>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

November 26, 2006

Essential New Word of the Week: crotch crickets (definition hint: feminine hygiene)

Last week was a landmark event in the world of delusional wish fulfillment. As unlikely as it seems, I became a famous, world-class athlete. No, seriously. I was able to take those first tentative steps out of the primordial ooze of anonymity and onto the solid ground of fame and achievement. And I owe it all to three everyday household objects. When combined, these otherwise unremarkable objects can lift a nobody like me into the upper echelon of sports heroism. I’m talking about Rock, Paper, and Scissors.

Surely you’re familiar with the game in which players throw hand signals in an attempt to outwit their opponents. Rock smashes scissors; scissors cut paper; and paper, for some reason, covers rock. Historically, it’s been used as a decision-maker. Who gets the last taco? Whose turn is it to ride shotgun? If you can’t decide, RPS will show you the way. Rumor has it even George W. Bush won a match against Mahatma Gandhi’s ghost, allowing him to invade Iraq.

These days, RPS is no mere game. It’s a life-and-death tactical struggle in which only the strongest and smartest can survive. Leagues are popping up everywhere, and it’s even getting televised (late-night on ESPN2, between coverage of miniature golf, and the national spelling bee.) More than anything, I want to appear on TV (as often as possible). So, I was thrilled when my friend Sylvia pointed out that the World RPS Championships were being held in Toronto, and that the field was open to first-timers.

“If you need to be reminded not to throw illegal signals like ‘fire' or ‘dynamite,' you have no business competing at the international level.”

With luck (though some would call it destiny), we were able to secure some of the last available tickets mere days before the competition. I set aside all other priorities, and immediately began a training regimen. I devised a series of finger exercises designed to keep my digits limber and in shape. It sounds like a pretty stupid thing to do, but the “Third-Base Betties” in my life certainly weren’t complaining.

Mental preparation would be even more important. I used to think luck was the only factor in RPS, but there are many strategies that can actually give you a mental edge. If you’re good at reading people, you may be able to predict what they’re going to throw. For example, intellectuals tend to favor paper. Sneaky people prefer scissors. Confident types use a lot of rock (as do homeless people).

The problem was that all strategies have been seen before. I wanted to bring something completely new to the table. I considered coating my non-RPS hand with glue and offering my opponent a pre-match handshake. That way, his or her hand might be permanently stuck in a “rock” configuration.

I also considered faking Parkinson’s disease, using my trembling arms to delay and adjust my throw according to what my opponent did. Maybe I could even get celebrity sponsorship from Michael J. Fox. Supporting stem cell research is a dead end for him anyhow. I’m sure he could get back in Rush Limbaugh’s good graces by endorsing an upstanding athlete such as me.

But as brilliant as these ideas were, they were kind of impractical. I might win, but I would never attract my coveted media attention with jerky arms and sticky hands. And if I did, they’d jump to the obvious conclusion: That I was in a bathroom stall, perfecting a new hand signal that feels much better against one’s dong than rock, paper, or especially scissors.

Knowing that I’d be writing an article about it, I called the media contact for the World RPS Society. Shockingly, I don’t think she’d heard of my journalistic exploits on PIC. However, she could probably tell from the sound of my voice that I wasn’t there to fuck around and play games (with the exception of… you know… Rock/Paper/Scissors).

She invited me to a special reception they were having for the national champions. I’d get the chance to interview RPS champs from places like Scandinavia, England, and Australia. To be honest, this was all about my own ascent to glory, so I could care less about interviewing some dickhead Norwegian. I don’t even know where Norwegia is. But the promise of free food and booze had me planning to make an appearance.

I was figuring out how to impersonate a journalist (do they still wear fedoras with the word “PRESS” written on the side?) when a friend showed up at my door, in need of a big favor. It turns out his girlfriend kicked him out of their house for cheating on her. He had nowhere else to go, so I got him nicely drunk, and put him up for the night. I was bummed about missing the reception, but every man knows there’s an obligation to help out a recently-dumped buddy.

Now, this guy snored loud enough to cause structural damage to my building. When I awoke on the day of competition, my ears were bleeding, and I’d gotten no sleep. At first I was angry that he put me at a competitive disadvantage, but then I realized he had actually done me a favor. I would be entering the championship with something that few others could claim: good karma. I had done a genuinely good deed, and now the universe owed me, big time.

I made my way to the venue along with Sylvia, who was also competing, and two other friends who would serve as coach/trainer/agent/cheering section. The venue in question was a place called the Steamwhistle Brewery. Conducting an event like this inside of a working brewery was right in so many ways. They even offer a tour I took last year: For 10 bucks, you get all the beer you can drink in an hour, a mostly irrelevant beer lesson, and the chance to reenact the opening credits of Laverne & Shirley.

While waiting in line to get in, I met some of the champions I snubbed the previous night. In front of me was the New Zealand champ, and behind me was the best RPS player in the Grand Seychelles, which, I was surprised to learn, exists. I made a mental note to use rock if I faced the New Zealand guy, figuring that all the sheep-shearing he must do would make him predisposed to using scissors.

We finally made our way inside, where it was pure pandemonium. There was a big sign at the entrance warning us that the event was being recorded for use in a feature film. Seeing this, I began to compose my stirring victory speech. That might sound a little presumptuous, but with fame on the line, I wanted to make sure the Oscar committee had a decent clip.

For some reason, a lot of participants elected to turn up in crazy costumes. I saw pirates, bikers, cowboys, even one confused guy in full S&M gear. Last year’s winner was parading around dressed as a king. In any given room of 400 people, I’m used to being the most weirdly dressed, so I was a little disconcerted. Cursing my lack of preparation, I donned the only accessory I had: my lucky bandana.

The tournament began. I had some time to kill before my first match, so I wandered around, playing strangers. Everyone who attended received a pile of “Street Dollars,” fake money for gambling on private RPS games between the sanctioned matches. Whoever had the most street dollars at the end of the night would win 1000 real dollars. Mind you, that’s in Canadian currency.

Just like after a massive dump, I was using paper to clean up. You might even say I was making money hand over fist. But then I noticed something that caused me to forget all about these double entendres. A Japanese TV crew was doing interviews with players! Believe it or not, I’m actually an expert on the Japanese form of RPS, called Janken. I know all the conventions from having lived there for two years. This was my big chance to get on television.

I approached the host, and quickly tried to explain why he needed to interview me. What a delight it would be for the Japanese people to see a Caucasian so well-versed in their traditional game. But he took one look at me, bowed, and ran off. I later learned that he was only interviewing people in outrageous costumes. Once again, style won out over substance. I was crushed, like a pair of scissors up against a mighty rock.

The ref gathered everyone in my division and explained the rules, which took way too fucking long. Honestly, if you need to be reminded not to throw illegal signals like “fire” or “dynamite,” you have no business competing at the international level. To pass the time, I started chatting up some of the many American college girls in attendance. I don’t really know if the University of Kentucky is a good school, but holy shit, their RPS team is hot!

Finally, I was called to center stage to compete. My opponent was a foppish, curly-haired cretin who had also been flirting with the Kentucky girls. That bastard. Just in case my instant karma strategy wasn’t enough, I tried to size him up. He was white, thin, and emotionally one-dimensional. Naturally, I associated him with paper. So, I used a gambit called “Scissor Sandwich” to finish him in two straight rounds. The girls thanked me, and I was feeling good once again.

To kill time before the next round, the drinking began in earnest. I had wanted to stay sober until after my victory, but being inside a brewery has a strange effect on a person. It’s like I felt at one with the beer. By the time I was called to compete again, I’d had just enough to impair my judgment and dull my reflexes. This may be the best way to approach life, but not rock/paper/scissors.

My opponent was a short, rotund little guy who kind of looked like a potato. And, according to my thinking at the time, a potato is a kind of rock, therefore I should use paper. Except he’ll be expecting that, so he’ll be throwing scissors, in which case, I should throw rock. Got that? Well, to make a tired point, I lost in straight sets. Didn’t even win a single match against him.

My chance at fame had slipped by. I met up with Sylvia, who had also lost in the second round. I wanted another beer. However, the floor was mobbed with people barely old enough to drink, and frankly, not very good at it. There was broken glass everywhere, and drunken frat guys crashing around. We were just about to head out in search of a

quiet bar to drown our sorrows, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

The first thing I saw was a bright light. When my eyes came into focus there was a camera pointing at me and a guy holding a microphone. He asked if he could do an interview with me. The logo on the side of the camera was a familiar one: MTV. My fame-hungry heart leapt for joy as I managed to sputter out that I would perhaps be amenable to an interview….

Once tape was rolling, I was unstoppable. I described my unused glue/Parkinson’s strategies. I talked about the history of RPS in Japan and Vietnam. I observed how nice girls looked for skilled users of scissors, whereas sluts who like to be fisted were on the prowl for rock guys. I trash-talked my opponents, the international champions, even last year’s regal winner. I can honestly say that this was the best, and probably most important interview that has ever been conducted, anywhere.

Then the interviewer blindsided me. He said he liked my bandana, and would I consider playing him in a best-of-three for it? I was hesitant. Even though it’s kind of goofy, it was a gift from an ex-girlfriend, and it’s always brought me great luck. Nevertheless, fame often comes at a price, so I acquiesced.

In the first match, my paper reduced his rock to gravel. In the second, he threw scissors, and cut my ego down to size. It all came down to the tie-breaker. One, two, three, shoot! I looked down nervously. My closed fist hovered mere inches away from his two outstretched fingers. I had won, on national TV no less, validating my participation in this whole stupid endeavor. A moment of fame, however miniscule, was mine.

I learned a very valuable lesson that night. Fame and glory in the world of fringe novelty sports can be very elusive, but skill is not always strictly necessary. If you have a big enough mouth, you can reach the top by trash-talking, much like Keyshawn Johnson or Ron Artest. That should have been my strategy all along. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my agent is on the phone, and we’re discussing what I should wear on the front of the Wheaties box.

Essential New Word of the Week:

crotch crickets (kra? ‘krIkIts) n

There’s an aisle at the drugstore where we men fear to tread. This aisle is populated by monsters with fierce names like Vagisil and Monostat. Sure, we have a vague idea what these products are about, but by and large, we prefer to shut our eyes, skip that aisle, and pretend those problems don’t exist.

But they exist all right. There are all manner of devilish maladies that can cause itching in the groinal region: yeast, ringworm, jock itch… and those are just the ones I know about from watching The Facts of Life.

Such unpleasant things need an all-encompassing euphemism, so a colleague coined the very descriptive and fun-sounding “crotch crickets.” That term is a much better choice; it’s filled with comedic “k” sounds, and perhaps it evokes images of cute Muppets or some such thing.

So, the next time you’re laid low by a bout of vaginosis, crabs, or even simple diaper rash, there’s no need for you to be embarrassed. Just tell your partner you’ve got crotch crickets, and, as their leader Jiminy used to say, let your conscience be your guide.