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Zero-Sum Game For Budweiser

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Anheuser-Busch wanted to become the life of the party. Instead, by trying to commercialize the drinking game known as beer pong, it became this fall's major party pooper.

"Just how stupid does Anheuser-Busch think we are? Pretty stupid, it seems," one blogger wrote after the brewer claimed that Bud Pong—A-B's version of beer pong —was meant to be played with water, not beer. That patently absurd claim, intended to shield A-B from charges that it was promoting binge drinking, left the brewer in a no-man's land: accused by beer-pong opponents of being disingenuous and by beer-pong fans of being a big wuss. (The beer-pong faithful's view of the beer-vs.-water issue is captured nicely in the FAQ on bpong.com, the Web site that is sponsoring this January's first-ever World Series of Beer Pong: "Q. I want to play beer pong with something other than beer. Is this okay? A. This depends. Do you like beer? If so and you just want to play with something else because it has a higher alcohol content, game on.")

Beer pong may have a civilized history. (A story last week in the school paper at Dartmouth, where there's a proud beer-pong tradition, claimed that "alumni on the whole ... have trouble grasping a game in which so many beers are consumed at one time.") But the game has changed. And while bpong.com's warning to "Please drink responsibly" always rang hollow, now A-B's does a little, too.