Around the United States, Americans are trembling ahead of President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address Wednesday, but with anticipation.
But they're not trembling in fear, anger or anticipation: they're using cocktail shakers to get ready for the State of the Union drinking game.
AdvertisementInvented in 2002 by Marc Melzer and Howard Deutsch when they were final-year students at Princeton University, the basic rules of the game require players to down a shot or chug a beer when the president says certain words or phrases, or speaks the names of people or countries during the speech.
This year, "hope" and "change" both require a swig of something, as do mentions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or Pakistan.
"Let me be clear" and "make no mistake" get a shot each, and if Obama references problems that his administration inherited, players drink a shot of something aged -- which is also the drinking requirement if the cameras show a shot of 92-year-old Senator Robert Byrd.
The game was initially inspired by Melzer's and Deutsch's desperate search for a way to get through an hour-long speech by former president George W. Bush, whose "speaking style is not one for the ages," Melzer told AFP.
"But we had a lot of fun with the game when we were first coming up with it," Melzer recalled, thinking back whimsically to the shots he downed when Bush pronounced the word "nukular" -- a Bushism for "nuclear" -- or mentioned God or any euphemism for God (two drinks) in his annual speech.
This year, with the silver-tongued Obama in office, the motivation was different and Melzer and Deutsch had to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
"But we weren't lacking for material," Melzer said.
"I think even the most rabid Obama fan, even Rahm Emmanuel himself (Obama's chief of staff) would say that there are a lot of verbal tics that pile up over the course of a year."
Many of those tics -- such as the expression "through no fault of their own" -- are on this year's drinking game list.
But that particular tic only merits a shot if Obama is talking about unemployment, and the swig can only be taken by any of the millions of Americans who are out of a job and happen to be playing the game.
Hopefully, someone else will pay for that round.
Drinks are also required if the camera zooms in on someone listening to the speech in the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.
A camera shot of First Lady Michelle Obama earns a jigger, and if the camera shows the first lady's well-cut arms, players take another step towards getting well-cut themselves, in both meanings of the word, because that shot has to be delivered using a bicep curl.
If Obama mentions the word "stimulus," you drink an espresso -- which might be welcome relief after the shot downed for "reform," the shot taken without moving any facial muscles if the camera zooms in on House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, or the shot if Obama introduces a special guest.
Teetotal viewers who get tired of waiting for the word "stimulus" could always play State of the Union bingo.
Foreign Policy magazine has a Bingo card template posted on its blog.
It lists Obama speech tics, such as "let me be clear," and words he is likely to utter, such as Osama bin Laden and climate change, under the letters.
Cross them off when Obama says them and when you get five in a row, you've won. There's no prize, but it will give you something to do during the speech.
Of course, a real challenge would be playing the drinking game and bingo simultaneously.
The cue words and rules of the drinking game are posted online at www.drinkinggame.us.
As of noon on Wednesday, the site had 7,000 hits, and Melzer expected the number to top 25,000 by the time Obama finishes his State of the Union address -- at which time the Republican Response Bonus Game kicks in for anyone who's still standing and able to read the cue words.