Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Someday, maybe Ryan Bradley, Sarah Ferran, Zachary Thomas or Kristina Hartman could be the next Andrew Bergel.A lofty dream, to be sure. But, hey, guys and gals can dream, can’t they?

Who is Andrew Bergel? Are you kidding?

Why, the Toronto man is only the reigning Rock Paper Scissors International World Champion.

Now you’re laughing? What, you thought rock, paper, scissors was just a game played by kids to decide who gets to ride shotgun in the front seat with Mom or who has to fetch the baseball from the big, mean dog next door?


It has a following that spans the globe. Some are the serious kind, insisting they are playing a professional sport of strategy and skill. Others just want to throw back a few beers and try their hand at the childhood game.

More than a decade ago, two brothers breathed new life into the World RPS Society (yes, there’s a world society of players). They set up a Web site that got more than 3 million hits last month, but as society co-managing director Graham Walker declares, “We’ve had bigger months.”

The Canada-based society has world tournaments, champions like Bergel and rules that better be followed or else.

And then there is the new kid on the block, the USARPS league that teamed up with sponsor Bud Light. This weekend, the league will be host to its first national championship in Las Vegas. In a setup fashioned after boxing, competitors from across the country will advance from ring to ring until the champion is crowned.

They’ll all aim for that big prize. A check for $50,000. No joke.

That’s where Bradley, Ferran, Thomas and Hartman come in.

In the past several weeks the four participated in qualifying contests at bars in the Kansas City, Mo., area. Competitors arrived wearing eye black, like football and baseball players. They stretched between matches and got shoulder rubs from “trainers.” They even brought along cheering sections.

“It’s about fun, what else would it be?” says Matti Leshem, co-commissioner of the USARPS league.

And it’s exactly what 264 competitors hope to have at this weekend’s championships. Some will practice, some won’t. Some will unleash a specific strategy, others will wing it.

“I’m not going to train,” Thomas says. “I’m not pumping iron, should I be?”

But make no mistake, he and the others would love to take home the $50,000. Not to mention a spiffy trophy and the eternal bragging rights of being the new league’s first national champion.

Bradley is a 26-year-old who won his first tournament at his neighborhood watering hole. He does “various construction” for a living and thinks the “50 G’s” could pay the rent for a couple of years.

Ferran, 22, recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in cellular biology and plans to go to medical school next year. And let’s be honest, she’s going to Vegas on someone else’s dime and already has won more than a dozen free beers, thanks to rock, paper, scissors. So she’s happy regardless.

Thomas, 22, is thinking along the same lines as Ferran. The vendor for Home Depot is just ready to jump in the ring inside Vegas’ House of Blues and go at it. He ended up winning a tournament that his friend dragged him out of bed to participate in one Sunday.

Then there’s Hartman, 29, who works in pharmaceutical sales. She’s the serious one, the one who started researching strategies after claiming her first tournament victory. After winning the second, she bought a used copy of the RPS strategy book. She’s on a 23-game winning streak, so she admits her self confidence is pretty high at this point.

Before we go any further, maybe we should refresh your memory: rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper and paper covers rock.

Some say the sign you throw first shows what type of person you are. Aggressive males may throw out a rock first, Walker says. A cunning female, scissors.

The four Kansas City-area players go a step further.

Make someone mad, by beating them once, and they’re bound to throw a rock, Thomas says. Know that ahead of time and throw out a paper. You win.

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