NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

The world of sport is far more diverse than what you see offered at sports bars. This series will profile the lesser-known, the more interesting, and the downright peculiar sports that you haven’t heard of until now.

Straight from our childhood memories of carefree days spent playing capture the flag, hide-and-seek, and other simple kids’ games comes an absurd distortion: the no-holds-barred world of professional rock, paper, scissors leagues.

Matti Leshem founded the professional USA Rock Paper Scissors League. Although Leshem is the man behind the growth and development of this league in the United States, the fan following and production value is still a far cry from the leagues in Japan and the United Kingdom, where the game has a status similar to North America’s more conventional professional sports leagues.

Whether or not this sport has any longevity is questionable, but what is certain is that its market value is soaring.

One may be forgiven for asking, what exactly is professional rock, papers, scissors? Thinking back to my childhood days, it seems a little odd to be training and practicing like it is some craft that requires dedication to master. To the naked eye, it looks as if there are just three options that an ‘athlete’ can pick from.

The idea is to ‘outsmart’ your opponent in what seems to be a game of chance. But Brad Fox, producer and referee of the Rock, Paper, Scissors Society, argues that this is not the case. He states, “There is absolutely a gradation of skill,” implying that strategies and tactics like those of poker or chess are applicable here too.

Fox acknowledges that there have been a handful of individuals who have never practiced the sport before but have managed to come out victorious in tournaments, but he also asserts that it is not a random occurrence that the same individuals who appear in the last few rounds of championship play frequently.

Perhaps Fox is right that a few gifted individuals are better at parsing the world of probability than others. It could be analogous to writing a multiple choice exam. If three answers in a row are of the same letter, the student is less likely to select that letter a fourth time in a row regardless of whether it seems correct. This concept can be applied to professional rock, paper, scissors.

If one were to pick rock, it seems unlikely that they would select the very same move again. Thus, moves can be narrowed down and selections can be chosen from an extrapolation of previous data to make the best play — or perhaps not.

Rock, paper, scissors may seem like a strange sport to popularize, but with prominent leagues emerging, it is indeed becoming more popular. Major broadcasting companies such as ESPN have shown interest in displaying this, some may say ridiculous, content on the airwaves.

If you’re planning on picking up a new sport anytime soon, don’t hesitate to test out your rock, paper, scissors game — just beware of the threat to your dignity.

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