"Come on! Stop pissing around. They're going to lap us!"
Everyone's willing him to do it, but he's slipped out of the zone and the cup's just not flipping. His face is getting redder, and his movements sloppier. The peer pressure is on.
Earlier this evening the taunts were more vocal.
"I disown you!"
"You're a woman hater."
"Pick off the weak ones first!"
The last time I deliberately tried to hit people with balls was when I was seven and playing benchball in the Haig school gym. Not being much of a catcher or a thrower, I stuck to dodging and whipper-snappering about. It's a shame I didn't keep up those silky skills because two decades later it seems the game has definitely manned up. Now there's a ripped bald guy in a straining Care Bears t-shirt who is whamming those balls at me at 63 miles an hour. And I'm more than a little scared.
Only in one match am I left standing to the end. Usually it's an early bath and lots of backseat dodgeball playing from the relative safety of the sidelines. It's a fascinating game to watch. Even with rank amateurs the matches have all the pathos and grandeur of greek tragedy. On one half of the gym you might have the single best player from each team slugging it out to the death. On the other you might have four balls at once raining down at one meek, bespectacled girl, who so far has been too inoffensive to have been taken down like the rest of her team. "Finish it!" they holler from sidelines. "I can't look," someone else mutters. "It's like watching a puppy being slaughtered."
Now Beer Pong (Beirut, in some circles) also involves throwing balls, but to my my mind it's by far the more civilised endeavour. I always rank sports on a scale of what's-the-worst-that-can-happen? with paint-balling on one end (get shot in the face, lose an eye) and badminton at the other (wind up playing against someone who's not looking for a nice rally). In fact, Beer Pong might even pip badminton for the title of most-unpleasant-consequence-free sport. The aim is to throw your ping pong ball in to your opponent's cup. If you succeed, they have to drink a couple of fingers of beer. If they get theirs in your cup, you have to drink. To my mind it's really a win win situation - unless of course you have an issue with drinking moderate amounts of Bud. In my new beer-loving spirit I find it slips down like lemonade.
When people talk of frat-boy drinking games, it's usually with a heavy dose of scorn. I say: better to be coerced into drinking characterless American lager than be smashed in the face by Mr Care-a-lot's ball.
Altogether now: "Get the girl out first! Smash her!"