Finals Special: Slope Day and Beirut

7 05 2009

So, my original intention was to get an entry up last night, but considering I had just finished a particularly difficult class that actually had a manageable final, and I received an offer to play the aforementioned game, I decided to indulge (and discovered that chili and beer should never be in my stomach at the same time, but anyways…). Somehow during the game, my mind wandered and started wondering who exactly game up with beirut, also known as beer pong (also known as water pong, for those who prefer alternative beverages). For this, Wikipedia is incredibly useful.

I found the article to be an entertaining read.

This is the listing of skills required:
“Aiming, taunting, and alcohol tolerance”

As for the origin, the game apparently originated from Dartmouth fraternities in the 1950s and 1960s (considering their unofficial mascot is Keggy the Keg, this is no surprise). The original version of the game used actually paddles, as if a regular ping pong (table tennis) game, where one was supposed to swat the balls across the table “court” and into the opposing team’s cups. The name beirut was adopted in some regions during the 1980s (a time period that some history buffs might recognize as part of the Lebanese civil war where the capital of Beirut was largely destroyed, although I fail to see the connection between shooting down cups of booze and the widespread destruction of a city [2]).

Now, granted, I’m slow with the entries lately, but that’s largely because of my finals. As a result, I’m running a little late on this brief Slope Day piece, but things are better late than never.

As we all know, Slope Day is held annually on the last day of classes [3] for the academic year. Slope Day seems to have originated from the Navy Ball, an evening of song and dance that was first celebrated around 1890. Navy Ball, which was held to raise money for CU Athletics, was held in October (on the day before a major regatta on the lake) up until about 1901. Attendance at classes was so poor that day in May 1901 that the university decided to cancel classes and declared a holiday, known as “Spring Day”. Spring Day was held for about next fifty or so years, often with a theme (for example, 1928’s theme was “A Roman Holiday”, which might have been as close to a toga party as they came back in the day). However, with the campus unrest from 1960-1978, celebrations of Spring Day ceased [4].

From 1979-1985, Cornell University sponsored “Springfest” on the slope. The initial celebration consisted of catered food, catered booze, and live entertainment on the slope. This was within the laws of the time, because the drinking age in the state of New York wouldn’t be raised to 21 until December 1985. The 1986 Springfest was held in a fenced-in area on North Campus (I imagine where the Court-Appel-Rawlings Field areas is), which caused quite a protest from the student population, who wanted to maintain their right to get sloshed on the slope. It was about this time that the term “Slope Day” came into popular use. 1987’s Slope Day had entertainment in the form of Robert Cray, but by 1988 Slope Day was once again an unofficial event.

Through the 1990s, the university refused to acknowledge Slope Day, except that kegs were banned from Libe Slope in 1990. SlopeFest, an alcohol-free carnival on West Campus, was launched in 1999 (moved to Ho Plaza in 2004). In 2001, the amount and type of alcohol students could have on the slope was limited. In 2003, Slope Day took on its current form of a fenced-in slope, highly regulated alcohol catering, and live entertainment.

With regards to the performance, the following is a quote from the wikipedia page, and verified on the Slope Day Cornell history page:

Friday, May 6, 1977: Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (Held on Libe Slope)
Sunday, May 8,1977: The Grateful Dead (in Barton Hall)This concert was separate from the Slope Day[3]
May 1984: The Ramones, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (Held in Barton Hall due to inclement weather)
May 1987 Robert Cray
May 5, 2000: Pilfers
May 4, 2001: Stroke 9
May 3, 2002: Nada Surf
May 2, 2003: Rusted Root, Fat Joe
May 7, 2004: Kanye West, O.A.R., Dilated Peoples, Matt Nathanson (did not play)
May 6, 2005: Snoop Dogg, The Game, The Starting Line
May 5, 2006: Ben Folds, Talib Kweli, Acceptance
May 4, 2007: T.I., TV on the Radio, Catch 22
May 2, 2008: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Gym Class Heroes, Hot Hot Heat
May 1, 2009: Pussycat Dolls[4], Asher Roth[5], and The Apples in Stereo

So, Slope Day as current students know it is a fairly recent event in Cornell history. Hopefully, in some way or form, it will also continue to be enjoyed by future students at Slope Days to come.




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