Arakotaram: Pong trumps dunking

The NBA dunk contest is relevant again.

After a miserable stretch that saw the likes of Harold Miner, Isaiah Rider and Fred Jones take home the trophy (seriously, Fred Jones?!), the dunk contest has finally regained some of its old glory. The stars are pulling out all the stops — everything from phone booths to kryptonite — and the dunk title is now a point of pride.

And I’m not just saying that because two-time champ Nate Robinson is 5-foot-9-inches. The transformation into “KryptoNate” and the monster dunk over the 6-foot-11-inch Dwight Howard brought back memories of Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan during the contest’s golden age. Unfortunately, my girlfriend wasn’t quite as impressed as I was. Apparently, dunk contests aren’t very romantic.

But in addition to ruining my girlfriend’s Valentine’s Day, the dunk contest also reminded me of an age-old debate that my friends and I used to have: What sports-related ability would you most like to have? Would you rather dunk? Hit a home run? Throw a 90 mph fastball? Eat 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes?

I always thought it was an easy question. Take the dunk. Home runs require a field, fastballs destroy your arm, and competitive eating should be left to skinny Japanese guys.

But after careful reconsideration, I’ve realized that dunking is overrated.

It’s absolutely nothing compared to being able to toss a ping pong ball into a Solo cup 10 feet away.

I’m not joking. For the next few years, no other skill is going to be nearly as useful. Dunking may make you the god of your IM basketball team, but that’s a transient and fleeting glory. But being a god at beer pong? Eternal fame.

And that’s an objective truth.

One of the easiest ways to judge athletic achievement is to check who’s covering it. If you’ve done something moderately successful — like win the Super Bowl — you make the front page of ESPN. If you’ve done something entirely meaningless — like win the Tyng Cup — you make the front page of the Yale Herald.

IM hoops? Herald.

National beer pong championship? ESPN.

In fact, in a January column, award-winning sportswriter Rick Reilly referred to beer pong as “the next great American pastime.” In painstaking detail, he described the World Series of Beer Pong championship match between Smashing Time and Getcha Popcorn Ready. Granted, it’s not exactly Lakers vs. Celtics, but it’s definitely better than Silliman vs. TD.

Not convinced yet? There’s even a cash prize of $50,000 for first place. Fifty grand for a game whose required skills are “aiming, taunting, and alcohol tolerance” (thanks, Wikipedia).

So drop the basketballs, and pick up a real sport. Even Ned Fulmer would agree.

IM Pong, anyone?

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