Earlier this week, Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie approached the front of the stage at the team’s Stanley Cup championship celebration, tossed aside his hat, lifted his hockey sweater over his head and proceeded to down the beer through the fabric.
Not to detract from Oshie’s accomplishments, but I believe my college friends and I actually invented this maneuver. (We also, for the record, invented the dick bump.) For reasons that were unclear to me both then and now, we would sometimes commemorate a particularly raucous day party or night out at the bars by dropping to a knee, pulling the bottom of our shirts over our heads and swilling beer through them. Everyone would form a circle around us and pour their beers on our head. We called it a “beer monster.” (We were in a fraternity, if you couldn’t tell.)
But, oh, how adorably quaint that seems looking back.
Look at this fucking maniac:
In just the eight short years since I graduated from my large, Midwestern state university full of equally large, semi-adult sons, some unseen force has transformed college beer drinking from a lighthearted social activity into a competition.
That force, it seems, is Instagram bro culture: a network of accounts, many under the Barstool Sports franchise, featuring rowdy frat guys and Barstool-approved Cool Girls™ in a contest of performative debauchery. The guys are generally pasty-white, baseball-cap-wearing Chads; the girls are clad in U.S. flag bikinis or short dresses and usually seen falling over, vomiting, hooking up or failing at shotgunning beers.
The latest trends include biting off the tips of beer cans, or shaking up said beer cans before slamming them on your dome. I scrolled through one account for a minute and saw a kid lighting his arm on fire before chugging a beer; another guy gets branded in the chest with a burger press.
It’s gotten out of hand, man! I just want to drink a beer when the sun’s up! Not risk my life to do it!
What the Hell Happened to Bro Culture?
This transformation arguably started with the #BillsMafia, the notoriously hard-partying fans of the Buffalo Bills best known for their crimes against furniture:
Although some contend this trend originated with WWE (née WWF) wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, the first man to guzzle and then rush beer cans against his skull strictly for entertainment purposes.
Images of Bills fans jumping through tables, dousing each other in ketchup and mustard, lighting themselves on fire, using pepperonis as swords, fucking in the parking lot and all other forms of tailgating debauchery became a meme over the past several NFL seasons. But even more quickly, their behaviors were co-opted and mimicked by other fanbases, leaving Bills fans to bemoan how crushing a table just isn’t what it used to be, maaan.
And this social media phenomenon has trickled down to The Youths with hashtags like #fullsend and #difs (“Do It for State,” a more NSFW content channel on Snapchat).
Barstool Sports’ Instagram Empire of Pain and Humiliation
Not that college students need any excuse to act like idiots. But the competitive nature of social media has turned college partying into a game of nationwide one-upmanship.
It all results in massive engagement for the often brazenly misogynistic lifestyle brand Barstool Sports, whose top brass and media personalities have swung their dicks into one boneheaded PR crisis after another. Most recently, its founder and president, Dave Portnoy, filmed an employee naked in the shower and posted it online.
College kids record themselves doing stupid party-boy shit, often with the explicit aim of landing on one of Barstool’s massively popular Instagram feeds: @5thyear (1.5 million followers); @chicksinthewild (601,000 followers); or @oldrowofficial (1.2 million followers). Barstool Sports itself has 4.6 million followers.
I don’t mean to suggest my generation of frat boy was somehow more noble. Had we been born a mere eight years later, we surely would have succumbed to the same stupidity and routinely injured ourselves for the honor of being featured on @5thyear and making Portnoy even richer.
A Decade Ago, We at Least Had the Illusion of Privacy
Of course, the difference between then and now is the smartphone. There are precious few photos of my frat doing beer monsters, because back in my day (2010), posting a photo to social media required having the wherewithal to bring a digital camera to the party, take a photo, put the memory card in your computer, upload the files and then post them to Facebook—no elegant process. Because we mostly used Facebook within private college networks, our content was much harder to aggregate and monetize.
A few short years later, everyone on campus was armed with a mobile video camera and instant internet access. Photos of partying became ubiquitous — and searchable to the public. And with every new video of a co-ed slamming a beer on her friend’s face, the stakes get even higher, and the more free content is created for the network run by a known slut-shamer.
The idea of going back to my alma mater and being surrounded by a mob of manic, screeching college bros, all blowing their Juuls in my face as they film me stumbling through a game of dizzy bat, shakes me to my core.
What pisses me off even more is beer culture now exists at one of two extremes. On one side is the pretentiousness of craft beer culture, which has become a contest of who can endure the most bitter IPAs and pretend to enjoy it…
…and on the other side, a contest between college bros over who can give themselves more concussions by crushing beer cans against their heads.
Kids, I’m sorry to be the old fart trying to spoil your fun. Enjoy college while it lasts. Just keep in mind who’s profiting off your pain.