Fists fly in game of strategy

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First things first. Dynamite is banned. Verboten. Does paper snuff wick? Or does it burn? Too ambiguous. Make a hitchhiker fist during a serious game of Rock Paper Scissors, and you’ll be laughed out of the room.

Which brings us to the second point: There are, in fact, serious games of Rock Paper Scissors.

“The response to dynamite would probably be a little less friendly than [laughter],” said Jason Simmons, a Rock Paper Scissors enthusiast. “Honestly, the only way you would get anyone to accept it is if you’re a grown man playing 10-year-olds.”

Mr. Simmons speaks from experience. A 33-year-old body piercer from the District, he is better known as Master Roshambollah, perhaps the most feared Rock Paper Scissors player in the world. Fear being a relative term.

Crushing with a fist, cutting with extended fingers, smothering with a flat hand, Mr. Simmons has thrown down for money and sport, in bars and, well, bigger bars. And he’s not alone.

Long regarded as the civilized way of settling life’s thorniest conundrums — such as who pays for the next round — Rock Paper Scissors is evolving into something else entirely: a genuine, bona fide, almost legitimate sport, sans the towel doffing, fan pummeling and steroid injecting common to its more celebrated peers.

The World Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) Society — yep, there’s one of those, too — boasts 2,200 members. The winner of this year’s world championship was honored with a parade at Disney World. Simon & Schuster recently published an official strategy guide.

“I can think of five bars in the Dupont [Circle] area where you can find a money game, $1 to $20,” Mr. Simmons says. “It’s the equivalent of pickup basketball.”

Tonight, Fox Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period” will feature an extended segment on October’s world championships, held in Toronto. A British-made RPS documentary film is due in January.

At this rate, a Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn star vehicle seems inevitable.

“We’re talking to studios about an RPS movie, like ‘Dodgeball’ but better,” said Matti Leshem, a Los Angeles-based producer who oversaw the Fox Sports Net segment. “There are all kind of things that appear to be boring on TV at first blush, like blackjack or poker. This is much more interesting.”

Birth of an (RPS) nation

While televised Rock Paper Scissors is new — and the surest sign yet that sports viewers cannot live on fat guys playing poker alone — the game itself is venerable. Possibly older than roller derby. According to the World RPS Society, the game’s long, strange quasi-history goes something like this:

• Prehistoric cavemen threw ‘rocks’ (fists) at each other in order to settle disputes;

• Ancient Egyptians produced papyrus scrolls (paper).

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