Bullseye

January 16, 2017 ☞ Word of the day

Today’s word of the day can be styled bull’s-eye, but the unhyphenated form is more common. Besides, stripping away the punctuation abstracts this compound (a bahuvrihi) from its constituent stems. Which is fitting: the pruned bullseye is more precise and on target.

I’ve had occasion to use two forms of bullseye, noun and interjection, at Kilowatt Bar in The Mission, San Francisco, California. A round-faced stranger challenged me to a friendly competition: closest to the bullseye buys a round. Thanks to an afternoon of practice, alcohol, and luck, I landed precisely on the red.

A number of sports commingle happenstance and hooch. Pro dartists tournament with a pint in hand. Bowlers (and bowling) are obviously improved with beer. Then of course there’s sloshball, where it’s right there on the tin:

Sloshball is kickball with beer. A keg is used in place of second base. When runners reach second base, they must finish a cup of beer before moving on to third. However, there is no force out at third base, so an unlimited number of people can be on second base drinking beer. Urban Dictionary

Bend the definition of sport and you’ll find even more spirit-friendly pastimes. I have never seen tabletop shuffleboard any place but a bar. It’s unheard of to play cornhole (or suggest it) without being halfway in the tank. Even games catering to a less collegiate crowd, like bocce ball or croquet, are best paired with a negroni or a Pimm’s punch respectively.

More fundamental in drink-oriented contests are those that dispense with athleticism altogether. Games that add a ABV-based ticker to erstwhile innocuous activities like board games, cards, listening to Roxanne by The Police, or (admittedly not-that-innocuous) Never Have I Ever. All one needs for this category are a table and to be 19 years old.

Purer still is the game incited by the announcement, “Let’s do shots,” in a tavern. It’s less a request than a roll call for the meet.

There are immediate abstainers: the hungover and lily-livered. For the brave remainder, the second round is the selection of the spirit. Junior players will choose a shooter: technicolor potions composed of an unmemorable spirit, a memorable name, and lots of sugar. Not unlike the symptoms of binge drinking, shooter names are generally cutesy, sexual, or violent, viz., Polar Bear, Buttery Nipple, Kamikaze.

Senior players, made jagged by practice, know the correct option is tequila. The pause that refreshes. As the bartender collects the game pieces—salt to start the round, lime-pacifers to end it—even more players will drop out.

But even “shots” misses the mark by a hair.

The most distilled sport in the name of drink does not involve darts, or bean bags, or shouted woos in a dive.

It’s solitaire. No score kept, no nomenclature, no rules. Game play proceeds in isolation, even if there are other people around. There is one object. Bring the projectile to its target. To hit the bullseye. To plunge a dart of poison deep into the eye of the beast, and to draw blood.