might be encouraged to step their game up and get involved at a level where they can win some prize money."