Fists of Steel

By Michelle Kay

What do you get when you put Captain Morgan, Santa Claus, Superman, scores of men in colourful wigs and orange shirts carrying around giant balloons of inflated penises, bottles of Steam Whistle, afros, a haka performance, ederhosen-wearing lads, goofy hat-wearing girls, all chanting and cheering showing various displays of bravado and betting all in a room shaking their fists playing Rock, Paper, Scissors? Signs of a Halloween party in November? Nope. An initiation party for frat boys? Maybe. Throw in a dozen referees, one Master of Ceremonies, a trophy, cash prizes totalling $10,000 and MTV coverage, and you’ll get the 5th annual Rock, Paper, Scissors World Championships. This year’s competition took place on November 11, 2006 at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto.

There were approximately 500 participants in 2006, with over half from outside of Canada. Teams of players from the Caymen Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States travelled to Toronto to compete for the first prize of $7,000 as well as fame, glory and bragging rights. The World RPS Society has been organizing world championships in Toronto since 2002. The current directors, brothers Douglas and Graham Walker, got involved with the RPS Society in 1995, and since then the game’s popularity as a valid sporting event–even if you do play it with a beer in hand–has grown tremendously, making it a cult phenomenon complete with sponsorships, a DVD that you can play against and a card game. Of the 500 participants, the number is eventually whittled down to 16 who compete on stage. Then eight, then four and finally down to the last two. This year’s winner, Bob Cooper from London, England, beat out New Jerseyan, Bryan “The Saint” Bennet, when his scissors cut Bryan’s paper. This is the first time the trophy has left Canadian waters.

RPS may seem like a simple child’s game used for quick decision making and resolving conflicts, but don’t be fooled. Its widespread appeal as a sport provides a sense of camaraderie among team members, a healthy dose of national pride, and an opportunity to meet people from around the world at a tournament with a hokey, kooky, fun costume party type of atmosphere. According to one member of Team Smoot from Michigan, “It’s the stupidest thing ever. How could you not do it?”

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