If you think about it, that last sentence is a real doozy. Do you have a parent that taught you (and the rest of your neighborhood) drinking games when you were teenagers? The 80s were strange times. Or maybe we were just a strange family.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how you never hear about drinking games anymore unless they’re tied to some kind of passive activity like recurring bits on TV shows. (See my “24” drinking game post from 2009.) So I figured it was rich fodder for a post. And here we are.
I’ve been playing drinking games since I was in junior high. OK, we weren’t actually drinking, but it occurs to me that the games we played could totally be drinking games now.
See, one of our favorite neighborhood activities was to play these big, communal games, whether in one of our elaborately constructed blanket forts, someone’s RV, or just sitting around the living room on a rainy day. Remember, there were no video games in the early to mid-70s; we had to make do with playing cards.
There were two games I remember playing, which could easily be converted to drinking games. One was “Spoons,” which is kind of like musical chairs with cards. You sat in a circle and put a number of spoons in the middle, fanning outwards like spokes, and numbering one less than the number of players. You pass out some cards, then one person begins drawing from the deck.
Every time he draws a card, he passes one to the person on his right. The goal is to collect four of a kind. Each person passes a card upon receiving one from the person on his left. When someone collects his four of a kind, he tries to quietly snatch a spoon from the middle, without being noticed. If anyone sees a spoon being taken, or notices that one is missing, they take a spoon. They can either try to do it on the sly or just make a grab. Eventually, it becomes a frenzy and the person left without a spoon is the loser. As a drinking game, the loser takes a shot.
This one is brilliant in its simplicity. Everyone sits in a circle and is dealt a single card. One of them is the ace of spades. Whoever got the ace of spades is the “killer,” whose object is to secretly wink at someone else. If you’re winked at, you’re dead and announce yourself so after a moment or two. If you see the killer wink at someone, you bust him, making you the winner. If the killer winks at everyone without being seen, he wins. You can either make all the losers drink, or the winner drink, depending on your goals for the night.
Saint Peter/Saint Paul
This is the one that led me to today’s topic. Back in the early 80s, my dad used to lead a group from our Toledo neighborhood to Cleveland for the annual Steelers/Browns game. We’d stay at a Marriott, the same one where the Steelers themselves used to stay, basically run wild with the other Steelers fans and drink our faces off. I wrote about the whole experience in 2009, but I left out this part. Click that link if you want to see some candid shots of a bunch of Steeler Hall of Famers, or what a bathtub full of Iron City Light looks like.
Once we’d arrive at our rooms and get all the beer loaded into the tub and iced down, we usually had time to kill before going down to await the Steelers team bus arrival. Or maybe it was after we’d been swimming and met the Steelers bus, and were waiting for the hotel nightclub to get going. That’s when Dad taught us our first drinking game; one he used to play as a youngster, called Saint Peter/Saint Paul. Leave it to the Italians to bring religion into a drinking game.
Everyone sits in a circle around a table. One person is named St. Peter and the person on his right becomes St. Paul, and everyone after that gets a number, one through whatever until you’re at St Peter. Once names are assigned, everyone drums their hands on the table, creating a fast-paced, steady beat.
The action start when St. Peter calls out his own name, and then that of another player. The player whose name is called must immediately call out his own name and that of someone else. All calling must be immediate and in time to the beat. It goes like this:
“St Peter, number two.”
“Number two, St. Paul.”
“St. Paul, number five.”
“Number five, St. Peter.”
“St. Peter, number fah-six.”
Anyone that twists his words or breaks the cadence has to drink. Once someone drinks, all the names shift over by one person and you start again. It got to be quite the raucous room and we always had a blast.
Dad had another game he tried to get us into, but in involved calling out numbers in Italian, so it never really caught on. I don’t know why the numbers had to be in Italian… it sounded like it would have been a lot of fun, but when it takes, like, ten seconds to remember the Italian word for seven, it takes some of the urgency out of the game.
It’s weird now to think that while I was of legal age, my brother, sister and all their friends were most definitely NOT. Not only would it be suicidal to teach drinking games to a bunch of minors (AND supply all the beer) but who would let their kid travel 2 hours away with one adult and 20 or 30 other kids, to stay in a hotel and go to a football game? It was totally a different time. (And I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.)
Once we moved up to the farmlands outside Toledo and set up camp in our Barn, we didn’t play as many drinking games, since we could pretty much drink whenever we wanted out there. We had a ping-pong table out there, so we obviously played some Beer Pong. It as a simple version where each player had one cup in front of him and you hit the ping-pong ball back and forth, aiming for the other guy’s cup. If you hit it, he took a sip; if you sunk it in the cup, he had to chug the rest. We didn’t play that too much because after all, who wants to drink a beer that just had a scurvy old ping-pong ball in it?
This wasn’t so much a drinking game as it was an initiation. My college girlfriend and I were friends with a bunch of girls that played on a softball team. (No, they weren’t lesbians.) They had this “rite” they all did, called Cardinal Puff, where you had to repeat three rounds of a sequence of saying some verbiage and following it up with specific hand gestures. If you didn’t get it just right, you had to drink and then try again.
It went something like: “Here’s to Cardinal Puff, who is with us for the first time tonight.” (perform a series of gestures (that I no longer remember) and take a large swig.) Here’s to Cardinal Puff who is with us again for the second time. (Perform a different series of gestures and take a large swig.) Here’s to Cardinal Puff who is with us for the third and final time tonight. (Perform final series of gestures and take a large swig.)”
It always sounded easy, but there was a trick. In seeing it the first time, you concentrated on the hand gestures, but in reality, it was the wording that you got stuck on. You had to get each word just right, with nothing added, subtracted, slurred or mispronounced. And they usually wouldn’t tell you what you got wrong. Next thing you know, you’re pretty messed up and can’t speak straight no matter what you're trying to say.
I don’t know where it all came from but I can tell you that I was the first male “Cardinal” in the area. So I got that going for me… which is nice. Not that I can put in on my resume or anything…
It’s been many, many years since I’ve played a drinking game. Once you reach a certain age, you no longer have time for games when you need a drink. But I am looking forward to teaching some of these to my nephew one day. Do you think he’ll be impressed that his daddy and I used to get snockered in a game his grandpa taught us?
So what drinking games did you play?