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Art of The Bargument

Wireless internet has dramatically changed the nature of the booze soaked bar debate, or bargument, if you will. Example: Much of a recent weekend was spent basking in the warm, glowing, warming glow of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at a sports bar, Claudia’s, in Portland, Oregon. True to form, this bar meets or exceeds all of the benchmarks of the classic sports dive – Random, faded memorabilia on the walls, filthy bathrooms, uncomfortable seating, air filters that once functioned, briefly, during an extended weekend in the Spring of 1992, a jaded and vengeful wait staff, and the AWESOME ability to hypnotize its patronage for days at a time with semi reliable satellite feeds and the time-warping, sensory deprivation of perpetual twilight. Unlike the traditional sports bar, however, this one also advertises free wireless internet access. Which it is unapologetically stealing from the youth hostel across the street.

The net result is a smattering of patrons hunched over their laptops during commercial breaks, faces illuminated alternately by espn.com and the Urban Legends Reference Page. I joined their esteemed company and brought along my tiny Powerbook on a recent weekend, which was put into service several times as we attempted to reconcile the following statements and arguments:

1) Virginia Tech’s mascot, the Hokie, is a castrated turkey. {partially true}

2) The sports connotation of the term “upset” is derived from the name of a long-shot racehorse that unexpectedly took the win in an early 1900s high-stakes money race. {thought true for many years, debunked in 2002}

3) The saluki is the second fastest canine, behind the greyhound, because it is also capable of taking all four paws off the ground simultaneously, while running. {still unresolved, but we did manage to mistakenly order an “Info Pawcket” from the Saluki Society of America}

4) Where the hell is Bucknell University? {Lewisberg, PA}

Side bets were settled immediately to both cheers and jeers, along with one firm poke in the ribs. Does this sound the sound death knell of the rowdy and contentious bargument? True, the laptop and internet enabled cell phone may fast become indispensable in resolving meaningless bar disputery when there is a reliable body of knowledge to query. But what about debates that offer no such resource? Hope lay ahead!

The end result may well be that our beloved barguments turn increasingly towards the esoteric and hypothetical, because in that moment when your buddy turns to you and says, “Who would win in a fight – a pirate or a ninja?”, your laptop may as well be a hardbound compendium of Family Circus cartoons, if not slightly less helpful.

In this regard, practice makes perfect. I’d suggest arguing with yourself first in the privacy and comfort of your own home or office bathroom. Use the 5 hours afforded to you between the end of college basketball playoffs and the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, and follow these simple guidelines:

Use a Mirror to Hone Your Indignant Facial Expressions and Threatening Eye Contact.
Your turn at being quiet is almost as important as your moment for rebuttal. Even while drunk, you’re going to need to coordinate all functional elements of your face for maximum impact. Squinty eyes alone says “I’m drunk and unsure of myself, so please put me out of my misery,” while squinty eyes, cheeks high and mouth agape says “I’m so incredulous that I’ve just wet myself.”

Tape-Record Yourself for Helpful Post-Bargument Critique.
Are you screaming as loud as you possibly can to make your point? No? YOU LOSE. Try it again, this time making ripples in your cocktail. If you can’t raise your voice louder than your opponent, you’ll need to compensate by pounding on a nearby table or video poker machine.

Don’t Be Afraid of Profanity
I can’t stress this shit enough, people.

Reinforce Your Major Points with Pop-Culture References
Consider your audience. In order to maximize your influence, you’re going to need to stick to referencing “sources” that most people can relate to. Hollywood action movies (post 1980) and Dean Koontz novels are a good start. Remember, quoting Nietzsche never convinced anyone that the Immovable Blob CAN in fact be moved.

Only Drink the Hard Liquor
I don’t care what the Coors Light ads tell you – beer makes you dumb, whiskey makes you smart. And handsome.

Invest in a Pocket Thesaurus
In the end, if shouting, squinting and frantically waving your arms don’t seal the deal, winning a hypothetical bargument may very well hinge on superior word choice. It’s perfectly acceptable to skitter to the restroom in the midst of a debate, providing you precious minutes alone with your Thomas Roget. When you return, instead of saying “Dude, Ninjas have waaaaaaaaaaay more moves than pirates!” you will say “The blunt and unfocused brutality of the pirate is easily eclipsed by the patient training and holistic combat structure at the ninja’s disposal.” Now try that again while screaming and pounding on the table. See what I mean?

Well executed, all of this will lead you smoothly into your closing argument. You’re going to need to think outside of the box in order to finish this thing – it’s cliche, but what started in the boardroom can just as easily apply to the barroom. The hypothetical bargument is typically stopped in two ways – physical violence or the presentation of an argument that is so outrageous, so unexpected, it’s impossible to refute. For instance, your opponent will say that the ninja is virtually invincible because he or she can easily evade all thrown or fired weapons. Invincible! Of course! “Not if he’s fighting a fucking deranged ZOMBIE GHOST PIRATE from Pirates of the Caribbean!”

Pop the cork, baby.

3 Responses to “Art of The Bargument”

  1. Michael

    If beer makes you dumb and whiskey makes you smart and handsome, what happens when you combine the two? And fast or not, a Saluki is one ugly animal. I looked that shit up.

  2. Sloan

    At the college bars, they call that drink an Irish Car Bomb. Terribly insensitive.

    Actually, when you combine the two, you decide that you’re gonna get a Saluki.

  3. Slurple

    Before there were college bars that drink was known as a boilermaker. This may be unfamiliar to those not acquainted with places of employment formerly known as “factories”. These may not be known by progeny of the white collar world. See Lowell, MA for further details.

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