Rock on: fists of fury meet for ultimate RPS championship

By Will Kennedy

A long time ago man and woman discovered rock. Then, less long ago, but still pretty long ago, they invented paper. Then, fairly recently, they made scissors. At long last, humanity was ready for a sport that would test the nerves, pattern recognition and/or psychic ability of all who would dare play: Rock, Paper, Scissors. Primarily used to solve petty disputes such as who cleans spilled Vella wine off the basement floor and the order of depositions in Florida’s Middle District Court, once a year RPS rises to a new level of importance at the Macalester College Rock, Paper Scissors tournament. Many enter, but only one leaves knowing that on that night, he or she, but so far always he, is the greatest Rock, Paper, Scissors player this town has ever seen.

Last week in a crowded Berkeley street residence basement, that dream of RPS glory was to become reality for one of these two men:

Scott Persons ’08, an avid dinosaur enthusiast and popular WMCN radio talk show host, or Jon “eagle eye” Bassen ’11, a chemistry loving cross country runner and sometime loveable underdog.

Third-place runner-up Martin Mudry ’09 stood subdued at last after his emphatic come-from-behind blitz came to a crashing halt at the hands of these two RPS giants.

Face to face across a table, the two would be champions squared off as the crowd swarmed and roared with expectation. Persons, as always stood impassive, while Bassen stared down his rival with the razor squint and eye-brow raise he had perfected over the course of the evening.

“Throw the rock,” shouted a belligerent spectator for the 12th time that evening. Then hands morphed from mere digit filled palms to symbolic tools of demolition. Both men had proven themselves masters of the sport, but as smothering papers, solid rocks, and super sharp scissors flew back and forth, Bassen claimed the advantage delivering a series of stunning anticipatory gestures.

“I had to keep the intensity up to psyche him out,” Bassen said.

Sensing defeat, Persons’ throwing hand shook as he made his final throw, scissors, a fateful gesture that Bassen definitively crushed with rock. In that shattering moment, the precocious first-year claimed a place in the annals of Macalester Rock, Paper, Scissors history.

If Bassen wants to use his skill at greater venues, he has plenty of opportunity and plenty of competition as RPS-mania is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it exclusive to Macalester. The World RPS Society claims it originated in 1842 London as the Paper Scissors Stone Club after the British legal system declared results of RPS matches between two consenting gentlemen legally binding.

The club was founded to provide a recreational forum for RPS, adopting its current name when membership surpassed 10,000 and the term club was deemed ‘inappropriate, misleading, and mocking’ on account of the organization’s size.

WRPS has standardized rules and currently holds a world championship which Canadians, and more recently Americans, dominate.

The organization advertises RPS as ‘a fun, safe way to resolve disputes,’ but in some cases it can also be a way to get a ton of money. The USA Rock, Paper, Scissors league holds a yearly competition in Las Vegas in which the winner takes home 50,000 dollars. With prize money like that, aficionados have to beleive that there is more to the sport than luck.

On an Internet poll, 35.6 percent of people invested enough in the sport to visit a website dedicated to it voted that RPS was mostly luck with some skill. 21 percent said that it was total luck, while only 12.2 percent said total skill.

Whether skill or mere chance, its all glory when you’re on top of the RPS world, even when that world consists only of the people attending a Macalester College events. Holding his trophy made of two boards, a piece of paper, a rock, and a pair of scissors Bassen dolled out hugs and smiles like expired salami.

“It was pretty exciting for about 10 seconds,” Bassen said. “Then I was like, Wow, I really wish I could have won something with some actual meaning.”

But glory, even the 10-second kind, is fleeting, and upon returning to Dupre in triumph, Bassen found out just how taciturn RPS can be. Offering to demonstrate his skills to floormate Jhanelle Latore ’11, he promptly lost 2 to 1, watching his slashed to pieces like so much confetti.

Bassen’s pride may have been damaged, but his legacy lives on his bookshelf, immortalized in rock, paper and scissors, where it will remain, at least until next year’s Macalester RPS tournament.

SENIOR STAFF RELIVES RPS

William Kennedy (2007 RPS Champion):

What’s it like going from first to worst? I will tell you exactly what it is like. It is F#$^%*G AWFUL. Once upon a time I was RPS king: the 2007 Macalester Rock, Paper, Scissors Champion. I rolled like a stone, snipped like a seamstress, papered like a piñata maker. It was the best year of my life.

Then, last week, after preparing to defend my title for a year, I got knocked out in the first round of ’08 tourney. THE FIRST ROUND! By Tara McCoy ’11. Somebody I convinced to play when she didn’t want to.

I had it all. Now I have a giant void on my bookshelf where a trophy should be.

What can I tell you about coping? Absolutely nothing. I’m not doing it. I don’t plan to.

I will tell you that Rock, Paper, Scissors is not a joke. Next time you play consider the consequences. More practically, don’t be afraid to throw paper people; it works like 66 percent of the time.

Lastly, if you choose too fly to close to the heavens, as I did, make sure you fly over a jagged cliff face so you can be spared the humiliation of surviving when you come crashing down.

Oh and one final thing. Don’t be afraid to run down your dreams Macalester students. Best of luck in the future.

Joshua Springer (RPS aficionado):

I was haplessly unaware of the numerous traditions I would be subjected to before committing to the Macalester Cross Country team. Having a preconceived idea of the quirky, easy-going, and yet intensely competitive cross country runner, I thought that adapting to the social sphere of the sport would be easy. This integration, however, was not as much a walk in the park as I originally thought. Quite literally, it was more like running naked through the library, absolutely terrified that I would trip and fall to the floor, leaving my exposed body for all to judge.

Continuing on with this trend of new experiences the team would introduce me to the spirited game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Settling petty disputes is one thing. Waging a mental war with your fists against an opponent you can’t actually touch is quite different. I soon learned that RPS, far from convention, is hardly something to take lightly. Nonetheless, while the seasoned veterans trained their technique and strategy, I gaffed. How could RPS be anything but pure luck?

It took a burly man named Derek Loudermilk ’05, a diehard warrior in the realm of RPS, to abash my skepticism. After serious preparation and self-proclaimed dominance, Loudermilk ran away with the inaugural tournament victory in what may be the most exhilarating competitive event I’ve ever witnessed. Since that legendary night, I have been utterly convinced of the mental and physical attributes required of a true RPS champion. From failing in my own effort to achieve RPS greatness, I remain an avid and passionate observer.