September 8, 2010

Happily not a pro. Or an amateur. Or...whatever's even less skilled than an amateur.

It starts the day before, when I get this text from my neighbor: "Could we store 100 Jell-O shots in your fridge?"

After I hesitantly reply that, yes, I can probably make room, her return text offers even less comfort: "Oh, good. We have the other 200 over here, and we're out of space."

And thus, the dread begins. Why? Four words:

The 2010 Beer Olympics.

Full disclosure right up front: I'm not much of a drinker. Scratch that: I just don't drink. I don't have a problem with drinking or with being around people who do; I just...never do. It just isn't my thing. Water and Diet Coke taste better, alcohol makes me sleepy and gives me a headache -- the reasons are many and varied.

Plus, the rest of the attendees? Well, let's put it this way: They don't call these the Beer Olympics for nothing. These people have been in hardcore training since high school and are ready to compete on a moment's notice. To carry the analogy a little further, I'm the delegate from Luxembourg who was chosen by default because everyone else in my country was on vacation the week of the qualifiers, and I'm going up against China, the U.S. and Russia. I'm picturing a combination of a male rugby team, an MMA fighter and a frat party at OSU.

(Oh, and did I mention most of them will be in their 20s, making me the grandmother of the competition at 33? Am I too old for this stuff? OMG, I'm way too old for this stuff.)

Also: I don't drink beer, which seems like it could be an issue since, you know, it factors heavily in the title of the event.

But this hallowed event is hosted annually by our next-door neighbors (and good friends), and since we literally live within shouting distance, it seems poor form to pretend to be out of town. (Not least because our garage is a disaster, and hiding our cars would require a tarp-and-foliage feat of engineering that I just don't have time to construct.) It becomes clear that my only option is to suck it up and put on mah drankin' shoes.

On the day of the event, speaking of drinking duds, a surprising amount of thought goes into wardrobe. This year there are team colors, and therefore I need to find a shirt that's red and nice enough to wear in public but not so nice that I also don't mind potentially ruining it with copious amounts of spilled alcohol. Also, it's freezing outside, so my standard summer uniform of comfy shorts and sandals just isn't going to work.

At 2:00, it's time to stop dreading and just dive headlong into the wild. We fuel up first with a potluck-style lunch that, apparently, is governed by the rule of "Snoozers are Losers": We almost immediately run out of potatoes, baked beans, macaroni salad and nearly everything else except for meat, buns and Doritos. I'm also tricked into eating some kind of homemade chocolate bark that turns out to be chocolate, almonds and...BACON. (I'm distressed to report that it is both chewy and...kind of good.)

I'm not even done eating yet when the team "captains" start debating about how today's festivities are going to work. Apparently, we're eschewing the running of the torch and the opening ceremonies and getting right down to brass tacks. I immediately know I'm out of my league when I see one of the other teams doing calisthenics and creating a team handshake in a corner of the yard. Our team is warming up by...eating more Doritos.

This seems like the best time to level with my team captain: Anything that involves hand-eye coordination is NOT going to be my strong suit and oh, by the way, I'll be drinking my own girly drinks tonight instead of beer. He eyes me suspiciously, probably wondering both why I'm here and what he did to get stuck with me, but then shrugs and leads the way to our first effort: Flip Cup.

Some games are individual or two-person events, but since Flip Cup is a team effort, I have no choice but to participate. I put in an OK showing, although I instantly spill my drink all over my carefully-selected red shirt. And then I'm promptly eliminated. By my own teammates. Please keep in mind this is approximately five and a half minutes into the Olympics at large.

But, to my surprise, the rest of the afternoon is both fairly benign and kind of fun. I wisely steer clear of Beer Pong and Hillbilly (aka Ladder) Golf. I play a few games of cornhole and DU Ball (a game invented by the host that involves throwing a ping-pong ball at your opponent's can/bottle/glass, then chugging your own drink while he or she scrambles to grab the ball). There are more girls than anticipated, and everyone is nicer and more supportive toward this uncoordinated novice drinker than I expected. No one seems to care that A) I really, really suck at these games, and B) I'm not really drinking all that much. And/or at all.

(However, this lack of caring is partially due to the fact that most of the 12 or so couples who arrived together are now in different pockets of the yard in varying stages of fighting, and are therefore too distracted to care what anyone else is doing. At one point, we have yelling, crying, pointed-cold-shouldering and "I'm sorry" making-out-ing happening simultaneously. Entertainment, thy name is Other People Who Are Not Me Getting Into Stupid Fights.)

In the end, it's a pretty fun day, despite my total lack of skill and the fact that I choose to beg off at 11 p.m. rather than party 'til dawn with the rest of them. I have ZERO idea who "won" or how my team fared, and I'm choosing to think that's a good thing.

A few other highlights:
  • While no one seemed to be taking things too seriously, one good-natured trash-talking episode somehow escalated into our host's brother jumping the host and hogtying him with duct tape. In his front yard. At 5:00 in the afternoon. Rather than help, we all stood around laughing and took pictures with our phones.* As you do.
  • After a certain point, it got dark. Silly me, I thought this was my cue to go sit by the enormous (awesome) bonfire in the backyard and relax after a hard day of drinking and sport. Then they brought out the 5,000-watt utility light and parked it in the front yard so the festivities could continue unabated. I had a brief fantasy involving our other neighbors calling the police, thinking we were landing planes across the street. You know, if the earlier hogtying episode didn't have them worried enough.
  • All night, we'd heard at least 15 of the 35 people boasting that they planned to pitch tents and sleep outside. The next morning, after a frosty night in the vicinity of 40 degrees, I got a text from my neighbor: "30 people sleeping in our house. Couldn't get to the bathroom even if I wanted to." I've never been so happy to live next door.
  • Remember those 300 Jell-O shots? Gone. All of 'em. I had two. SO out of my league.
  • If nothing else, I will take this away from the experience: Testosterone is predictable. Get a bunch of men out in a yard, give them alcohol, and eventually you WILL have wrestling. Conducted, monitored and refereed by other drunk men. Armed only with the vaguest understanding of MMA terminology, and a complete lack of reserve about throwing it around. Loudly.
But my favorite highlight of the night? My husband (who knew I was nervous about the whole thing) shouting, "That's my baby!" across the yard when I (finally) scored a point in cornhole. Embarrassing, yes, but also...kind of cute.

In the end? Yes, I'm too old for this. But I don't think I'll ever be too old to laugh at others doing this. :)

*Apologies for the lack of photographic evidence of...any of this stuff. None of my pictures turned out, and, after awhile, I just gave up trying to find anything usable. So you'll just have to take my word for it. :)

3 backtalk:

Trophy Life said...

after reading from beginning to end, i have one word: brilliant (your writing, that is). this made me smile from ear to ear.

(my word veri is logic).

Maura said...

"I'm the delegate from Luxembourg who was chosen by default because everyone else in my country was on vacation the week of the qualifiers, and I'm going up against China, the U.S. and Russia."

I die! You are too funny, Written Permission. Excellent, excellent post.

wrestling kitties said...


This post was awesome!! Loved it and totally could visualize the entire thing!

I use to be able to party with the best of them (whoever the best of them were) and loved to play drinking games. Now, I take a couple sips of wine and I am going back to my water or pop. I would never be able to hang at one of these....but it really does sound like a fun way to people watch!!

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