Bros Icing Bros: In Which the New York Times Gets ‘Iced’


Have you been made aware of the masochistic alcoholism pandemic known as Bros Icing Bros? It’s a “game” that turns all of your friends into sadistic, binge-drinking, paranoid terrorists. The kind who will stop at nothing to peer pressure you into drinking The Worst Malt Liquor Beverage on Earth, Smirnoff Ice. And now, the New York Times has caught Icing fever.

The Gray Lady is basically asking to get ‘Iced,’ and her Icer is the Metro section’s Seymour Hersh of the Viral Culture Beat, the exceptional J. David Goodman, who is making Times readers pay attention to the way Young People Are Entertainingly Ruining The World. He was the first Times reporter to recognize this issue, and he’s followed up on his initial filing with a full report. This is no exception. His headline:

Popular New Drinking Game Raises Question, Who’s ‘Icing’ Whom?

Who’s ‘Icing’ Whom? indeed! From the first line, Goodman — if that is his real name — is approaching the issue with the correct amount of paranoia. After a lede following gentlemen summering in the Jersey Shore who have now taken to arming themselves with bottles of Smirnoff Ice via carabiner — as in, the apparatus that holds your rope when you go rock climbing, thereby keeping you from dying (SYMBOLISM MUCH?!) — Goodman takes Times readers through a crash course in how ‘Icing’ works, and then correctly notes:

– The Genesis story of Bros Icing Bros.

– The Icing bounty on Ashton Kutcher.

– The Icing of Popular Musical Acts.

– The Icing of Popular ‘Niche’ Celebrities Like Dustin “Screech” Diamond.

– And most importantly, the bizarre catch-22 that is Smirnoff’s simultaneous denial and reluctance to encourage icing while benefiting from something that’s predicated on just how fucking terrible of a product they have:

“Beyond the implicit slur on the beverage’s taste, I doubt any alcoholic beverage company would want to be associated with a drinking game that stretches the boundaries of good taste and common sense like this one does,” said Dick Martin, a former executive vice president of AT&T and the author of several books on branding. “It’s too obviously a self-destruct button on all their ‘drink responsibly’ advertising.”

Exactly! But what Martin doesn’t say — which, come on, he just should — is that truth of the matter mostly involves the fact no liquor company really cares how you drink their swill so long as it doesn’t cost their bottom line anything! And Smirnoff will take whatever uptick in sales they can get, and only actually condemn it and consider legal action once it starts costing them money.

Problem is, we strangely couldn’t find that uptick in sales of The Ice in New York. Ah, but this is what Times-quality journalism will get you: they ventured to foreign lands and sought out concentrated Icing biomes. Bang bang, goes the journalism:

“It started last week. People buying Smirnoff Ice like crazy,” said El Sayed Hayed, who has owned the King Street Grocery in downtown Charleston for six years. “This is the first year this happens.”

Economists everywhere shudder. [N.B. Paul Krugman should weigh in any moment now.] And now, it gets intense, as Goodman goes on an embed mission, a la David Rohde. They call this kind of work “deep cover”:

While its exact origins are murky — some say Vermont, others Saint Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. — the game gained early traction among fraternity brothers in the South. Members of Pi Kappa Alpha at the College of Charleston said they were the first to put the rules online, posting to in early April. “I didn’t expect it to be crazy like this,” said one fraternity brother, a business administration major who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want his name connected with the game.

Finally, Goodman — who made it out alive — leaves Times readers, who are now obviously ensnared in a web of fascination, paranoia and fear with the perfect kicker. Sweet relief:

Mr. Rospos, the aerospace engineer from New Jersey, doubted it would continue for long…He said he could see his friends surprising each other next year, but added that he thought that their current exuberance would not last through the summer.

Followed by the scene after the credits when the vanquished monster appears in the backseat, waiting, watching, ready to strike:

Nevertheless, he was enjoying himself over the Memorial Day weekend, hiding bottles around his parents’ backyard, including in the pool skimmer. Lukewarm traps, he said, for his unwitting friends.

That sound you hear? It’s Pulitzer knocking. Bravo.

Popular New Drinking Game Raises Question, Who’s ‘Icing’ Whom?